The Image of Venice in “Putositnice” (“Triffles From a Journey”) by A. Nemčić as a Part of Italian Discourse of Croatian Travel Writing


Institut filologije Nacionalnog Sveučilišta Taras

Ševčenko u Kijevu, Ukrajina

The Image of Venice in Putositnice (Triffles From a Journey) by A. Nemčić as a Part of Italian Discourse of Croatian Travel Writing

Summary: This paper examines the image of Venice in A. Nemčić’s Putositnice (Trifles from the journey) as a part of Italian discourse; and its role in the context of Croatian travel writing. Main attention is paid to the scructural and ideological elements of the image of Venice and its modifications in the latest Croatian travel essays.

Key words: A. Nemčić, Croatian travel writing, image, Venice.

Cultural, and therefore literary, relations between Croatia and Italy were caused by the transport, administrative, and trade relations, that date back to antiquity. Historical circumstances and close geographic location contributed to the deepening of these contacts. M. Tomasović claims that the contact was not one-sided, ever since the Renaissance. As Italian cultural representatives (artists, teachers, writers) lived, worked, and traveled through Croatia, the majority of Croatian Renaissance poets spent a long time in Italy – to study or work (Tomasović, 1978). One of the results of this cultural interchange was Croatians’ awareness of the Italy, thanks to the contemporaneous travel essays, and the continuity of connections between Croatian and Italian literature.

In the minds of XIXth century travelers, the image of Italy had two key motifs. On one hand, mo-tif of Italy as a source of European culture, and on the other, as a privileged space of romance. Croatian literary scholar D. Duda, in his book The culture of travelling (2012), claims that ever since the tradition of The Grand Tour, therefore, since the XVIIth century, Italy has reatined its status of the main trav-eling destination; as a combination of historically relevant elements, artistic value of the Renaissance culture, sacred elements, and natural beauty. This is a phenomenon in the culture of traveling, named by the Italian scientist A. Brilli the „great cultural tradition“ (Brilli, 2006). Therefore, for the writers of the XIXth century, Italy – and especially its northern part – was a special destination.

According to the Czech literary scientist V. Faktorová, Venice as well as Rome, Naples, Greek Islands, Serbia, and Tatras was a mandatory travel itinerary for Slavic romantic travelers. (Faktorová, 2012: 127).

Following the image of Italy created by their great predecessors, such as J.W. Goethe and H. Heine, Croatian writers of Romanticism (І. Kukuljević, І. Trnski, S. Vraz, А. Nemčić, А. Veber and others) went on their journeys to Italy with corresponding expectations.

In contrast to the purpose of the journeys undertaken in earlier centuries (study, trade, work, diplomacy), Croatian travelers in the XXth century chose Italy mainly guided by their own interests and perceptions of the value of cultural experience of this country. Thus, Italy continued to attract travelers, which indicates the actuality and continual rethinking of its image.

Long diachronic presence of Italian itinerary in Croatian travel literature after XIXth century (Putositnice by A. Nemčić, Letters about Italy by A. Veber Tkalčević, Memories of a journey by I. Kukulje-vić), continuing in the XXth century (travel essays and feuilletons by А.G. Matoš, Without head and tail, Fragments of Venice by J. Polić Kamov, Letters from Italy by М. Begović, Italian reminiscences by M. Matković, Tombola in Venice, One Venetians life, The truth about Lido and Venice under the arms in Through western countries and cities S. Batušić), promotes better understanding of the history of the genre.

Being largely represented in Croatian travel writing, italian discourse – or according to D. Du-da’s term “lexicon” (Duda, 1998), was closely aligned with formation of the genre of travel writing in Croatian literature. If we compare the image of Venice in Putositnice (1844) by A. Nemčić, Letters about Italy (1861) by A. Veber Tkalčević, with the image of the same city in travel essays wrtten by later writers, for example Without head and tail, Fragments of Venice (1907) by J. Polić Kamov, or Letters from Italy (1924) by М. Begović, we will notice structurally different views and clear signs of various historical and literary periods. Simultaneously, the changes in narrator’s mentality are more important than the time period of the description of Venice.

The evolution of Italian discourse in Croatian travel writing was presented by Venetian lexicon compilation method, by A. Nemčić. Let us turn to a deeper analysis of Putositnice.

There is still the question whether the writer’s perception of Italy could be affected by the literary works of his predecessors; such as Seum, Nicolaie, Heine, and especially Kollár. We will agree with D. Duda, who claims that A. Nemčić could not use J. Kollár’s Travel essay including journey to Upper Italy… as a model for his own work, because it was published after the beginning of Nemčić’s journey. However, the author probably got acquainted with Kollár’s work before, as he had in the first lines created a description where a Venice writer quotes Kollár (Nemčić, 1845: 182).

At the same time, Nemčić does not offer to the reader such a detailed description of the history of Venice as Kollár does who devotes a separate chapter to it (Slavic historical knowledge about Venice), but provides a brief overview of the history of the city and its fate after the fall of the Roman Empire, and compares Venice revival with rise of a Renaissance phoenix from the ashes. According to the writer, “Every stone has a past in Venice” (ibid: 229); so someone who does not take into account the history of the city of Venice is nothing more than a mummy in a crystal coffin. Venice is for Nemčić the Slavic territory (“Slavjanina”, comparable with Kollár’s “Slavovenetie”). This is another important component of the Italian, and namely Venetian, lexicon. As it was with J. Kollár, A. Nemčić travelling to northern Italy was mainly connected to Slavic features and the search for Slavic origins in almost ev-erything. Thus, the choice of the route is not coincidental. For example, Kollár himself emphasized his exceptional interest in Slavic area, and, as Czech literary scholar, V. Faktorova noticed Kollár “projects basic contemporary ideas“ on Slavic South (thus, for example, sunrise over the Adriatic Sea symboliz-es the resurrection of the southern Slavs) and displays it as a contrast to the Slavic North (describing changes in nature after entering Rijeka). According to Kollar’s idea, Venice is Slava’s daughter, city founded and named by the Slavs; whose presence and influence was present for a long time.

However, the writer’s ambivalence should be noted; especially in the use of the terms „nation“ and „tribe“, which is, according to E. Fordinalová, „rooted in the social and political, national, and all European historical circumstances“. (Fordinalová, 1993: 204)

Both writers, while visiting galleries, describe just what „could be interesting for Slavic people“. A. Nemčić commented only on those images that showed important historical events, such as a painting showing conquerred Veronese people bowing to the Doge of Venice. Beside the Doge, there are the Dalmatian dukes who helped Venetians to conquer Verona in the XVth century. Nemčić claimes that without the Slavic people, Venice would probably never be called „la dominante“ (Nemčić, 1845: 295).

  1. Nemčić also describes randomly meeting with Croatian settlers, and describes their patriotic feelings (chapter „Slavs in Venice “). He is pleased to note that local residents are aware of their Slavic origins, which can be seen from their clothing, folk songs, and appearance (Nemčić, 1845: 446-447). Travel essays are like a special medium for writers to express and develop their cultural, aesthetic, and sometimes political ideas. Author’s involvement is most evident in cases where social or political reality does not match the writer’s ideal. It is then that the travel essay turns them into polemical characters.

Venice route, described by Nemčić, is similar to Kollár’s. It includes all Venetian bridges, the Grand Canal Square, St. Mark’s cathedral, Academy of Fine Arts, theater – especially theater La Felice, Doge’s Palace, and the islands. While describing Venetian architecture, the writer notes the diversity of styles. For example, A. Němčić wrote down the following lines about St. Mark’s cathe-dral: “[…] all that is not gold, copper, or mosaic is dressed in oriental marble. It is east’s child grown to west.”(Ibid: 316)

Despite overwhelming sights and great glory of the city, the writer still points to the decline. Describing Venice for the first time in his travelogue, Nemčić compares it to aristocratic Jerusalem; whose walls still stand motionless, but prophets are no longer dumb. Overall, the writer reflects on the state of Slavic culture in this area in a much more pessimistic way than Kollár (“It seems that the grandchildren of those who were once driven out of Paradise do not appreciate this place” (ibid: 317), but hopes that some day the situation will be better.

The passage from Venice from a different perspective describes transience of Venice’s fame, which forms a solid experience of Venetian discourse as a whole. The well known Rialto Bridge is compared with a gray eagle, who heads for another bird, boldly showing off its wings through the main canal (Canal Grande), and clarifying that the use of the comparison was not accidental, because the marble, which at its thickest is so thin and gnarled that it could not hold him for what he really is. In longer description of the other buildings, A. Nemčić compares bridges with catacombs, which contributes to the atmosphere of apathy and decay, and for the second time the writer has added a historical element to the description, and concluded it with a metaphor: “Although Venice is still one of the most vibrant cities in Italy, it is not even a shadow of what it was once. For the one who looks back on the past of the city, singing Venice looks like a flying swan at sea which sings dying”. (Ibid, 182-183)

A similar view is found in travel essays by A.G Matoš. Approaching the „golden city of Petrarca, which is like Venus on the sea shore, looks like the jewel is salty and the May sun shining on a golden horn cap doge“, the writer describes it as a „town of death and dying… never before I felt that there was something so tragic in the world“ (Matoš, 1996: 231). Gondola, according to the writer, seems like a coffin with the invisible dead, and Iago – the carrier to the other world who manages it.

For another Croatian writer, J. Polić Kamov, Italy was not foreign neither culturally nor linguistically. Born in Rijeka, Polić Kamov spoke Italian from childhood, and was introduced to the modern Italian literature in addition to the classical. J. Polić Kamov imaged Italy as a huge source of inspiration, as the center of the original cultural values of​ modern Western civilization (Večerina, 2000).

  1. Polić Kamov visited Venice, Rome, Florence, Bologna, Turin, Genoa, Naples. As well as A.G. Matoš, he had the most positive impressions of Florence and the worst of Venice. J. Polić Kamov visited Venice three times, the longest (about six months) was his second visit in 1906, but the „silent“ Venice had caused him grief and a growing sense of loneliness. In Kamov’s Venice lexicon, particularly striking is the image of the bloody sky: “Kindled, yellow, slightly smoked west as clean reflected in a bloody sea… And over it stretched the heavens like white naked legs of a hungry prostitutes which with more enjoyment pass from stoner’s shock than furor heated naive one. And all that bloody horizon, all that calm, quiet fire, burns down without crakle when breath. It appears like a flashy idea, ecstasy feelings as it suddenly crumpled into a melancholy and smoldering and is dying over black shadows of human beings and ice of streetlights” (Polić Kamov, 1955: 10).

An important feature of the evolution of Italian discourse in the XXth century, is the reduction or rejection of cultural and historical data in the travel notes, and domination of motif of describing everyday life in the city.

For example, in the small genre of „travel postcards“ (D. Duda, 2005), S. Batušić skillfully filters Venetian discourse in terms of the contemporary traveler. Motifs that occur in his „travel post-cards“ (Tombola in Venice, One Venetian’s life, The Truth about Lido and Venice under the arms) are di-rectly related to the daily life of contemporary Venice. The most striking example of the critical, and even grotesque descriptions of residents and tourists of the city, their mentality and behavior, to our opinions, is One Venetian’s life and especially The Truth about Lido, where the writer gives us a totally opposite image of typical Venetian lexicon’ motif – Lido as it was presented in earlier travel essays.

In the context of Croatian literary modernism, M. Begović’s travel essays are an exception; since his essays contain typical traditional data on the cultural history of the city. Based on observations, a writer can recreate the complete image of everyday life in Italy in midtwenties. M. Begović describes everything; from popular hairstyles of nationalistic oriented young Italians, new trends in men’s fashion, sports interests, to the vulgarity of the modern dance and advertising. A special place in M. Begović’s Italian lexicon belongs to the Venice. The writer is convinced that “There the moonlight is more poetic than in any part of the world, there the darkness is more misterious, the sun is bright-er, the sky bluer… because the landscape responds to all natural phenomena and this reaction is misleading fascinating.” (Begović, 1964: 151)

The writer repeatedly compares Venice with a woman: „Every time when I come back to Venice, I think I fall into the arms of a divine beloved woman from whom I was snatched by people and bad luck“ or „when you come late at night at St. Mark’s square, you will seem to have come to the place of a secret rendezvous, where you will find love“. The image of Venice as a seductive woman provokes beauty; a temptress associated with subsequent lengthy motif of the Venetian discourse – „Venetian woman“. Despite the changing historical and literary epochs, and original poetics description, Venetian woman was presented in the romantic (A. Nemčić), and avant-garde (J. Kamov), and modernistic (M. Begović) travel writing.

To summarize, the image of Venice as the source of European culture, and as a privileged space of romance, attracted most of Croatian writers of the XIXth and XXth century. Italian discourse was largely represented in Croatian literature, and thus closely aligned with the formation of the genre of travel writing. Putositnice by A. Nemčić, began the evolution of Italian discourse in Croatian travel writing; especially thanks to its Venetian lexicon compilation method. Descriptions of writer‘s travelling experiences in Venetian lexicon, in travel writing of the Romanticism – despite the efforts of objectification and marketing of documented data, adherence to chronology, writer’s cultural and historical reflection – subordinate his travel essays to an ideological concept.

The image of Venice in croatian travel writing of the XIXth and XXth century has changed. Venetian lexicon in the travel writing of the XXth century is characterized by the reduction or rejection of cultural and historical data, and domination of the motifs describing everyday life in the city which indicates the change in narrator’s mentality.

List of literature used:

Begović, M. (1964) Dunja u kovčegu. Novele. Put po Italiji. (prir. B. Hećimović) Zagreb: Matica hrvatska- Zora.

Brilli, A. (2006) Il viaggio in Italia. Storia di una grande tradizione culturale. Bologna: Mulino.

Duda, D. (2012) Kultura putovanja. Uvod u književnu iterologiju. Zagreb: Naklada Ljevak.

Duda, D. (2005) „Ostavljeno veslo na galiji nacije: književni modernizam i kultura putovanja“.

Časopis za književnost i kulturu, i društvena pitanja. Reč No 73/19, 97-117.

Duda, D. (1998) Žanrovi hrvatskoga romantičarskog putopisa Dani Hvarskog kazališta: hrvatska književnost u doba preporoda (ilirizam, romantizam). (prir. Nikola Batušić). Split: Književni krug, 326–344.

Faktorová, V. (2012) Medzi poznáním a imaginací. Podoby obrozenského cestopisu. Praha: ARSCI. Fordinalová, E. (1993) “Slovanskosť” a “slovenskosť” v Kollárovom cestopise. Ján Kollár (1793-1993) zborník štúdií. (prir. C. Kraus). Bratislava: Vydavateľstvo Slovenskej akadémie vied, 203-219.

Matoš, A.G. (1996) Oko Lobora drugi putopisi. Zagreb – Alfa.

Nemčić Gostovinski, A.(1845) Putositnice. Zagreb: Narodna tiskarnica Dra. Ljudevita Gaja.

Polić Kamov, J. (1955) Bez glave i repa. Hrvatski putopisci XIX. i XX. Stoljeća. (prir. Slavko Ježić. Zagreb : Zora.

Tomasovič, M. (1991) Još jedan primjer recepcije Osmana u hrvatskom romantizmu: Nemčićeve Putositnice“. Poeti i začinjavci. Dubrovnik: Ogranak Matice hrvatske, 195-203.

Večerina, A. (16.11.2000) Adrese Janka Polića Kamova u Italiji 1906-1910. Vijenac. – broj 175. Preuzeto1.07.2015sa

Slika Venecije u knjizi Putositnice A. Nemčića kao dio italijanskog diskursa u hrvatskim putopisima

Sažetak: U radu se proučava slika Venecije u Putositnicama A. Nemčića kao dio talijanskog diskursa i njezina uloga u kontekstu razvoja hrvatskog putopisa. Glavna pozornost posvećuje se strukturnim i ideoloških elemenatama slike Venecije i njezinim modifikacijama u kasnijim hrvatskim putopisima.

Ključne riječi: A. Nemčić, hrvatski putopis, slika, Venecija.

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