Antun Gustav Matoš

Jun 13, 1873 - Mar 17, 1914(40)

Single in the middle of the universe

He was a fugitive, an incorrigible bohemian, a world traveler, but also an inimitable poetic talent that changed Croatian literature.

We remember Antun Gustav Matoš, one of the greatest Croatian writers, not only for his significant works, but also for his unusual life.

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Born on Friday the thirteenth in 1873, Matoš was destined for great things from birth. Just a few moments after the birth, the midwife told Antun's mother: - This little one of yours will be a great man, his name will be mentioned a lot, but he will also suffer a lot. –

Antun's family was very respectable. His grandfather was a teacher in Vukovar, and his father August was also an educator. He taught in Našice before being transferred to Tovarnik, the town that would become the birthplace of the great poet.

Already in 1875, the family moved to Zagreb, where the writer spent the rest of his childhood. That's why Antun knew how to say about himself: "I am from Bunjevac by origin, from Srejemac by birth, and from Zagreb by upbringing."

He excelled at school until the (today) third grade of high school. Then he started to stray. It is not surprising that Antun had units in physics and propaedeutics, but it is interesting that the decisive grade for dropping his grade was precisely the unit in the Croatian language.

Namely, as a young man he had a hard time finding his place in the world. He intended to study veterinary medicine at the Military Veterinary College in Vienna, but his attempt ended in failure. He lost his scholarship due to not passing the colloquium.

He found his solace in writing, which quickly attracted the attention of the literary world. He entered literature in 1892 with the story "The Power of Conscience", which today indicates the beginning of the modern era.

In 1893, he joined the army, but after only eight months of service, he decided to desert. He swam across the Sava and fled to Šabac, and then to Belgrade. This was a major turning point in his life because he was not allowed to return to his homeland due to his escape.

In Belgrade, he first taught children of wealthy families, then played the cello in an orchestra, and soon found employment as a journalist and literary critic. He was known for his sharpness.

Matoš's criticisms, namely, did not spare his friends either. Thus, for the novel "Hajduk Stako" by writer Janko Veselinović, he wrote that he regrets himself for having to read the novel to the end, and he also regrets the writer for having to write those 456 pages.

Soon the talented Antun established himself as a writer. He hung out with famous Belgrade artists at the time, and was also a frequent guest of the "Dardanelli" cafe, a meeting place for writers, bohemians, actors and journalists.

He was especially known for his novels, but also travelogues and feuilletons that he published in well-read magazines. Namely, he spent most of his youth traveling through Europe, immersing himself in the cultures and landscapes that inspired his work. He was fascinated by the artistic movements of his time, especially the symbolism he encountered during his stay in Paris, which strongly influenced his writing.

Despite his many successes, his life was marked by tragedy and struggle. Living in Paris, he endured such poverty that money contributions were sent to him from Zagreb in order to feed himself. In one such letter, he also received a contribution of 20 kroner collected by female high school students in Zagreb. One of the signatories was Olga Herak, to whom Matoš will answer.

One letter led to another and that's how Olga and Antun began to correspond. Long and sincere conversations ignited the passion of love between the great writer and a girl eleven years younger. Because of Olga, Antun often secretly traveled to Zagreb, but his visits always ended with quick escapes from the police.

Finally, in 1908, after a thirteen-year absence from Croatia, Antun was pardoned by the Austro-Hungarian authorities. He immediately returned to Zagreb. With the fact that he was finally able to walk with his Olga, he was able to get involved in literary and political life again in his homeland. He constantly got into conflicts and polemics, creating literary and political opponents, but also like-minded people. That is how he gathered around him a group of young poets called "Greeks", and one of his supporters, along with Wiesner and Galović, was Tin Ujević.

He cultivated a bohemian lifestyle, and often stayed in Zagreb cafes. He survived as a professional writer and journalist, constantly in poverty. This led to intolerance between Antun and the family of his chosen one. Namely, her parents tried to distance her from the "failed poet" by sending her to study in Vienna.

Despite some friction, the separation did not manage to separate the couple in love. However, the years that followed did not pamper Matoš. He fell ill with a tumor and became bedridden. After a long and serious illness, he died at a young age, leaving a literary legacy that is still celebrated today.

Although he started writing and publishing poetry quite late, today his poems - "Notturno", "Autumn evening", "Maćuhica", "1909", "Utjeha kose" are considered the best poems from the period of Croatian modernity and are part of all our literary anthology.

They say that one of the greatest Croatian writers died with a book in his hand. That book was the work of Ksaver Šandor Gjalski "On the Born Breast".

Jelčić writes that "he died trying to write something on the inside of the cover before his death. But what he wanted to write will forever remain a secret." After twenty years of work, during which he created the greatest works of Croatian literature, "his hand no longer had the strength to clearly "paint" a single letter."

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