The Silk, the Shears and Marina: Or, about Biography

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The Silk, the Shears and Marina are the first two volumes of the Croatian poet and novelist Irena Vrkljan's lyrical autobiography. Although each volume extends and illuminates the themes and events of the other, they also stand alone as original and independent works of art.

In The Silk, the Shears, Vrkljan traces the symbolic and moral significance of her life, from her childhood in interwar Belgrade, through her adolescence in Zagreb during the Second World War, her young ...

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Evanston IL 1999 Hardcover Very Good. No Jacket Sticker remnant on back cover.; Light brown cloth with black lettering.; Writings from an Unbound Europe; 0.75 x 8.25 x 5 ... Inches; 185 pages. Read more Show Less

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Overview

The Silk, the Shears and Marina are the first two volumes of the Croatian poet and novelist Irena Vrkljan's lyrical autobiography. Although each volume extends and illuminates the themes and events of the other, they also stand alone as original and independent works of art.

In The Silk, the Shears, Vrkljan traces the symbolic and moral significance of her life, from her childhood in interwar Belgrade, through her adolescence in Zagreb during the Second World War, her young adulthood in postwar socialist Yugoslavia, and her later life as a writer in Zagreb and Berlin. In a haunted, nostalgic voice and an impressionistic style, Vrkljan vividly evokes her family and her upbringing, and the historical and cultural crossroads at which her society found itself. Her vision of the fate of women both in her mother's generation and in her own gives particular resonance to her struggle to create an autonomous artistic life.

Marina continues the intense analysis of the poetic self, using the life of the Russian poet Marina Tsvetaeva to enter into a meditation on biography, both as a literary form and as a perpetual process of memory and experience. Through Vrkljan's explorations of Tsvetaeva's life, we see how the two women's lives echo each other, and how Vrkljan, as she responds with both empathy and dread to Tsvetaeva's fate, aspires to a fearless, absolute dedication to her art, and also fears a withdrawal into silence, submission to a prosaic and fallen world.

Rich in physical and emotional detail, the poetic urgency of Vrkljan's writing reveals not only the pressure that the past still exerts on her life but also the disturbing and divided nature of memory itself, for the past is theunalterable source of guilt and regret, yet it is also a living reality shaped by our own changing perceptions.

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Editorial Reviews

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A Croatian writer intriguingly probes the meaning of the past and its literary rendering through an examination of her own life and that of the Russian poet Marina Tsvetaeva. Vrkljan's two works form a cohesive whole that stirs the reader with the heavy atmosphere of Belgrade, Zagreb, and Berlin. The two works also invite us to draw parallels between what Vrkljan has to say about autobiographical writing and our own country's obsession with memoir literature. The two works contain both the literary representation of the past and the interpretation of what it means to truthfully present the (remembered) facts of one's life while retaining the lyrical beauty of words. The Silk, the Shears recounts Vrkljan's life as it spans the tumultuous political upheavals of the century-from her childhood in interwar Belgrade, to her adolescence in Zagreb, and her adult life as a writer in Zagreb and Berlin. For those familiar with the former Yugoslavia, Vrkljan's writing is piercing, vividly capturing the feel of strained intimate personal relations and public life. Vrkljan writes with honesty and tenderness about her family and friends, about her development as a poet, her own and her mother's unsatisfactory role as wife, her oppressive father, and the troubles of women in society. Marina picks up on these themes; it reads as an externalized autobiography, an imaginative leap of interpretation through a literary and spiritual soul mate. Reflecting on this connection, Vrkljan writes, "The biographies of others. Splinters in our body. As I pull them out, I pull out my own pictures from the deep, dark funnel." With the spirit of Tsvetaeva, Vrkljan discusses how a poet can reconstruct the fabric of life.A noteworthy addition to the small body of contemporary Croatian writings available in English, and a lyrical study of the form and meaning of biography. .
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