Tuesday, 26 October 2010

"Vatra i Pepeo" - The Unpublished Memoirs of Ivan Mestrovic - Joseph E. O´Connor - JCS 1983


Ivan Meštrović was a secretive man. Despite the many clues that he left behind, despite the prodigious number of sculptures and other works of art that he created, he remains a controversial and enigmatic figure. He wrote to his second wife, Olga, that it took him a long time to begin to trust anyone, and she insists that the only person he was ever completely open with was his brother, Peter.

His considerable literary output is helpful to those who wish to understand him, but it too presents problems. His memoirs, like all memoirs, must be handled with care; sometimes his memory deceived him. But more importantly, they are incomplete. He had a knack for compartmentalizing his life. Uspomene na političke ljude i dogodjaje offers us a glimpse of his political activity but says virtually nothing about his art, his family or any other aspect of his life.

Some of his other writings also have a memoir quality about them. His Ipak se nadam is sometimes referred to as a kind of philosophical or religious memoir, and his Imaginary Conversations With Michelangelo provide some of his views on art. But each one offers only a fragment of his life and work. Like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle they have to be carefully examined and cautiously fitted together.

There is at least one major piece of the puzzle that has received little attention thus far: an unupublished autobiographical fragment of about thirty-five thousand words entitled "Vatra i Pepeo" which is included among his private papers. His son translated the work into English and it is on that memoir that this paper is based.

One approaches the memoir with considerable caution. It deals with the decade of the first World War but it was not written until about 1949-1950, when Meštrović was in his late sixties. It is extremely difficult to tell to what extent he is reading back into the events of the years covered in the memoir some of his feelings from a much later time. Moreover, Meštrović was inclined to treat virtually everything he wrote with something of the artist's imagination. He didn't see reality in quite the prosaic way that we do who traipse after his image. He tells us himself that his real world was the world of his "art and imagination". Or rather that he lived in two worlds, "one illusory though visible to others, and the other real though secret and unseen by other people. I guarded and protected my inner world," he says, "and seldom allowed anyone a glimpse of it".


- - - -
Journal of Croatian Studies, XXIV, 1983, – Annual Review of the Croatian Academy of America, Inc. New York, N.Y., Electronic edition by Studia Croatica, by permission. All rights reserved by the Croatian Academy of America.
- - - -

No comments:

Post a Comment