Drazan Gunjaca - Love as punishment



Love as punishment
- book on-line
- introduction
- editor's note
- review

- Balkan Farewells
- The Balkan Roulette
- The Shade of Reason
- Love as punishment
- Half-way o heaven
- Good night my friends
- Dreams have no price
- We are all brothers
The Balkan aquarelle




"Love for Punishment", the new novel by Dražan Gunjača, is part of a trilogy and a logical continuation of the book "Balkan Farewells", although on one occasion I said that there should be the "Balkan Meetings" as something to which "Love for Punishment" points to.
This book can be read separately because the people and the mosaic situations are coherently intertwined, held together by strong ties of characters, their destinies, their nature and the circumstances. They are determined by history and circumstances of a given time.
The people who mostly felt and were victims of the Croatian War of Independence were the simple people, often marginal office-workers, civil servants, members of the ex Yugoslav National Army, police officers, small artisans, manual workers, housewives, women, demimondaines, mostly from mixed marriages between Croats and Serbs, Croats and Montenegrins, Croats and Bosnians. Their destinies and daily lives stem from that tragic historical disaster. They did not choose their parents and the place of birth, nor that bitter regional Balkan mentality or the historical and political moment of their birth in the ex-Yugoslavia.
Whether they wanted it or not, all those circumstances involved the characters of the novel and the writer himself, and the art of survival and the capacity to remain somehow normal are the greatest achievements of the novel's idea and of the creation of its characters.
The book sees meticulously described characters in tragic, subtle, philosophical but also grotesque scenes. All those characters intertwine and drag us into the world of ordinary people in the Istrian town of Pula, confused, marginalized, exiled, trying in the last five years to survive and find their identity in an almost ghostly environment.
As the author is walking through the halls of the court and the streets of the cities of Pula, Zagreb, Rijeka and Sinj, he is also walking through his character's lives thus going through all the sociological, economical, legal and security situations and anomalies of the society, the microcosm of Pula which is a realistic reflection of the national and global atmosphere determined by constant coping in an independent state after war.
All those individual destinies, for as much as they may be ridiculous, tragic or even noble, carry a trait of humanity and goodness deep inside. These destinies make the reflections of the author touch apathy and nihilism at times, but they also help him find the strength to make it by living their lives directly or indirectly.
The bright spot closing the novel is little Sanja who, through the memory of her late father, is seeking for tenderness, innocent and clean, thus making us see that there is hope for people in the future, if only we give them the right education and the right directions. Not in the context of hatred, a constant in this area, but in a new light, in a world our generation will not live to see but whose seeds have been planted for the future.

What is important in the end is the author's message. As much as this country is difficult and the neighbouring Balkan areas full of mental, ethnic and political controversies, he stays where he is. He does not go to Germany or Canada, clearly conscious of his own sacrifice of love. He stays at home with the ordinary people, their flaws and personal tragedies, with his friends who prove to be a constant no matter where in the Balkans you may be, with his loves that helped him so significantly in certain moments, and in writing to Sanja he tries to find humanity. Because he believes in people.
"For us to learn to appreciate life again, this most precious gift that has, in this rough areas, been underestimated to the point of absurdity, in any way… Because there is always reason for tomorrow. Always!"
This novel should be read in order to discover ourselves through others! It makes us think and, I believe, become better people!

Dr.sc. Vesna Girardi Jurkić