Zoran Malkoč

Zoran Malkoč was born in Nova Gradiška, Croatia in 1967. He graduated with a degree in comparative literature and general linguistics from the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Zagreb. Even though he considers himself a peace loving person, in 1991, he joined the Croatian armed forces as a volunteer to fight against Yugoslav aggression, which left a mark on his entire generation and much of his writing.


For the short story “When I Was Nana Pila - Dead, Yet in My Prime,” Zoran received the 2009 Ranko Marinković Award, the most prestigious there is in Croatia, and a year later the story was included in his collection Lesser Czars' Cemetery.  His short stories have been included in several Croatian short story anthologies, the most recent being Fifty Years - Fifty Stories by Večernji list, a review of awarded short stories between 1964 and 2014. Two of the anthologies have been published in Mexico and the United Kingdom.


His two novels and short story collection have been recognized with several awards. Roki Raketa/Rocky Rocket (Profil, 2014) recently won the 2015 T-portal award for Novel of the Year, one Croatia's most prestigious literary awards. For Mountain of Balloons he received a second place award for the best unpublished novel by the publishing house VBZ in 2002. For the Lesser Czars' Cemetery he was awarded the Josip & Ivan Kozarac Award in 2010. The short story collection has been translated into Spanish and Catalan and will be published by Rayo Verde Editorial from Barcelona in 2015. Some of the short stories from the collection also have been published by the Argentinean literary journal La Balandra (Buenos Aires) in 2012 and by Mexican La Peste (Mexico City) in 2014.


Published books. Novels, Kao kad progutaš brdo balona/As if You've Swallowed a Mountain of Balloons, V.B.Z., 2004), Roki Raketa/Rocky Rocket (Profil, 2014). Short story collections: Groblje manjih careva/Lesser Czars' Cemetery (Profil, 2010).


Author Interview

What are your sources of inspiration?

I write from first-hand experience, which means that I'm inspired by life in all of its manifestations, especially the absurd and bizarre ones. You could call it a character flaw of sorts.


Describe your creative process.

It's a swinging motion between two extremes: between Bukowski's "Don't Try" and futile toil that forces my exhausted mind to flee and stumble upon best solutions.


Where do you write? Do you have any writing rituals?

I write best when I don't write at all. When I engage in a drudge exercise or ride a bike across an unexciting landscape. Whatever turned out well in my writing, if anything, I wrote on the move and not at the desk or in the armchair.


What are you reading now? Do you read literature that has been translated from other languages or just Croatian books?

At the moment, I'm reading Bernard Lewis's The Arabs in History, a short story collection Nema slonova u Meksiku (There are No Elephants in Mexico) by Zoran Pilić, and random poems by Catullus and Antun Branko Šimić, who has stuck with me since the age of fourteen.


What are you working on now?

I've been working on a novel and a short story collection and dabbling with a bit of playwriting.


Do you have a favorite English writer?

There are more than one, starting with Mark Twain, Melville, and Faulkner over to Burroughs, Kerouac, Bukowski, Hunter S. Thompson, to name a few. No less important to me are Tom Waits, Black Flag, Velvet Underground, or Jello Biafra. Lately, I haven't been reading much American fiction, but I liked the short story collection by Wells Tower Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned. Unlike most Croatian authors, I don't hold Carver on a pedestal, perhaps because in my formative years I learned the trade from Isaac Babel, Daniil Kharms, and Chekhov.


Which Croatian writers or books do you think should be available in English?

Our last international bestselling author was Marko Marulić, who died in 1524. But his hits were written in Latin. In other words, since the beginnings of our national literature we have suffered the curse of a small nation's language. I think there are at least ten young Croatian writers who deserve to be published in English, let alone our classics. What does rub me the wrong way is that global marketing machinery spins poor or average literature in big languages as top of the tops while quality authors in small languages have hard time reaching beyond their local markets. Truth be told, this can even happen to the best of US writers, whose books might never see Croatian bookshelves.


What makes Croatian writing unique?

We can talk about people who have their eyes set on the south and the Mediterranean, about people keeping an eye on the East and the other on the West; about a small sturdy warrior nation that had fought other people's battles for centuries or about its Viennese court stable boy mentality. Croatian writers may reflect all of this, but I find national literature too abstract as a notion to mean anything to me. Of course unique pieces and authors have sprung from this literary environment, but whether Croatian literature is unique and - if so - why is something I don't care to think about.