Miloš Crnjanski zählt zu den herausragenden Autoren der serbischen Avantgarde. Ihm ist es gelungen, die Schlachtfelder des ersten Weltkriegs zu überleben und eine Zuflucht zu suchen in imaginären Welten. Seine poetische Prosa hat die moderne serbische Literatursprache geradezu erschaffen. Die Ursprünge Crnjanskis liegen jedoch in der Lyrik. Ithaka ist keine harmlose Gedichtsammlung für den Nachttisch. Ithaka ist die grausame Abrechnung mit dem alten Mitteleuropa der k.u.k. Monarchie und in seiner sarkastisch-pazifistischen Haltung aktueller denn je zum Verständnis der fortwährenden Konflikte auf dem Balkan. Crnjanski bricht sowohl mit den Großmachtträumen Serbiens, die sich auf Zar Dušan und das Amselfeld berufen, als auch mit dem verlogenen Humanismus der Westmächte.
Miloš Crnjanski (1893-1973), one of the seminal figures of 20th century Yugoslav literature, was born in Vojvodina, spent most of his adult life in political exile in Europe, and died in Belgrade, shortly upon his return to his homeland. Poet, novelist, essayist, and playwright, he is considered to be, along with Ivo Andric, the founder of Modernism in Yugoslav literature. However, due to the political circumstances and to the complexity of his style he was not as widely translated as the Nobel prize winner Andric, or Vasko Popa. His innovative style in poetry, deeply rooted in metaphysical expressionism, which he himself called "Sumatrism," finds its affinities in Bergsonian echoes of Eastern philosophies that ruled European poetry in the beginning of the century. Somewhat lacking in the Symbolist's dualistic categories of expression which characterized the verse of his contemporaries, Crnjanski's poetry dwells nonetheless between the boundaries of late Serbian Symbolism, new Russian formalist theories of language, and his own distinctive Modernist approach to free verse, a non-dualistic mode of thinking and writing which he described in his 1922 essay, "On free verse." "The contemporary lyric," Crnjanski writes,
abandons the old content, rejects the old forms. It is an attempt, rather, to locate life within the universe. The poem turns itself to strange and unusual colors, moods, and sensations coming from the skies....This mysticism is just an enormous reaction, quite comprehensible, against all that was recently considered to be life in Europe....Free rhythm is the true, lyrical rhythm, spontaneously tied to a mood. It is the seismographically exact rhythm of the earthquakes of the soul. In lyrics in which immediacy is the most valuable quality, the words and expressions have gained new color.
The contents of this early expressionist verse were smeared with the blood of his comrades killed in the First World War - men who had been disillusioned even before the fighting. Unable to change the reality of the early 1920s in Europe, Crnjanski turned to the transcendental thought of the Far East - thus his numerous translations of ancient Chinese and Japanese poetry, which influenced his own verse profoundly. What Walt Whitman and his pantheistic verse meant to the German poet Arno Holz, the poetry of the Far East meant to Crnjanski. Unlike many other Serbian poets and writers, Crnjanski was a pacifist, disgusted by the ravages of the First World War where he found himself a soldier in the Austro-Hungarian army. If we read his poetry aloud today, we are likely to find in it not only his metaphysical quest for the distant blue star and a free land of poetry, but also the harsh criticism of Serbian nationalism, that form of a collectively induced madness again prevalent in political speeches in his home country today. - Nina Zivancevic
Now we are carefree, light and tender.
We just think: how quiet are the snowy
peaks of the Urals.
If a pale figure makes us sad,
the one we lost to an evening,
we also know that somewhere, instead of it a rivulet
flows and is all red.
Each love, each morning in a foreign land
envelops our soul closer by its hand
in an endless tranquility of blue seas,
in which red corals glitter
like the cherries of my homeland.
We wake at night and sweetly smile
at the Moon with its bent bow
and we caress those distant hills
and the icy mountains with our tender hand.
I walk freely,
as no one took that sad ability
to love away from me.
I spread my arms, not in dawn-breaks
but into the night and the sea.
Sad and excruciating realities I'll enter -
no matter where I'd end - with a smile.
When I love, even the sins crown
my head happily bent with heavens.
My melancholy smile lets the dream
pass by, go, and die.
Love is an interminating path
which permits all things to follow it.
I pity neither you nor myself;
I am smiling from the distance,
in my eyes only fatigue flickers
and all that I request from you
is a moment or two, of
silence, just silence.