Translated from the Croatian by Tomislav Kuzmanović
The Hill’s protagonist, and the novel’s narrator, is a former public relations officer at a publishing house and the Museum of Modern Art who abandons his bourgeois existence, book launches, exhibition openings, invitations and speeches in order to climb the hill that dominates the landscape of an unnamed island in the Adriatic and spend the whole summer at a deserted army blockhouse where he will guard the island from forest fire. There, in the company of a dog and an old donkey, he sees his life reach its climax. This is a deeply unsettling text, loaded with emotions almost to the point of breaking, full of traumatic experiences of a collapsed, imploded urban individual searching for the meaning of life. Will he find his catharsis?
Ivica Prtenjača was born in 1969 in Rijeka where he studied Yugoslav Studies at the School of Education. He has been working since the age of fifteen: as a water-meter reader, gas bill collector, ice cream deliveryman, warehouse worker, construction worker, gallery operator, fire extinguisher serviceman, shop assistant, publisher, head of marketing services, and a spokesperson. He writes poetry, fiction, plays, columns for daily newspapers, and he often hosts promotions, fairs of literature and literary festivals. Prtenjača has published five books of poetry, a novel, a play, a book of stories with culinary recipes, and won a number of awards for his work. Some of his poems, cycles or books have been translated into some twenty languages. His work has been included in a number of anthologies, selections, panoramas and histories of Croatian literature. He lives and works in Zagreb.
We enjoyed climbing The Hill together with Ivica Prtenjača and seeing the picture from above, perhaps because somewhere, really, a fire is burning that should be extinguished and we cannot see it from below. The story builds as slowly and subtly as poetry. The text is disturbing, emotionally packed with the traumatic experiences of the urban individual searching for life sense. Will catharsis ever be reached?