All I need is a sheet of paper and something to write with, and then I can turn the world upside down.Friedrich Nietzsche
I started writing for pleasure before I started reading for pleasure.
I suppose I had not found a book that would suit my sensibility, and nobody in my house read. Hell, nobody in the whole damn place read. For pleasure. And, not including my language and literature teachers, who taught by curricula that should have been thrown into the trash a long time ago together with the whole ministry of education, there was no person who would throw something at me that would trigger a love for reading.
Then and there, people simply did not read.
There you go, an idea for a dystopian novel.
(Speaking of dystopia, I’m writing this in the golden age of coronavirus, positive and slightly feverish. Yay.)
Not only did they not read. They mocked those who did. Reading was for those highly educated, older people, PhD-folk. Reading certainly was not for children. Children were supposed to play football, or, I don’t know, “ball” in general. Later, when people saw me with a book, they would say things like, “Put that nonsense away, you’re gonna go blind”, or “Go play outside like normal kids”.
And so, I hadn’t started reading for pleasure until I was about thirteen. Then I decided, hell, why wouldn’t I read a book? Be smart. Sophisticated among children!
It changed everything.
As for writing… There were too many stories exploding behind my eyes over and over again, each time stronger, more colourful, louder.
I knew the alphabet; I could hold a pencil in my hand, and for starters, that was enough.
Words became an essential part of my life. I mean, sure, words are essential in everybody’s life, but to me they were sacred. Are sacred. Looking back, I believe that words saved my life one too many times.
My writing was first acknowledged in 2013 when I won first place in a literary contest on the state level. My future professor of foreign literature, A.L., a doctor of comparative literature, burst into the classroom and handed me the prize himself. I don’t remember what they were saying—or what I was saying, for that matter—but I do remember the applause and congratulations and how nervous and embarrassed I felt, because I hated being at the centre of attention.
But was I happy?
Of course I was. It was like being told that dreams can come true, and that mine certainly will.
In 2014, I enrolled in Croatian Language and Literature as well as English Language and Literature. I quit the former after I passed the exams in the subjects I preferred—I wanted to focus on the English-language literature. However, because this alone was not enough—I preferred world literature, really, all of it—I graduated with a thesis on Milton and Homer (Milton’s Satan as an Antihero and Villain Modelled by Homeric Hero).
Not long after getting my BA degree, I started doing freelance jobs for a few publishing houses in Croatia: translating, proofreading, editing… But, in Croatia, one cannot live on that alone, as much as I was happy doing what I was doing. Furthermore, the amount of disrespect for these and related jobs is simply absurd.
Maybe one can live on that… Just not in a conventional way.
Only when I was reading Most ponad burne rijeke by Croatian author Dalibor Talajić did I ask myself—as well as the editor-in-chief—why we aren’t translating books by Croatian authors and looking for publishers abroad. There was no satisfactory answer from her. But an idea flooded my brain.
What occurred was an organisation whose main mission is connecting people and countries with language and literature.
What occurred was The L&ink.
That was a year ago, and many things can happen in a year. The L&ink is not what it used to be, what it was supposed to become, even though it had always been merely a figment—up until now, that is.
Today, we are much more.
So much can change in a year—not even we are sure what we are at this stage. But one thing is certain:
The L&ink is here to connect. People. Places. Minds. Art. Cultures.
We hope it does. It’s what we need. What we have always needed.
So, cheers to that.