“THE LESSON OF IMPUDENCE”, Ceres 2000
A FATAL YEARNING
The author of the books of poems “The Seventh Seal”, “The Third Act”, “A Boy”, “The Turnkey’s Dream” and “The Antidote or Fostering Insanity” has with “Lesson of Impudence” once more confirmed her position in women’s writing.
However moralistic the title of the work might seem, the actual substance does not strike us as a self-improvement manual that, like some cookery book of life, tells us how to spice up our behaviour with impudence (and to what extent) in various situations of life. Useful hints, of course, might be gleaned, but this book is really much more of a collection of reminiscences from the author’s personal past, a complex of past events, relived in the subconscious, with a commentary that derives from the relation between the past and the present. We could call the book a collection of essays, in which Stanka Gjurić has covered all the most private areas of the human body and spirit, starting from a look at her first love, via sophisticated descriptions of the erogenous, beauty, fear, all the way to subtly shaded feelings of exaltation and indifference (given picturesque explanation using the example of the diametrically opposed male and female perceptions of an ordinary football match).
The author of “Lesson of Impudence” openly, we might say impudently or arrogantly, discusses the questions that women in Croatia keep locked behind pursed lips, or look for answers to in a world that they still find enigmatic, in the man’s world. Why parental sex is a forbidden topic for us, what little girls find terrifying in a boy’s body, whether pornography is a sign of backwardness, how the spiritual differences of men and women are embodied, and finally if friendship between men and women is at all possible are just some of Stanka’s preoccupations. She does not limit herself just to the relations between the sexes and the problems that derive from it, but also delves into metaphysics, considering death, eternity, secret dreams, metamorphosis and the transcendental. For her, voluntary isolation, the rule of mediocrity, contempt, envy, lying, jealousy and live evil are concepts that are so real and so tangible that they simply cannot be pigeonholed as abstract categories without any thought of the consequences.
Nevertheless, some of the titles in the collection refer to writing that does not follow the author’s trenchant thinking about and outright criticism of human, not infrequently cowardly, behaviour. Clues to “Scent”, “Sofa”, “Jelena or Dreaming”, “Hooper’s Love”, “Travels”, “Recollection and Self-Regard” are autobiographical fragments that bear the marks of lyrical poetry and in style approach the prose poem. These are perhaps the warmest parts of the books for, writing about herself, Stanka informs her style with a most remarkable candour. Recalling childish fantasies, she skilfully reveals the most intimate of life’s circumstances, vividly combining them with uninhibited feelings. Thus in Lesson, small pleasures such as scratching and non-sexual petting are adroitly dissected and highlighted as a rarely mentioned phenomenon, that have never crossed the border of circles of friendship and family, not to mention the lack of any literature about the topic. Very likely, overloaded with information about how to keep and cherish our youthful appearance, and because of our devotion to what are largely rather bizarre pleasures, we have simply started to forget how much pleasure can be found in little things, in, for example, a good scratch.
There is also in the book something that I can’t call either reminiscence, or intimate confession or practical advice. This is the part in which the writer combines feelings and the imagination, the part in which one feels the gradual distancing of the world of fact into the “Diabolic Dream”. The move away from reality into fiction here reveals a different style, the poetry of which is divulged in every sentence. Perhaps this is just one more of the author’s many faces, perhaps one more in the series of excursions through which in the future Stanka will enhance her poetical garden. In this book, Stanka Gjurić has confirmed her special gift for observation; with the skill of a psychologist (and very likely thanks to female intuition) has revealed the most complex mechanism of existence, the need for the unity of man and woman in the search for human happiness and the need for each person to be loved. Lesson of Impudence does not indeed offer any morals, but it does stimulate reflection.
From these lines, there does indeed radiate the typically female nostalgia for the past, for journeys, the fatal longing for love (spiritual and physical), for adoration, the hunger for beauty. But all these are facts that derive from the female spirit and thus come on perhaps a little over emphatically, calling up in the opposite sex a childish fear of the swelling tide of feelings that shamelessly name their objective, or perhaps sneers because of the excessive sensitivity in expressing the most intimate and darkest of thoughts. The female reader, however, will have to acknowledge yet another poetic revelation of a common well of intimacy. What in all this does call up a slight feeling of awkwardness is the in-depth elaboration of the emotional world of women offered to the male gaze, which is a guiding thread in “Lesson of Impudence”. The intuition inscribed in my genes tells me that, after all, some things ought to remain a mystery.
Nives Mikelić, Vijenac, 20. 04. 2000
Stanka Gjurić had already entered the world of the arts during the 1980’s and had become renowned in various parts of the former state. Before the end of 1980’s she was considered as a real master of poetry in Croatia and she has since become, during the beginning of the new millennium, as far as literary style is concerned, one of the most refined and most individualistic poetesses of contemporary Croatian literature. Her unmistakable literary talent and success is clear in other literary genres written such as her poignant articles, book reviews, critiques and essays in various journals, and in weekly or daily publications in our country. She has also successfully and very skillfully adapted her gift to the small and large screen and in addition to all of this, she became an unsurpassed intellectual of our time with widely open world views in regard to all topics. Gjurić is a modern multimedia polyglot and artist who looks for her spiritual sisters and brothers and who believes that she already found them in great individuals who have equally been enjoying all kinds of topics expressed in luxurious ways, as in the style of Emerson and with the curiosity of J. J. Rousseau for example. They drew Stanka Gjurić’s attention in transforming her words in a sharp and concise manifesto of growing up becoming a liberated and free-thinking individual. The essay, which is also used as the title of the book dealing with life and sex, two phenomena which could be understood and analyzed separately or, as Stanka Gjuric would more correctly explain as being inevitable topics in all essays of love, life, and especially good old death, Tanatos, even if all such topics were not mentioned by their names.
Briefly and generally speaking, from a topical point of view, Stanka Gjuric’s book of essays focuses on spiritual horizons similar to Henry Miller, using the style and vocabulary worthy of Marguerite Yourcenar or of some of the essays of Simone de Beauvoir. Her observations point us to vistas of Sylvia Plath, yet never guide us to a similar suicidal fatality. In Stanka Gjurić’s everyday observations, she is close to serene yet vigorous ideas and the reasoning and healthy pantheism of Anais Nin. After all the aforementioned, it is good that she used the “Le bonheur de vivre”, a work by one of the greatest artists of the 20th century Henri Matisse, as the cover page of this excellent book. As it was said for Milko Valent, so can we too say for Stanka Gjurić that with her writing about life’s uncertainties, misfortunes and tricks, she sings her never-ending love (towards life).
Robert G. Tilly, ‘Hrvatska Riječ’, 2003