Tin Ujević

Jul 5, 1891 - Nov 12, 1955(64)

About injustice

The poet did not receive a single literary award during his lifetime. Today, the most prestigious award for Croatian poetic achievements bears his name...

Coming to Zagreb after the stormy Belgrade years in 1940, Tin Ujević got a job in the trade union newspaper "Pravici". During the time of the NDH, the editorial board moved away from trade union issues and turned to the propaganda of the new regime. Ujević, taught by the hardships he had already experienced due to involvement in politics at the beginning of the 20th century, tried to distance himself from the magazine's politics. But due to the need for money in 1941, he moved to Croatica, a state agency owned by NDH.

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The problem arises when the Berlin magazine Collaboration publishes the song "Saffron Knights" without his knowledge. After the establishment of the Second Yugoslavia, this poem will become the main evidence of the poet's cooperation with the Ustasha authorities. The punishment for cooperation was the impossibility of any publication of books and articles, and it was very rigid - it lasted as long as five years. The publication ban meant that Tin had nothing to live on. Hungry and sick, living modestly in Zagreb, he spent his time intensively reading and translating.

In 1951, he was again accepted into the Society of Croatian Writers. During his life in Zagreb, he lived in Selska cesta and spent his days in the Tip-top cafe on the corner of Gundulićeva and Masarykova streets, where he also had his own table where many artists came to him. At that time he was silent and withdrawn, disillusioned with society. He returned to his old regime - he would spend his mornings in the National University Library intensively translating from more than ten world languages, and during the evenings he would hang out with Zagreb's society in cafes. Although known for his bohemian language, Ujević was an incredible translator with a huge body of work. He published 105 renditions of lyrics, and another 271 renditions were published posthumously. 9,500 pages of his translations of literary prose were also published, namely 22 novels and 63 short stories, while it is considered that, with numerous works still in manuscript, about 25 volumes of the size of his current "Collected Works" would be needed to publish all the works which he translated in his sixty-four years of life. The greatest Croatian poet did not receive a single literary award during his lifetime. Today, the most prestigious award for Croatian poetic achievements bears his name.

(Jasen Boko: Tin Ujević – biography: thirty years of travel, 2017; Nevenka Košutić-Brozović: About Tino Ujević's cover songs and translations in: Croatica, 1980)

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