In the Middle Ages
In the Middle Ages, Croatia was an independent state from the 8th century to 1102, but was strongly influenced by Rome, and the Catholic Church became unmistakable. Most of the literature was in Latin. The oldest Croatian text is the Baška tablet (1120) from the island of Krk, written with the ancient Slavic Glagolithic alphabet used in the Croatian church in Dalmatia for many centuries. The 11th-century Duklja Chronicle depicts Croatia’s history. There are several old statutes and statutes, the oldest being the Vinodol Act of 1288.
Otherwise, this time is poor on Croatian literary monuments. The real Croatia around Zagreb was part of Hungary, until it was placed under the Habsburgs in 1526, and German became the dominant one. The coastal strip along the Adriatic Sea first belonged to Byzantium, and from 1420 Venice. In the cities here, a rich cultural activity was influenced by Italian humanism and Renaissance. Especially applies to Dubrovnik (Italian Ragusa), which managed to maintain its independence in relation to Venice, but also other cities in Dalmatia such as Zadar, Trogir, Split and Hvar. In Split, Marko Marulić lived(1450–1524), a learned theologian and humanist who was on the transition between the feudal, religious views of the Middle Ages and the new Renaissance era. He wrote mostly in Latin. In Croatian he wrote, among other things, the heroic-religious poem Judith. From the island of What came noblemen such as Hanibal Lucić (1485-1553), who wrote love poems and the play Slavin, and Petar Hektorović (1487-1572), who wrote Fish and Fishermen’s Conversations, a depiction of a three-day fishing trip, with inlaid folk songs. In Zadar lived Petar Zoranić (1508 – c. 1570), who wrote the allegorical shepherd idyll The Mountains. All these poems wrote in the Dalmatian dialect Chakavian.
The richest literary flourishing took place in Dubrovnik, and then on the Shtokavian dialect, which is the basis for today’s written language. In the 15th century, Dubrovnik experienced a very economic and cultural upswing, in close contact with Italian cultural life. The first Dubrovnik poems are the Petrarchists Šiško Menčetić (1457–1527) and Džore Držić (1461–1501). The name Andrija Čubranović is associated with the popular fixed- name poem Sigøynerinnen. The Benedictine monk Mavro Vetranović (1482–1576) wrote philosophical poems. The biggest name of the 16th century is comedy writer Marin Držić (1508-1567), who wrote a series of shepherd plays and comedies that give a vivid picture of Dubrovnik.
While Držić was a typical Renaissance man, the 17th century was marked by the Catholic counter-Reformation and the Baroque. The greatest author was Ivan Gundulić (1589–1638), who, in addition to poems with biblical motifs, wrote the allegorical play Dubravka on Dubrovnik’s freedom, and epitomized Osman on the fight against the Turks. Other authors at this time were Junije Palmotić (1606–1657) and Ivan Bunić Vučić (1591–1658).
During the Baroque, other regions than Dalmatia also joined the literary life, partly as a result of the Franciscan and Jesuit missionary activities in Bosnia and Croatia. From one of the richest Croatian noble families came the author Ivan Bunić Vučić (1621–1671), who, with the Baroque poet Fran Frankopan (1643–1671), was executed by the Austrians because of a conspiracy. Jesuit Juraj Križanić (1617–1683) worked in Russia and advocated the Pan-Slavic idea. The first Croatian professional writer was Pavao Ritter Vitezović (1652-1713), who wrote historical works.
Public Enlightenment and Nationalism
Public education and nationalism came to characterize literature in the 18th century, for example with Filip Grabovac (1697-1749) and Andrija Kačić Miošić (1704-1760). Enlightenment reached its peak with Matija Antun Relković (1732–1798), who in his rationalistic work Satyr or the wild man gave a merciless criticism of the conditions in his native Slavonia. The national flow that had prevailed in the 18th century is in full bloom in the early 1800s. The Croatian “national rebirth” or the “Illyrian movement” is called the national movement in the 1830s, which had a South Slavic aim. The leader was the language reformer Ljudevit Gaj(1809-1872), who created the modern Croatian alphabet. The Slovenian- born poet Stanko Vraz (1810–1851) joined “Illyrism” and wrote poems in Croatian. Petar Preradović (1818–1872) wrote love poems and patriotic poems.
The greatest author of the Illyrian movement was the Croatian national poet Ivan Mažuranić (1814-1890), who in his main work Smail-aga Čengić’s death depicted the struggle between Christians and Turks. He united classical formation with incorporation into folk poetry. August Šenoa(1838–1881) founded the Croatian historical novel and short story. Šenoa made a transition to realism, but it was only in the 1870s and 1880s that realism broke through, after the Illyrian movement suffered a staggering defeat in 1848 and political developments led to increasing Hungarian influence and worsening political conditions in Croatia. The most important realists were Ante Kovačić (1854–1889), Janko Leskovar (1861–1949), Josip Kozarac (1858–1906) and Vjenceslav Novak (1859–1905). Evgenij Kumičić (1850-1904) was the most typical naturalist in Croatia. The main theme of this period was the proletarianization of the countryside, criticism of the bourgeoisie and how the Croats were exploited by Italy, Austria and Hungary. Ksaver Šandor Gjalski(1854-1935) depicted the decay of the Croatian nobility, with nostalgic sympathy for ancient patriarchal life. The most significant poet of the age of realism in Croatia was Silvije Strahimir Kranjčević (1865-1908), a social poet full of revolutionary justice, but at the same time preoccupied with religious speculation.
The period from the turn of the century until the First World War was politically marked by national struggles against Austria and Hungary, and in literature the symbolism made its appearance in Croatian poetry. As in Slovenia, the period is often called the Croatian “modern”. Representatives of the new symbolic poetry were Milan Begović (1876–1948), Dragutin Domjanić (1875–1933) and Vladimir Vidrić (1875–1909). From Dubrovnik came Ivo Vojnović(1857-1929), who wrote refined, psychological short stories, novels and plays, influenced by French poetry. His main work is the Dubrovnik trilogy, which nostalgically depicts the downfall of this aristocratic city-state. A European-oriented poet was Antun Gustav Matoš (1873–1914), who was above all an artist and aesthetic, and who played a major role as a critic. The most diverse of the “modern” was Vladimir Nazor (1876-1949), who cultivated Slavic legends and natural mysticism, steeped in optimism, freedom of movement and national consciousness. We find a synthesis of symbolism and realism in the novelist Dinko Šimunović (1873–1933).
In the interwar period there were a number of significant lyricists in Croatia: Antun Branko Šimić (1898–1925), Augustin “Tin” Ujević (1891–1955), Gustav Krklec (1899–1977), Dobrica Cesarić (1902–1980) and August Cesarec (from 1893 to 1941). Slavko Kolar (1891–1941) was a humorist and satirist; in Norwegian, Imbras marriages have been issued. The most important Croatian author of the interwar period was Miroslav Krleža(1893-1981), who wrote in all literary genres. Krleža is a revolutionary, individualist social critic. His style is expressionist. In the plays and novels he reveals the degeneracy of Croatian citizenship. In his older days, Vladimir Nazor joined the partisans, which he portrayed in diary form and poems.
The most poignant poem about World War II atrocities in Croatian literature is the mass grave of Ivan Goran Kovačić (1908-1943). After the war, Krleža was among those who broke with the dogmatic socialist realism that prevailed during the first post-war years. The partisan war was the subject of many authors, including the prose writer Vjekoslav Kaleb (1905–1966) and the lyricist Jure Franičević-Pločar (1918–1994). More modernist tones brought the lyricists Jure Kaštelan (1919–1990) and Vesna Parun (1922–2010).
Among the most important prose writers after the war are Vladan Desnica (1905–1967), whose novel Spring and Death’s play has been translated into Norwegian, as well as Petar Šegedin (1909–1998), Ranko Marinković (1913–2001) and Mirko Božić.(1919 to 1995). Among the best known authors who emerged around 1960 are Ivan Slamnig (1930–2001), Antun Šoljan (1932–1995) and Slobodan Novak (1924–2016); all modernist, intellectual writers. Three of the most famous lyricists in post-war Croatian literature are Dragutin Tadijanović (1905–2007), Slavko Mihalić (1928–2007), Milivoj Slaviček (1929–2012), and Ante Stamać (1939–2016). Among the more experimental prose writers are Zvonimir Majdak (1938–2017), Branislav Glumac (born 1938) and Ivan Kušan (1933–2012). Vlado Gotovac (1930–2000) was imprisoned as oppositional after “the Croatian spring” in 1972.
In the 1970s and 1980s there were writers inspired by science fiction, including Pavao Pavličić (born 1946) who writes in a “fantastic” style; Also mentioned are Stjepan Čuić (born 1945), Veljko Barbieri (born 1950) and Nedjeljko Fabrio (born 1937). A popular novelist is Ivan Aralica (born 1930). Ivan Kušan (1933–2012) is known as a satirist and also wrote youth books. The playwright Ivan Brešan (1936–2017) is listed in Norway. Another popular poet is singer Arsen Dedić (1938–2015).
In the 1980s, several women writers appeared in Zagreb who raised feminist motives, including Dubravka Ugrešić (born 1949) and Slavenka Drakulić (born 1949); both have had works translated into Norwegian. Both came into opposition to the nationalist regime that came to power in 1990, and has stayed abroad. Another significant female writer is Irena Vrkljan (born 1930). The foremost literary historians and critics include Predrag Matvejević (1932–2017), Stanko Lasić (1927–2017) and Slobodan P. Novak (born 1951).
Croatia’s independence and the 1991 war have given rise to patriotic and nationalist poetry.