Antonija Bogner-Šaban: Retrieving the Irretrievable, 2001.

Original Title: Povrat u nepovrat

In this book Antonija Bogner-Šaban gives nine portraits of Croatian theatre (and literary) personalities from the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century, ranging from writers (Julije and Milan Šenoa, Iso Velikanović and Joza Ivakić), critics (Vladimir Lunaček, Josip Bogner and Ljubomir Maraković), to actors and directors (Zora Vuksan-Barlović and Tomislav Tanhofer). Her discussion throws light on the lives of these creative individuals and clearly shows that they have been unjustly ignored until now, although they were successful in influencing both the literary and theatrical aspects of the Croatian art milieu. Along these lines, the book reveals that Zora Vuksan-Barlović was the first Croatian female professional director and reminds readers that Tanhofer was the first interpreter of Krleža’s drama personages to come from outside Zagreb. The author also brings into focus the conflicts of that time in forming and giving dignity to what today are irreplaceable theatre professions – theatre criticism and its influence on the theatre (Bogner), dramaturgy and theatre pedagogy (Ivakić), and the importance of adaptation of foreign texts to the Croatian environment. More is learnt – and, one hopes will soon be put to the test on stage – about interesting comediographic attainments which theoretical research has often ignored as a lower form of life, without any real justification, judging from Antonija Bogner-Šaban’s research into the Srijem region comedies by Iso Velikanović, those by the Slavonian Jozo Ivakić, and the very interesting Croatian adaptations of Shakespeare by Julije and Milan Šenoa.

One of the book’s particular assets is that the nine portraits make up a meaningful entity since the selected authors were active at almost the same time and in the same place, so that their lives and work were inextricably intertwined: in the book we find Bogner’s notations about Ivakić and Tanhofer, and what Lunaček wrote about Ivakić, while Tanhofer and Zora Vuksan-Barlović actually worked together. For those very reasons, Retrieving the Irretrievable gives an interesting depiction of an era through the lives and destinies of these people, all of whom were not only talented and educated but also Croatian Europeans. The book breathes life into the Croatian theatre at the beginning of the 20th century, a very dynamic time of venturing into and accepting then-current European theatre notions that were in the process of undergoing change.