Boris Beck, born in 1965 in Zagreb, Croatia, has worked as a technical drawer, driver, photocopier attendant, army topographer, language editor, translator, editor, theater critic, a journalist for the cultural newspaper Vijenac, an editor and columnist in Zarez, and assistant to the chief editor of the news magazine Nacional and editor of the cultural section. With a PhD from the Department of Croatian Studies at the University of Zagreb, Boris is currently an assistant professor of journalism at University North in Koprivnica. He is also one of the editors for a new Bible translation by Croatian Bible Society.
His writing has been widely published in literary and news publications such as Plima, Kaj, Homo volans, Godine nove, Quorum, Reč, Treća, Jutarnji list, Nacional, Gordogan, and has been published in Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Bulgaria.
He has been awarded numerous literary honors: Award Bulgarica for an essay, 2000; Festival of A Literature award for short story, 2001; magazine Kaj awards for short stories 2000, 2009; Dragutin Horvat Kiš Award, 2009; and three literary grants from the Croatian Ministry of Culture (2006, 2010, 2014).
Published Books. Metak u srcu Svetog Augustina/A Bullet in St. Augustine's Heart (Zagreb, Croatia and Belgrade, Serbia, 2003; Sophia, Bulgaria, 2008), Krila u koferu/Wings in a Suitcase (Zagreb, 2004), Mrtvaci pod poplunom / The Dead Men under the Duvet (Zagreb, 2004), Ne bih o tome/ I do not want to talk about it (with Igor Rajki), (Zagreb, 2008), Politički portreti Josipa Horvata/The Political Portraits of Josip Horvat (Zagreb, 2013).
What are your sources of inspiration?
It is not easy to say. There is usually some traumatic or funny event in my life, but that is not enough for literature. What happened to me is combined with things I have heard, with other people's experiences, with what I have read. Sometimes I take the structure of other people's stories and write my own, or combine a couple of stories; sometimes I retell someone else's life as mine; sometimes I attribute my trauma to somebody else. It all depends on whether I am writing an essay, story, or novel. A simple scene is enough for the essay, story is more complex, and the novel should describe a whole life. But the best source is sleep or daydreaming.
Describe your creative process.
It often happens that I have to write an article, and it seems to me that I know nothing about it. But I don’t worry, I go to sleep and the next day I find many sentences finished in my mind. In three days I can finish short story. I think that creativity takes place on its own, the mind has to be relaxed, and then you just need to catch what was created. Some people use alcohol, some drugs, but I don’t, text is just coming as I am imagining it. Writing, however, is difficult. I start to write from the middle, I just write down what crosses my mind, what bothers me the most. But you always have to explore—for an essay, a few days; for a novel, a few years. I also check everything over and over; memories are often monstrous lies. And in the end I leave everything for a while, I forget it, and read again as a perfect stranger.
Where do you write? Do you have any writing rituals?
I adore my laptop. I carry it around everywhere, I work whenever I have time. In a café, on a train, in a parking lot. It's not just writing, it is also editing or translating, but I can work anywhere, anytime. In the evening while everybody’s watching TV at home, in the afternoon in the car while I’m waiting for my child to come out of music school, and, in the morning while everybody’s sleeping I sneak into the bathroom and write.
What are you reading now?
Dozens of books at the same time: Golden Branch, Divine Comedy, a book of haiku poems, Golding’s Double Tong, History of Beauty edited by Umberto Eco, Diary of Marcus Aurelius…
Do you read literature that has been translated from other languages or just Croatian books?
I prefer foreign literature, and I read mostly European authors. I am always returning to Kafka, Rabelais, Singer, Dostoevsky, Buzzati, Quignard, Guareschi. I admire their imagination and deep understanding of people. I very much like old Croatian writers from the Renaissance and Baroque periods.
What are you working on now?
I'm writing a novel whose characters are taken from Greek mythology, but were treated as modern humans (or postmodern). It’s a blend of fantasy and psychological drama. And I am surprised how many modern problems I have found in mythology—e.g. the relationship of citizens to the government or creating a bionic being.
Do you have a favorite English writer?
Yes, American writer William Saroyan. But I also like Orwell, Swift, Stevenson, James, Conrad, Rushdie, Baker, Auster… And there is a bunch of Canadians: Margaret Atwood, Michael Ondatjee, Thimoty Findley, Leonard Cohen…Literature in English is too great.
Which Croatian writers or books would you like to be available in English? What are some characteristics of Croatian writing today? What makes it unique?
I am sure that reader will find a lot of very good poetry, interesting essays, and a number of original stories and novels. Croatians are writing about everything: history and future, love and crime, communism and capitalism, war and peace, Mediterranean and Balkan, and above all on peculiar human destinies.