CHILDHOOD AND YOUTH IN BANJA LUKA
1896 – 1914

Ivan Merz was born on 16 December 1896 in Banja Luka. His father, Mavro Merz, an officer of the Austro-Hungarian Army, by birth from Plzen (Bohemia) discharged in Banja Luka the duty of head of the railway station. His mother, Terezija Mersch originated from a Jewish merchant family which moved to Banja Luka from Velika Kaniža (Hungary). After Ivan’s birth, the mother was baptized and converted to Catholic faith. Being the only child, Ivan was surrounded by a great parental love. His childhood and youth were carefree and happy. He received from his parents a decent urban upbringing, but without particular Christian foundations, because the parents, although Catholics, were not practicing believers. The result was that the young Ivan grew up in a liberal environment. Before starting school, he attended a kindergarten held by nuns, the Sisters of the Most Holy Blood. He began his elementary school in Banja Luka, but in the 2nd and 3rd grade he attended in Prijedor, where his father was temporarily assigned. He attended high school in Banja Luka, graduating in 1914.

Already in high school Ivan read a lot, especially the works of literary value. He took private lessons in French and English, as well as violin and piano. He also had a gift for drawing. He was active in sports. He played tennis, rode a bicycle, underwent physical training, played chess, went ice-skating, bowling.

A lay Catholic saved him for eternity

Especial merit for his religious orientation goes to his high school teacher, an exemplary Catholic layman, writer and literary critic, Dr. Ljubomir Maraković, an active member of the Croatian Catholic Movement. Through literature and arts, he directed Ivan towards moral and religious values. He was his true guide throughout his youth. Already in his mature age Ivan noted about him: “A lay Catholic saved me for eternity”. Following the example of his teacher, Ivan later also chose the high school teaching profession.

Diary

Among the saintly personalities there are few whose spiritual life and rise towards God we can follow at such a close range as is the case with our Ivan Merz, thanks to his extensive Diary. He began writing the Diary at the end of high school, after Dr. Maraković gave his class an assignment to write an essay about the value of keeping a diary. Ivan was convinced that this was really useful, and so he started, as he said at the very beginning of the Diary. He was 17 when he began, and he kept his Diary all the way to his mature age. In it he described every flicker of his young heart, all the intellectual and moral storms he was going through in his process of growth; we can follow all his steps in the ascent towards life values and towards God. There are many young men who recognized themselves in the pages of his Diary.

As a motto of his Diary, Ivan took the verses from Byron’s work Manfred. These verses, in which he found himself, apart from expressing a youthful idealism, have a prophetic line as well; they are the expression of a vague intuition of the mission which God’s providence had in store for him. In a metaphorical way, they were entirely fulfilled in his later life. During his lifetime, and especially after death, Ivan permeated so many hearts with his own heart, his thoughts, ideals, his world view, showed to many “the way to the Sun”, and now he truly “shines upon the peoples” from the altars of the Catholic churches as a blessed and future saint!

The experience of his first youthful love

In a family circle of prominent families in Banja Luka who regularly visited each other, the 16-year old Ivan met his age-mate, a girl named Greta Teschner. Very quickly love flared up, a love that for him was enchanting, ideal, his first and only love. It didn’t last long, however, because Greta who, as a Protestant, had a very loose outlook on life, allowed herself to be seduced by a Muslim. When this man exploited and left her, in despair she poisoned herself in Travnik where her parents lived. It happened on 4 July 1913. The news of her death shook the young Ivan deeply, and he suffered for a long time. The memory of this first love was present for a long time in his soul, and found its reflection in his Diary where he often mentions Greta, but also critically analyzes this first love of his. “This love can be called ideal. How much solace do I get from the belief that I will see her again, the same, in body and soul.”1 “When I found out about her death, there was a break in my soul, not at once, but with time. I find the only solace in art which I adore, and in nature.”2 Here he himself hinted at one of the directions his soul will take after the break caused by Greta’s death, and this is an orientation towards art for which he was especially gifted.

Esthetic Catholicism

Evviva 1′ arte! – Long live the art!” Ivan put this exclamation on the front of the first volume of his Diary which follows his life from 27 February 1914 until 28 February 1915. The guiding thought of his spiritual life at that time was artistic infatuation and esthetic-literary world view. This world view and “poetry of life” were intertwined in him. Later on, shortly before he died, he described this period of his development as “esthetic Catholicism”.

However, during the war Ivan began to be preoccupied by fundamental questions of the meaning of life, suffering, God, eternity, death, etc. Seeking the answers, he tried to find them in the literary works which he read. Ivan philosophized with the writers, trying to resolve the problems that dominated his mind and trying to take over some of their opinions. However, he declared at the end of his life, speaking about literary works, especially the novels he read: “They vastly broadened my horizon. I read only the works of literary value. But in them I found emptiness with regard to philosophical and theological truths.”3 He then went on to say how during the war, on the battlefield, and later in Vienna and especially in Paris, he “abandoned the esthetic-literary world view and started to observe life as it is in reality, that is in the Creator’s concept”.4

Ivan’s origins and conscious declaration of belonging to the Croatian nation

Biologically, Ivan Merz was not of Croatian origin, although he had some Slavic blood in his veins, because his father’s mother, i.e. his grandmother was Bohemian through her father, and her name was Lyudmila. The first language Ivan spoke, i.e. his mother tongue, was German and he mainly used it in communication with his parents. However, as he attended Croatian school, Ivan felt in himself an increasing affinity to the Croatian nation. It is especially important to stress that Ivan did not write his Diary in German, but in Croatian. In his Diary, an increasing enthusiasm for the Croatian nation is apparent, and in one place he calls it “his dearest nation”. In him we can trace this gradual, conscious and emotional declaration of belonging to the Croatian nation, something which he formalized when in 1922 he accepted the citizenship of the state in which Croatia was incorporated at that time. Below we give a transcript of his certificate of citizenship from that year.

Certificate of citizenship of Ivan Merz

Among the personal documents of Ivan Merz which are preserved, we find his certificate of citizenship, issued in Zagreb in 1922. The text of the certificate is as follows (in transcript):

THE KINGDOM OF THE SERBS, CROATS AND SLOVENES
Croatia and Slavonia, No. 34 – The free and royal capital city of Zagreb
CERTIFICATE OF CITIZENSHIP
by which
The City Government of the free and royal capital city of Zagreb
acknowledges that
Ivan Merz, student, born on 16 December 1896, in Banja Luka
from father Moritz-Mavro and mother Terezija nee Mersch
enjoys the right of residence in the City Municipality of Zagreb,
and is a full-fledged citizen of the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes.
Signed by his own hand: Ivan Merz.
In Zagreb, on 12 January 1922.
Signatures of the Government commissioner and City councilor.
Seal: City Government in Zagreb.

 

Dedicated his whole life to the Croatian people

Apart from having declared himself consciously, emotionally and formally (by documents) as a member of the Croatian nation, it is far more important what he did for the Croatian people, especially its youth. He dedicated everything he possessed – all his efforts, intellectual potential, his whole being, apostolate – to the upbringing of the Croatian youth and work in the spreading, strengthening and renewal of the Catholic faith among the Croatian people. His numerous papers, articles and studies illustrate how much he entered into the essence and soul of the Croatian people. Let us mention only some of the titles: Croatian Eagles and our Bishops, Catholicism and the Croatian People, True Love of the Homeland, Croatian Churches and many, many others.

Even at the end of his life, lying on his death-bed, but still conscious, Ivan dedicated to God his young life as a sacrifice for Croatian youth!5

It is therefore not surprising that the Croatian poet Milan Pavelić, SJ, in his poem The Hunter of the Heart of Jesus which was dedicated to our Ivan on the 10th anniversary of his death, in 1938, wrote the following verses:

Though not of our blood,

you are fully ours and the first among many

Croatia holds your bones, takes you as her program,

You wise and righteous man!

Catholic layman of European dimensions

Following Croatia’s accession to the European Union in 2013, the actuality of Ivan Merz in the European perspective becomes even more important. Starting with his biological origin in which several nations intersect, an even more important issue of his European personality is his education and formation in European cities where he studied. The Bl. Ivan Merz was born in Banja Luka, in Bosnia. He studied at European universities in Vienna and Paris, and his heart was turned towards Rome, the seat of Catholicism. He lived through World War I on the battlefield in northern Italy, and before that, received military training in Austria (Graz) and Slovenia (Slovenska Bistrica). During the war, he experienced a deep conversion to God. Having completed his studies, and having returned to Croatia, he dedicated all his life and work, and ultimately, the sacrifice of his life to the Christian upbringing of a Slavic, i.e. Croatian nation and its youth for which he presented to God on his death-bed his young life as a sacrifice! He was acquainted with and used ten European languages: Croatian, German, French, Italian, English, Spanish, Czech, Hungarian, Slovenian and Latin. Various German-Romanic-Slavic elements of European nations and cultures were unified in the Bl. Ivan Merz in a harmonious whole; we can justly say: “a unified Europe in one person” and all of it imbued with Catholic faith! Therefore the Bl. Merz as a layman of European dimensions who integrated within himself the elements of European nations and cultures by his origins, education, culture and saintly character surpasses the borders of his homeland; he is actually particularly important today when European unity is being built and should be built, as the St. Pope John Paul II often stressed, on the common Christian roots of European peoples.

DIARY

Banja Luka, 27 February 1914 – Banja Luka, 11 September 1914

Evviva l’arte!

Motto of the Diary:

I have had those earthly visions
And noble aspirations in my youth,
To make my own the mind of other men,
The enlightener of nations; and to rise
I knew not whither — it might be to fall;
But fall, even as the mountain-cataract,
Which having leapt from its more dazzling height,
Even in the foaming strength of its abyss,
Which casts up misty columns that become
Clouds raining from the re-ascended skies
Lies low but mighty still.

Byron: Manfred (Act III, Scene with the Abbot) 6

This is my wreath, which I lay upon her grave.
To the holy and honorable memory of the first love,
which renewed me.

Banja Luka

Banja Luka, 27 February 1914 – (17 years and 2 months)

Motivation for writing the diary

Yesterday, on Thursday, we wrote a school paper on the “Value of keeping a diary”. Maraković clarified the great value of this, especially mentioning Goethe’s time in which the people were more preoccupied with the deeper issues of life. This is visible in many diaries; e.g. Lotta’s husband kept a diary, and we can therefore compare Werther’s letters with this diary. We find that almost all the facts match. During the lesson and throughout the day I reflected upon the idea of a diary and came to the conclusion that Ljuba 7 is right – as always.

Ivan Merz – high school graduate

New findings in school lectures

In the religion class I found out from Dr. Pajić8 that in the 11th, 12th century, all the way to the 15th century, Bosnian knights were on the same cultural level with the knights of the West; actually, they were more intelligent because the majority of Bosnians were literate, while those in the West weren’t. I came to the conclusion that if the Turks hadn’t been here, God knows on what cultural level Bosnia would now be and God knows if central (southern) Europe would lag with its culture behind the West.

Reading in school the reflexive Vigny’s ballad La mort du loup I realized how pessimistic the French ought to be, when they say that you must fulfill a duty because of the duty itself, and not because of a reward; and when the moment of death comes, die stoically. Skok9 told us that Kant with his categorical imperative expresses the same thought. As I wanted to know more in detail what a categorical imperative is (I mainly know of Kant’s idealistic philosophy which influenced Schiller’s views on drama) I looked it up in Bazala’s philosophy10, but this is written in such a scholarly manner that I couldn’t find my way around. Reading Šrepel’s Russian Narrators11 and having found out that Hegel and Schelling had a major influence on the thinking of Russian youth, I searched in Bazala for a precise account of these philosophers; again, I couldn’t understand a thing, as a matter of fact the things I had known before are now cast into thick and incomprehensible phrases. Looking at Kant’s philosophy I saw that by employing an enormous rationalism and roundabout ways he came to almost the same conclusions which Christ says in simple sentences.

Realism in Russia, Germany and among the Croats, as I saw, appeared due to absolutism: in Germany, it began with Heine, in Russia during Nikolai I and his absolutism. As only the aristocratic circles were described, and the patriots attacked them, they began to portray lower classes, and they were right, as Gogol did in The Government Inspector and Taras Bulba. In half an hour, I learnt half of the mechanics.

Banja Luka, 27 February 1914 – (17 years and 2 months)

Characteristics of various writers

Leinert12 gave each one of us three questions from trigonometry. Of these 48 questions, everyone will get one on the graduation exam. Katović spoke about Kovačić, and just from listening I decided I didn’t like him; he is too fantastically romantic. Luban tells me that Zola is no idealist; he portrays the peasant, the essence of a people, in loathsome words. His idealism lies only in the fact that he wanted to create a “roman experimental”. Possibly. And is Ibsen an idealist? I think he is because, by uncovering the evil side of things he wishes to improve mankind. I read the story Malin’s Water in A Hunter’s Sketches.13 The atmosphere and landscape are stunning.

About Kranjčević and Michelangelo

In the Literary Society Kučinić gave a lecture on Kranjčević. It was detailed and the reception was good, but the presentation lacked French clarity. Luban knew Kranjčević in person and often told us details from his life, because Kranjčević lived with the Maraković family in Livno. He even possesses a manuscript of Kranjčević’s serious historic drama. In the evening, I read a monograph about Michelangelo and found myself deeply impressed by that genius. My God, are there any people today whose ideal is art and who remain proper people? Michelangelo worked and suffered only in the service of art. Having done the Sistine Chapel, I think, he refused to receive any reward. I would love to see all those works of art with my own eyes. I become discontented when I am in a closed building, but when I go out into fresh air, I become cheerful, just as I am now. Good night.

Banja Luka, Monday, 2 March 1914 – (17 years and 3 months)

Reproach of conscience due to amusement during Lent

Yesterday evening I was on Kristalina. It was pretty amusing, but when I got back I remembered that it was Lent and that amusement should be avoided. One should obey spiritual authority, because without authority there is no accord.

Instead of nationalism, the system of love; Serbs, Germans, Tolstoy

Yesterday I spoke with Milić. He’s a good soul, but shallow – doesn’t believe in God. His God is nationalism. He says religion is necessary for the common folk, but not for him. His system is based on a lie, and therefore cannot last long. Woe to the Serbs if they become like him. But, I don’t think that this is so. Today Jarakula read some brochure about the Germans in Bosnia. The book is prejudiced, but contains a lot of truth. He quotes Haeckel’s words where he says that Germans ought to conquer the Balkan peoples because they are incapable of cultural work. It is terrible and a shame for any cultured German to say something like that. Germans, like every other nation, aren’t at all ideal, they are egoistical through and through. Tolstoy’s system of love should prevail, and the form of the state should be as Italy once was. In that manner, we will achieve material and spiritual culture. This must be the ideal, and we must strive towards it, even if it is beyond reach. I am sorry that the Serbs as a nation which is waking up do not follow Tolstoy, but they feed themselves on extreme fanaticism by spreading such brochures.

Admiration for the universe

In physics, we spoke about the speed of light; it takes light from a certain star to reach us 8 – 10 – 25 – 250 years. God! How huge the universe is, everything twinkles, everything moves in perfect order. Everything is huge, immeasurably huge. The stars ride through space, burn and act, everything is immeasurable in this huge expanse; our earth also flies and turns like a crumb, and man on it is an imaginary, mathematical point and this man envies, bites and behaves arrogantly. What is a man? Nothing? This nothing, this mathematical point within a point, encompasses and sees the huge stage of the universe and even further – further! This matter which the man is made of is negligible, but nevertheless, so great. And this stage which he encompasses, this little crumb of a brain is capable of encompassing this whole universe, everything seen and unseen, heard and unheard. Who is the director of this theatre, who is this magnificent Spirit, which contains it all? It is Him.

About Raphael and his paintings

Since I was sleepy from the party, I only looked at Raphael’s monograph. This artist above the artists gives to his paintings not only a beautiful color and perfect form, but his paintings are entire dramas and tragedies, the epic ballads of humanity. One such painting is “The School of Athens” which shows the debate between the greatest philosophers, Aristoteles and Plato about metaphysics, the debate of all of Greece, while Diogenes leasurely lies down on the stairs not caring about anything; he is an allegory of the bankruptcy of philosophy; a representative of the resentment of an over-ripened culture of the Greeks. (Aristoteles and Plato speak about the highest ideas, while at the same time being evil; therefore, it is below Diogenes’ honor to occupy himself with philosophy.) There are beautiful Madonnas painted by Raphael, but one can find them in real life as well. The young Miss Franjić, the baker, is an image of the Madonna del Granduca14. I like her a lot. Yes, just yesterday, I read something about the plenarism and impressionism of Manet and I was thinking today whether this day and age can give birth to such artists as there were in the time of Renaissance. I am pessimistic.

The art of painting in Renaissance compared to present-day

At that time, all the painters were loyal to the same ideal, chose almost the same motifs, and the manner of painting was idealistic. Therefore, we do not find images of ugly people; every painting is a study, anatomical, optical, etc. Today, naturalism prevails in painting, but naturalistic paintings cannot be so elevated; secondly, motifs chosen by present-day artists are much more varied than before. The painting of Renaissance is pretty one-sided, it developed in the direction of the Antique and Christianity and reached perfection; but today, the subject-matter15 is so varied that perfection is impossible to reach. Political and financial circumstances were different during Renaissance. The popes and rich families were assisting the painters and the painters competed with each other and strived towards ever greater tasks, but the situation today is an enemy of the arts. Militarism and political constellation are destroying the material power of rotten Europe. The artists work for money, not for the art. There are exceptions, of course, but the political constellation does not support them morally in their work, as was the case once in Florence. (The competition between Michelangelo and Leonardo in painting was like a military campaign.)

Banja Luka, 3 March 1914 – (17 years and 3 months)

School and literary topics

Leinert gave us a light descriptive example, but none of us could move an inch. “A good sign”. I finished the duck with pastels. It came out rather good. Skok gave me Fleury’s History of the French Literature, a book written for Russian pupils. It is not superb, more a textbook16 than a scientific book, and as it was written for Russian pupils, it contains only a few lines about Zola; actually, it doesn’t say anything at all about the Rougon-Macquart lineage.17 It doesn’t speak about the stoic and pessimistic ideas of Vigny (Kantian), etc. I read some stories from Turgenev’s A Hunter’s Sketches – a description of the night, a bright night sprinkled with stars which “compete in twinkling” is magnificent in Bezhin Meadow.

Six of us went today to eat some bread rolls, and we had a good laugh. Jarakula took a lead in making disorder.18 Her hair is chestnut brown.

Banja Luka, 4 March 1914 – (17 years and 3 months)

The issue of conscience in a pupil’s adventure of stealing graduation topics

Today I had a good night’s sleep and didn’t go to school. I didn’t miss a thing. In the afternoon, I took my Croatian literature to be bound and spent an afternoon searching for old pages from literature. For an hour, I played the piano. I leafed through and read a bit from Fleury’s history. In the evening my companions wanted to stage a “raid” on the high school19, to see whether the graduation assignments are known yet. We should be able to get hold of the descriptive examples, because it is not our fault that Leinert wasn’t working with us. Is it a theft? It is. I will try to keep aside; anyhow Leinert will give us a hint on what the examples will be. It is robbery to try to steal Luban’s assignments. Luban is not going to ruin any of us anyhow, because he likes us and because we know. To cheat him like that, him who is our benefactor, who pulled us from the mire of ignorance – is simply mean. Where is the conscience of these people? Anybody can complete the Croatian assignment because it is rare for anyone to get a negative mark, and he will give us a nice topic which we know. There are some poor “Germans”20 among us (Bijelić, Bursić, Mujagić, Katović, Kučinić, Seferović, Šerbetić) and I am not surprised they want to know what the assignment will be. It would be good to ask Luban to tell us roughly what the assignment will be.

Banja Luka, 5 March 1914 – (17 years and 3 months)

Resolution of the problem of conscience related to the break-in in the teachers’ room

Motto: My peace is gone, My heart is sore: I’ll find it, never, Oh, nevermore.. (Goethe).21

Today my companions made a circle where we all signed so that, in case our burglary is found out, we shall all be guilty. Was I right in having placed my signature? The issue is pressing down on me. As a colleague, I am obliged to help, but am I obliged to support such a misery and laziness that I must resort to stealing? They always speak about the nation, character and honesty, shout at the careerists, and they are the same all the way. If they were objective – which they are not – they would realize that the honest way is the best way. During these four months of diligent work they could achieve everything. To arrive at the graduation certificate, i.e. to a greater honor, in such a way is careerism; in the same way in which a lowly person flatters his superior for the purpose of advancing his career, what they are doing is just the same. They say it is a pupils’ adventure; I am also in favour of adventures, I am not a coward,but honesty prevails above all. In case we are caught, and we lose our daily bread, I sinned gravely against my parents, I committed a robbery. Which duty comes first, towards the colleagues or parents? Surely, towards the parents. Secondly, I love my parents a million times more than my colleagues. Therefore, I did the wrong thing having placed my signature there. I will try to resolve this issue in a way that those of us who know the school work well write the graduation papers for the other ones first, before writing it for ourselves. Thus, we would fulfil the collegial duty. I cannot fathom these people, they are so ruthless, to make some of us break our necks because of their extreme laziness. And for these people, every second word is nation! God, forgive me if I sinned. I know that honesty and consistency22 is holier for me than anything else. I will try to mend everything. Please, God, give me the strength!

Banja Luka, 6 March 1914 – (17 years and 3 months)

Hesitation and seeking solution of a moral issue

Today we made a plan of our roles during the break-in. Everything is romantic and attractive, but when I thought in retrospect and realized I could be thrown out of the school, I restrained myself; on further reflection, I realized there are miserable souls as for instance Burzić, who are waiting for their daily bread to be able to support their mothers. In that case, I am willing to sacrifice myself. Bürger keeps to the principle vox populi, vox Dei23; therefore, one is allowed to kill the tyrant. The same, he says is here: graduation exam, as the whole world attests, is a stupidity and we are not to be blamed if someone doesn’t pass. Our school system is unhygienic, our school books are no good, and it all results in us being physical morons, unable to do any useful work. Graduation is a stupidity and as long as this school system will be as it is, we have the right to help ourselves in other ways. We have chosen this way and we hope we shall not be caught. But still, there is a doubt in me that I am committing evil, and now when I go to confession, I should reveal it to the priest, but not in a way to make the whole thing public. I will simply tear up the questions and face the exam with clear conscience, and on the issue of why I placed my signature, I was helping the others who are doing this because they are the consequence of a bad school system. God, did I do well? Enlighten me!

She has a small face, fair, with a touch of blush. She is truly beautiful.

Banja Luka, 7 March 1914 – (17 years and 3 months)

Further preparations for the “raid” on the school

Today I am completely at peace. I see it is a good deed what I am doing, otherwise it is purely romantic. We procured the electric lamps. We distributed our functions. Tonight several of them are going (Kurtagić, Zelenika, Seid, Bursić, König, Kulenović, Debossens). I will not receive the questions. The whole thing is interesting, one could say together with Turgenev: “The dear reader will wonder if I tell him that breaking into a safe at night can be an honourable act. This is how…”

Yesterday and today I read some stories from A Hunter’s Sketches. In the evening the “Gospodska” street was full. An Italian beggar without one leg and a black pointed beard was most aggressive and shouted “Good evening” at everybody. He played Weige, the Italian pieces beautifully. Harmony and warmth of Italian melodies make a man beatified and if you close your eyes, you think you are strolling through Venice, while a warm breeze blows from the sea. A pleasant feeling in my soul.

Banja Luka, 8 March 1914 – (17 years and 3 months)

Impressions after reading various works

The day before yesterday I read Der verlorene Sohn by Paul Heipe, and today Mörik’s Mozarts Reise nach Prag. This last novel is a master-piece, giving an extraordinarily good description of Mozart, and to an extent, his works. Der verlorene Sohn is a rather interesting work, but too romantic, striving for effect and lacking in psychology. Along with that, today I also read Turgenev’s Death (from A Hunter’s Sketches), a story which shows how the Russians die without fear. Tolstoy proved this having said that death is a law of nature, and people who didn’t distance themselves from nature die easily.

Daily events from school

My friends conducted a “raid” on the teachers’ room. Some say they got frightened, because the echo is loud, and those who kept guard were so frightened they holed up in a channel. They found Luban’s diary, but didn’t bother to read it. Otherwise, they found nothing. I must always think of the good Greta, how she was coming to visit the Bojković family and how she played merrily. I will write more about her some other time. In the evening, I found out that Stiks’s father wanted to strangle his son for courting a beautiful Polish girl. She loves Stiks and cries when he is not around, and Stiks is contemplating leaving home. She is willing to provide for his education. If Stiks’s father knew what a member of a Croatian Catholic organization is, he would be happy.

In the evening, I was looking at the moonlight and the clear sky. Everything was silvery and the stars competed with each other in twinkling. God, what a beauty nature is!

Banja Luka, 9 March 1914 – (17 years and 3 months)

Memories of Greta and the first love

Tonight, I dreamt about Travnik. I was there, looking for her (Greta’s) apartment. When I woke, her image was hovering in front of my eyes and I saw us together how we went from her house into the store. She was cheerful in short sleeves and home dress. She was happy. She is here no more, her body is gone, but memories remain. God, forgive her soul. My intuition of why she committed suicide is psychologically elaborated. Whenever I think of her, I think of a girl of flesh – with an erotic appeal. The world looked upon her with such eyes only, and she also behaved openly, feeding this image about herself. But, the stupid world didn’t know her as a sincere girl of good heart, and, along with that, naturally gifted, well-read and much smarter than her colleagues. In Travnik she didn’t find anyone who understands her and was unhappy without knowing why. While she was here, she loved me because she knew I was not only seeing her as a woman, but a personality and she called me her friend. Our spiritual relationship was based – I can say this with certainty – looking from a distance now – on a basis which was not merely erotic. On every step when we were alone we kissed. I was telling her – and myself: I am kissing only her and I would seek no other… She was always morally stonger than me and she restrained herself. If she would come to life now, I wouldn’t do the same any more, but God knows if such a love would have flared up within me if it hadn’t been created in this erotic way. The Sacred Scripture nicely says that Platonic love doesn’t exist, that this is connected to the love of the body and a unique girl’s soul. This love may be called ideal. I lived my young days with her – unique, there is none like her in the world, and I remember her appearance with sadness; it lies heavily on my heart when I conjure up her image and temperament and think it was all dust and is gone. I get a lot of solace from the belief that I will see her again – in body and soul. There is no woman similar to her, and therefore I suppress every deeper feeling which appears in the soul towards any other woman. I suppress it in the very germ. The purpose – the ideal – for my life would be to give a good example and to contribute my part to idealism in this “mechanical age of technology”. I will write more about Greta and my inner transformation on another occasion.

Greta Teschner 1896 – 1913

I read something of Turgenev; an especially beautiful story called Meeting where a girl sincerely loves a bully. The story (from A Hunter’s Sketches)portrays a man without much intelligence living in a village. Here he lost his darling, went to a big city and became enthusiastic especially for drama. He loves Hamlet because he expresses emotions about death (“to die – to sleep”), just like he himself feels.

Banja Luka, 11 March 1914. – (17 years and 3 months)

Instructions for understanding Wagner’s dramas

Yesterday I couldn’t write, as we were moving out (from the Pajićs’ to the railway station). Luban was telling us something about R. Wagner saying that he is a phenomenon and that there mustn’t be an intelligent man who doesn’t know that. His musical dramas (not operas) unfold as every other drama, and the music also unfolds in a dramatic way. Before going to the opera to watch one of his pieces, you must first learn the motifs of the music and you must know the content, because otherwise it is impossible to follow the musical pictures, development of the drama, theatrical pictures, dance and other arts which Wagner put together. It is pity that Skok doesn’t tell us about French literature in the way Luban does; if it weren’t for my own interest, I wouldn’t know even the little amount that I do know.

A review of Turgenev’s A Hunter’s Sketches

I read A Hunter’s Sketches. The landscape and outline of Russian conditions are superb. It occurred to me that perhaps Turgenev, just like Montesquieu (Lettres persanes), wanted to tell about the conditions in his country; but Montesquieu criticized the conditions of his country, while Turgenev describes both the good and evil sides with love. Turgenev didn’t probe the most intimate lives of ordinary peasants because he didn’t live with them, but nevertheless the image of Russian peasantry came out magnificently, the writer illustrated it as it might have been perceived by a diligent nobleman – a hunter. He describes the corruption of supervisors, the misery of peasants, religiously-stupid nervousness of the noble ladies, Russian bandits and their good nature (The Rattling of Wheels), the life of conceited bankrupt aristocrats full of selfishness. They are all generally good people. We see a Gipsy woman and a girl (The Tryst); both of these stories bring out the essential later traits of Turgenev – the superiority and greater strength of women than that of men. This is how the life and nature of the Russians is described and one should not be surprised that the Russian Prince, having ascended to the throne, having read the stories from A Hunter’s Sketches gave Russians freedom, seeing that, although they are not cultured, they are all intelligent and politically mature. I only find it strange that Turgenev did not describe the wonders of a Russian winter (at the end there are only a few notes about winter); because winter is the main characteristic of Russian nature. In that respect, we can say that Wereseagan continued after Turgenev portraying Russian winter in a realistic manner.

When I read this, I ask myself why am I reading; I am overcome by some ill feeling, and after so much work and knowledge, I haven’t found any pleasure.

Banja Luka, Thursday 12 March 1914 – (17 years and 3 months)

New insights in school lectures

In physics we spoke about various optic illusions and unheard-of things. Debossens spoke about Kumičić giving proof that such a great historic writer as Šenoa and his characters are merely present-day people only wearing historical masks. So, he wasn’t able to guess the historic milieu.24 He is not plastic, etc.

What Goethe believes in

With Faust, we came to the “Katekizationscene” and it proceeds from this that Faust is a pantheist; under the influence of Spizoza’s writing Goethe professed pantheism. However, in my opinion this is not pure pantheism, but carries a large share of skepticism. When he speaks about God, he says: “Who dares to invoke him, who dares to profess him: do I believe in him?”, and then the sceptic raises his head and says: “Yet who, in feeling, self-revealing, says: ‘I don’t believe’“?25 Therefore, Faust himself doesn’t know whether he believes in Him or not, but he, with his enthusiasm for nature sees in her something immeasurable, every part of her is something perfect, it is God; therefore he is a pantheist, with an admixture of scepticism, because “maybe he believes otherwise”. It is certain that he believes in a Higher Being, which he calls the all-embracing One.26

I was a magician at “Reta’s”, listened to ventriloquism27 and watched the Negro dance. The rest was stupidity. I ended the notes about A Hunter’s Sketches and Mozart’s Travel to Prag. All in all, it was a troublesome day, I didn’t have any deeper spiritual pleasure, actually I didn’t even walk.

Banja Luka, 13 March 1914 – (17 years and 3 months)

An overview of literary works he reads and about which he learns

Dr. Pajić was telling us that the Sistine Chapel is dark and looking at it you might break your neck. Strange how coldly he speaks about these works of art.

We read Moïse by Vigny in French. This is a poem rarely found in world literature. The motif was present in many romantics: “A misunderstood genius”. The same is here. Moses is a man who knows all, to whom the stars bow, whom the seas obey, who leads the stray peoples on the right way. He is so great, he knows everything that is about to happen. For that reason, the people do not accept him as one of them, do not understand him, fear him, but do not love him. Of what use is all his knowledge when he has no desires and therefore cannot be happy. For this reason, he asks God to make him an ordinary mortal with wishes and hopes. Here he disappears. As we see, Vigny is not a great philosopher, because Moses would find pleasure in this permanent vision of God and the return and betterment of his people. But the poem is not completely devoid of ideas. It tells us this: if mankind would achieve everything it wishes, life wouldn’t have any fascination anymore and people would be unhappy. Therefore, Moses is here more a representative of humanity than of a misunderstood genius. A particular beauty of this poem is in the landscape and the grandiose biblical figure of Moses which is embodied in Michelangelo’s huge statue.

In Faust I discovered a slight difference in characterization. At the beginning, Faust recognizes the Erdgeist as a collective being, as an allegory of nature, and in “Katekisationscene” he is a pantheist who sees the Godhead in every detail. Both are in a logical contradiction, but not a contradiction of ideas. Faust believes in the spirit of nature, but in “Katekisationscene28 he doubts: does he exist or not, while in the “Erdgeistscene29 he calls him, signalling that he believes in him.

I started reading Eugenie Grandet and I see that my French is too poor to read it without a dictionary. This makes me waste time without finding out anything new; therefore, I think I will start learning French in order to know it thoroughly.

I read several of Dante’s chants. I like him a lot, only it is a pity that the translation is so bad. One ought to learn Italian, Italian verses must be as beautiful as Faust is. Mother is always angry and reprimands me because of what I am doing.

Banja Luka, 16 March 1914 – (17 years and 3 months)

Impressions from school and from a concert

Dad was a bit annoyed at the repetition of physics, and Nikica doesn’t know much chemistry and is easy to deceive. My notebook from Croatian literature is pretty much in order now, I only lack what Ljuba spoke about Osman. We continue to repeat mathematics, but without any progress. Yesterday evening “Nadimah” gave a party and the opera singer Dida Fritz was performing. She has a most beautiful voice, sings high, especially pleasantly performs the thrillers and one has the impression of a bird singing. Her brother is a cello virtuoso. He was playing some nice pieces, but he is not in the class of artists such as Stano. He looks like Ćefo, thin, pale, with long hair which falls upon the forehead in the manner of a genius, a true artist. When he plays the piano, he makes the movements of a virtuoso, but one can see he doesn’t understand art as he ought to; it is more of a pose for him, whereas some time ago when Stano was playing, one could feel the breath of an artist who gives his whole feeling to the strings and performs those gloomy variations. Miss Latas played Chopin’s g-minor and I wanted to identify myself with this music, but couldn’t because she wasn’t playing with feeling (she was nervous). I came home at 11, in order to be able to go to church.

On Dante and Goethe

I continued reading some more of Dante’s chants. His plastic is brilliant and it is interesting what kind of punishment he assigns for particular sins, e.g. he places those who out of nonchalance didn’t either believe or disbelieve in God in the fore-hell together with angels who were indifferent in the fight between God and Lucifer. He explains that they did not deserve evil, i.e. to go to hell as they were not against God, but they have no merits which could take them to heaven, because they were not in favour of God either. In this fore-hell they are stung and bitten by bees. The adulterers fly around in wind and somersault, while the gluttons devour mud and swim in it. The founders of new sects cannot find peace in the grave, and their desires tie them to this world.

I read Goethe in Old Age30 (Volksbuch der Literatur). Goethe is a rather interesting person, but the book is not nicely written. He used to fall in love from moment to moment, took care of his Vulpius and was almost always discontented. This left him only when he fell in love with Marianne Willemerer. It is interesting how he inspired her to sing songs as beautiful as his. After many years, before his death, when he saw her letters, he wrote: “In front of my Lady’s eyes, with her fingers it was written long time ago, with the upmost desire, as it was expected and in that way accepted, close to the bosom from where they started to grow, let them travel always kindly ready, the witnesses of glorious time.” These beautiful verses match my feelings today.

Memories of Greta and the first love

I was looking for her picture among the photographs, I wanted to see her, to…?, but I couldn’t find it, mother must have put it away someplace. I was sad. Today the sky is overcast and I remember that on such a day, in spring if I am not mistaken, she came with her parents and Captain W. to us to the old railway station. König was there too and we played social games. It was joyful, and when my turn came to count the stars – I kissed her, the first time I kissed a woman. I was hesitating, but I was happy nevertheless. I didn’t behave most gallantly towards her, although I have always loved her. For instance, she offered me a drink – I didn’t take it. When I drank, she drank from the same part of the glass. She used to come many times. Once she came and she was in the small room at the old railway station, and there were also Plach, König and Mikler. We were having good fun. She was sitting on a sofa, crossing her legs, so that most of her legs could be seen. God, it’s true, it attracted me then. One couldn’t imagine Greta without it. She loved me so much, she did whatever I wanted. In the wagon compartment, we kissed and held each other for a long time. We rode many times in a horse carriage, I waited for her every day after school, escorted her home, getting a kiss at the door. The entire relationship with her is interlaced with kisses. But when I got back from Travnik, I already realized that man is not only the body. I asked myself whether I had done the right thing, and when I found out about her death, an emotional break occured in my soul, not at once, but with time. But again, I ask myself – if there hadn’t been for the material side, would the meeting of souls ever occur? With kisses our souls were bound together. She is dead, I will never see her again, her who was my solace in life and I wish from the bottom of my heart to see her There, in the other world. I cannot express what I feel for her, only my tears are running whenever I imagine the pretty, noble and good-natured German woman. It seems to me that my youth has gone with her into the grave; everyone can laugh from the bottom of their hearts, I cannot. I look at girls, I like them, but whenever I think of her, everything else vanishes. I find my only solace in art which I am passionate about, and in nature.

Banja Luka, Wednesday, 18 March 1914 – (17 years and 3 months)

Impressions from school lectures

Yesterday we had a test in mathematics. I didn’t complete it and so I didn’t hand it over. The whole afternoon I was putting my literary notebooks in order. When I read some lines, I realized how wrong I had been before: therefore, I saw that I had advanced. I lost the entire afternoon on that, and therefore in the evening I was angry and in a bad mood.

Today was another stupid day. In philosophy class, we learnt that one can forget in a single moment certain languages or letters or anything else (in reading and writing). It means, there was a disruption in a part of the brain. As every person can learn many languages and other things, it means there is a space in our brain dedicated to that. Therefore, one’s head is a whole universe where everything that exists can be lined up. Maraković gave us homework. I thought he had exhausted all the beautiful topics, and now I see once again that he gave us a wonderful homework: “Optimism and pessimism in the champions of Croatian and Serbian literature”. I will come to this matter again later.

On the need of reform of the priestly rank

This evening I spoke with Plach about our priests and came to the conclusion that they must reform themselves, in a way to have two schools for priests: higher and lower. In the lower school, they would prepare themselves for educating people, as has been proven rather successful among the Serbs, while in the higher school priests would be educated who would address the intelligentsia. Theological faculties should be in big cities, not in small ones like Sarajevo; here they would have the opportunity to get to know and to mingle among the intelligentsia. This school could last even seven years, and the greatest attention should be given to art. People who would graduate from such schools would be above the level of ordinary intellectuals and would be able to make an impression upon the young people with their knowledge and in such a way win their minds for their cause.

I read a little today: only Tannhaüser (Wagner’s). The verses are beautiful, but the plot, as it seems, is not lively enough. Ideas are brilliant. I will write about it in my literature notebook.

Banja Luka, 21 March 1914, 3 p.m. – (17 years and 3 months)

Daily events among the friends and in the house

It is the first day of spring. Strong wind is blowing and whistling. It is strange that such a mild season has such power as its precursor. Nature loves contrasts. The day before yesterday Bürger told me I was egoistic for not having given a coin to the little König. At that moment, it infuriated me terribly, because I always strive to be better, I criticize my own behavior, and he came and told me this.

Yesterday mother was very angry because of the housemaid, and she poured out all her anger at dad and me. It was hard for me to listen to it and I couldn’t do what I had planned to, namely, to write the diary and contents of Manfred. Therefore, just after lunch I sat down and wrote the contents of Manfred, and now I am writing the diary.

Impressions about the works Tannhäuser and Manfred

I wrote my impression about Tannhäuser already; I can only judge the character of the work when I read it the second time. Tannhäuser is an embodiment of the transition of poets from the Antique toward the Christian era. The musical impression must be brilliant. This is how I imagine it: when he left Venus, the music must be terrific, because you need enormous power of will to leave the world of the senses. Further on, when Elisabeth saved Tannhäuser, the music must weep too, thus showing Tannhäuser’s soul which realizes that his view is unjust and that love is a delight.

Memorial picture from Ivan’s first Holy Communion which he received on 22 April 1906,
and which he kept above his desk for his whole life. This picture is presently kept in his museum in Zagreb.

Manfred is a hardly understandable work, but one can get a good picture of Manfred’s character. He is a pessimist, a man of Weltschmerz31 who knows a lot, and despairs over the destiny of man who is neither God, nor a mere speck of dust, either. I would like to read something today about Veselinović and Byron’s Cain, because Luban gave us an assignment: “Optimism and pessimism in the champions of Croatian and Serbian literature”. Kozarac, Đalski, Lazarević, Veselinović should be taken into account.

Banja Luka, 25 March 1914 – (17 years and 3 months)

Confession and Communion which is the source of life

I read Cain. It lags far behind Manfred because it doesn’t have so many of the general human thoughts. I completed the Croatian homework. Yesterday I went to confession and got 7 Our Fathers, 7 Hail Mary’s and 7 Glory Be’s. Today I was looking forward to Communion and I tried to convince myself – there is a tinge of skepticism in me – that I am receiving God who out of love for frail mankind gave Himself as solace and food. Communion is the source of life.

Otherwise, I am working only a little, because I don’t have the willpower, nor the books that I want. I am experimenting with electricity. I would love to read Eugenie Grandet, but it’s a pity I don’t have the translation. The Officers’ library has no good books at all. How could it, as they are all stupid.

Banja Luka, 27 March 1914 – (17 years and 3 months)

Impressions from a party

Yesterday evening it was the town ladies’ amusement evening32. I went, although it is Lent, not to amuse myself, but for artistic pleasure. Hollaus wonderfully sang Das Grab auf der Haide, and the older of the Vrinjanin sisters played Chopin’s Polonaise very well. Bajer played on the violin a piece by Berens, and Mr. Bajer nicely performed some German and Polish guitar songs, and one which, it seems, he put together himself and which has a refrain: “I don’t know, I swear to g…”. Captain Schulhof made good drawings by coal, various characters, and Lora Konovsky composed the poem Opposition in which she requires that women may also come to the Sippung.33 Dad retorted well having told her that if they were always on the Sippung they would be opposition just as they are on rare town ladies’ amusement evenings. They can come only rarely so it has a greater charm for them. This is mainly all, and the musical pieces were the best. People have the motto “Art”, but there were many really stupid things, just as there were the lustful ones. I was there for two hours and therefore I didn’t go to school today. I missed only civics. They say he was explaining a lot.

World views from literature

There was also a German homework: What do we learn from Realism in literature. The guiding thought: we get acquainted with social conditions, strivings of the people and parties and the poet concludes who is capable of further work and who isn’t. Yesterday and today I read Wilde’s The Canterville Ghost and other stories. He is a l’art pour l’art34 writer and that’s why some of his things cannot be precisely understood. The language and description (especially in Fisherman and his Soul) are nice and he composes his landscapes all with the animal kingdom.

Justice is my ideal!

Zelenika asked me why I am going into the Academy when I am against war and when I have no national ideals. My ideal is justice and maybe I will die as its victim. The present era is one giant contrasts. Some become liberated of their yoke, and others are being enslaved. I cannot be a German, because they enslaved the Slavs, and I am not a Slav. I intend to be a teacher and educate better Germans in order not to be as fanatical as they are now. Long live Tolstoy!

Banja Luka, 28 March 1914 – (17 years and 3 months)

Events related to school, visit to the cinema

We had a repetition today of physics (aerodynamics), also something in mathematics (trigonometrics – practical example). Almost all of us were involved in the repetition of Croatian literature. I read Wilde’s Salome. It’s Wilde’s work at the first glance, a tragedy without a plot.

Đorđević gave a lecture in the Literary Society about Ilić. This guy was a Eurodemon, if this is what he is called, the good spirit who searched for paradise on earth and therefore he celebrated the Roman times in verse.

I wrote the contents of Cain. I was in the cinema today and saw some stupid dramas which had quite a number of touching scenes, and also the arrival of Prinz von Wied in Durazzo. The best of all is the image of corpulent youth (Falcons) where different gymnastic games are shown. Today the “raid” on the high school is on. Kurtagić is leading, followed by Katović (corridor), Debossens (administration), Seferović and Jarakula. They will meet at the same location as the last time. I myself would like to go for the sake of poetry, not for the questions. I cannot go, however, as my parents would notice. They are asleep now. Dad scolded me saying I was rude, although I wasn’t.

Banja Luka, Sunday, 29 March 1914 – (17 years and 3 months)

State of mind after the death of a friend

Franjo Braun died today. I feel sorry for him, being young like me, we went together into the elementary school. He had tuberculosis of the throat. I spent with him many beautiful, childhood days. Everything passes, yes, all the days are monotonous and I am taken over by melanchony. Reading itself has become a bore, always the same, and I do not have any motive in my spirit. I only sober up when I am with colleagues. Zelenika tells of his late father, his mother and childhood spent with a brother lieutenant. He is very good-hearted, only it’s a pity he’s so sanguine.

Critical review of Ibsen’s Gespenster

I read Ibsen’s Gespenster. It is apparent at once that he is a great writer and idealist, but I don’t like naturalism. The work wishes to uncover the evil sides of mankind and to improve them (hereditation), but the reader doesn’t enjoy the work and lacks that sublime delight which I seek. People can be made better in other ways (by means of congregation, etc.), whereas for the arts higher motifs should be chosen, which uplift a man, not lead him again into the banal life which surrounds him. A good man, who reads about hereditation, develops pity for ruined people, but as he is not of such kind, it has no artistic impact upon him.

Schoolboy adventures

Tonight was the night of the “raid”.35 They were overcome by fear. The beating of Ante’s heart – he was standing by the door – could be heard in the administration room. Šandor and Seid were also frightened, because the corridors are acoustic, every sound is like shooting from a rifle. All in all, they said the situation was “terrible”. My mark in religion is 3 (good), Debossens saw it.

Banja Luka, Wednesday, 1 April 1914 – (17 years and 4 months)

Description of daily events and meetings

On Monday was Braun’s funeral. His mother weeped silently, while the father was struggling to keep control of himself. May peace be upon his soul. I am rather nervous, my eyes ache and I cannot work a lot.

I read one chant from Pan Tadeusz. It reads like a novel, but is more difficult, like an epos. It is lyric in part. In school Bijelić lectured on Tordine. We are done with natural sciences for this year. Byron influenced the romantics. His demonic, strong and displeasing writing (Cain) had influence on Hugo’s Hernani.36

My mother objects when I start reading something. I took five oranges, this is medicine for my weak stomach. I am having a good time with my colleagues, but even the greatest pleasure is tinted with sorrow. Everything is monotonous. I cannot implement what I have read, nor can I go on perfecting my thoughts. I am looking forward to the metropolis where my spiritual horizon will be broadened. From my baker, Miss Franjić I bought several bread rolls. She is beautiful. A slight tint of red on her face. Her brother – redhaired – and some Bosnian woman were inside and wished us good teeth.

Banja Luka, 7 April 1914 – (17 years and 4 months)

After the concert, serenades under the girls’ windows

I haven’t written for a long time, because in the evening, when is my best time to write, my mother forbids me. On Saturday, 4th April, there was the Stojanović-Weidlich concert. The first is a Viennese composer, and the second a 15-year old schoolboy, virtuoso on the piano. After the party, around 11 p.m. about fifteen of us (mainly graduate pupils) went to the Banja Luka Field and we sang. Bijelić kept the rhythm. When we had had enough, we came back from the monument and sang a serenade to Miss Puškar (in Rudolph’s Street). They were looking under the curtain. We sang two more serenades37 then we went under Božić’s windows. Here Duško (Bijelić) sometimes sings solo songs. When it was finally enough, we left the courtyard, but inside somebody lit a lamp. We stopped, but as everything grew silent, we proceeded to the road; at that moment voices were heard from the house, and we started to sing. This was repeated several times, but we were wrong in our expectations that someone would invite us inside. Then we went straight on and sang to the little Miss Franjić, but no one appeared. We came in front of the Balkan and began negotiating with the wife of boss Niko to sing for her. At that very moment, Mutan – this is what Bijelić calls Skok38 – appeared and said: “We will come back to this matter” We knew nothing better than to say: “Bonsoir. Le concert était magnifique.”39

A schoolboy adventure – “raid” on the teachers’ room during the night

Merz describes in detail his first personal “raid” on the high school teachers’ room with his colleagues who persuaded him to go along; they examined the marks in the teachers’ journals, searched for questions without success and he ends with these words:

I lay awake long, what we had done swirled around in my head. I was hot, and only now I became aware that there I was in a kind of fever and tense, although I believed that I was completely free and calm. It was nice and in a boyish manner. I went for the sake of poetry, not for the questions. Yesterday Skok scolded us for behaving like tramps and was furious as we have never seen him before. He screamed at Kurtagić telling him that he was a phrasemonger.

Spiritual state of disorientation

We have no school today and I had my army medical.40 They still didn’t accept me for good. He said I had weak eyes, that my eye lens is distorted and all the beams do not fall into one point. I should receive my verdict tomorrow (Height: 1 m, 73.5 cm).

My intellectual state is pretty miserable. I am a great sceptic, literature lifts me up, especially in the evening, but when I go out, I ask myself why am I doing it when I cannot find out anything more. Luban holds lectures about Moderna41 and this interests me; after studying it, heaviness returns.

Today I got the Gral42 from Milanović and I read On the Path of the Young Goethe.43 It’s been a long time since I read something as beautiful as this. It lifted my spirits. I realized Jörgensen feels sometimes just like I do.

(here follows a lenthy quotation of this article which found resonance in Merz’s soul)

Banja Luka, Easter Sunday, 12 April 1914 – (17 years and 4 months)

Liturgical celebration of Easter

We have thirteen days free. The period of fasting was rather sad. Only the weather hinted that this was the time of passion and death of the great Teacher. Moreover, it was snowing. The procession was not as gay and elevated as it used to be. Some oppressive atmosphere presses down upon the people. Is it due to social or political misery or lack of ideals? Probably the latter. I doubt that it occurred to anyone that this was a representation of Him – Who44 is the purpose and aim of our eternal desires, Who is the Lord of universal eternity and infinity and Who arranges every detail in nature, every blade of grass and every ant.

Today I attended a Great Mass in the bishop’s church and the singing was in Glagolithic.45 More beautiful than Latin. If the entire Mass had been celebrated in Glagolithic it would be more elevated and would attract the Croats more, because they could be proud of having their own ancient Church (as the Mass used to be celebrated in earlier times).

Parish church in Banja Luka where Ivan Merz is entered in the Baptismal Registry.

Easter greetings to friends

After lunch, I went with Mänd and Odić to say greetings to Plach. From there we proceed to Kučinić and on the way, we met the little Jović and Kučinić. At Kučinić’s place there was a pensioner with a long head, brown moustache and the old Babić, Bogdan’s father. He is just like the “illustrissimus Batorić” (Đalski, Under the Old Roofs). He charms the whole company, knows of Edison and Tesla, and speaks about his son. He says: “This was in 1895, on 15th of May, it was snowing, and I was going from Prnjavor to Svinjar”. The man is good-natured, never uttering an evil word, and he can talk about occupation.

From Kučinić we proceeded to the Jovićs46 (on my initiative). In front of the door we met Bürger and took him along. We entered (they didn’t even know me) and we went to the guest room which contained a piano, an old German table with a green tablecloth, etc. Anka and Luca (the former 19, the latter 16) led us in, and my heart started beating. We sat, and at once the door opened from the south-west and along the first table with cakes there was Mileva Bašić, also sitting, and the sister of her fiancé, a rather good looking Slovenian. Her hair (chestnut-blonde) was tied like a ball of wool, her face was rosy (towards red), and she had a protruding lower jaw. When she speaks Slovenian, I feel gladness in my heart. Mrs. Božić was telling us about Skok, how she trimmed his beard and how he loves when she fights with him in teasing. In those moments, he grows red from joy. Anka played, we hummed, and then Mrs. Božić and the Slovenian sang. We were standing mute. We asked Bürger and he recited a Slovenian poem To the Homeland. With special feeling, he pronounced the words “Love, my mother”. Upon that, Kurtagić recited the Curse of Delal Paša written by some Muslim. Delal Paša slayed the proud knights, and the mother of one of the slain ones cursed Travnik and the curse came true. The atmosphere in the dark room was particularly nice. It’s been a long time since I have been so happy.

Serious preparations for the graduation exam

I am not reading a thing. I would like to read the French writers, but I don’t have the translations. I started reading Ibsen’s Peer Gynt and as I cannot understand all the allegories (Dodiekönig) I was searching for his biography which might contain a commentary. But who will find that in Banja Luka. So, I stopped at the 3rd Act. I came to the conclusion that it would suit my ideals to graduate with the mark “excellent”. It would serve me in enrolment at the University. I must make 4 drawings, two orthogonal and two in perspective. I plan to do this during the Easter break, and this will be my math practice for graduation. As for the history from the 12th until 19th century, I simply don’t know it. I will also do this over the Easter break. This year I will read one French book. As for German and Croatian books, I won’t even glance at them. I must repeat analytics and geography. I know the physics from the last year. As to this year’s acoustics, I am far from perfect.

Banja Luka, 13 April 1914 – (17 years and 4 months)

Drawings for the school

I did a drawing in perspective. I am still left to do the shadow. It isn’t a very precise work. Tomorrow I will do the following: a ball lies in a pentagonal dodecahedron. One needs to find the shadows (orthogonal projection). I bought a white sheet from Petrović (size 102 x 72 cm). I couldn’t split it up into four parts each measuring 32 x 46 cm. Petrović showed me the solution. Uncle Heinrich will go to Rome. I would gladly go with him.

Banja Luka, 15 April 1914 – (17 years and 4 months)

Critically towards spirtualism

Today I was drawing for five hours and finally made my drawing. I hope to make another one tomorrow. Plach was present at a spiritualist seance. The spirit rightly guessed (shaking the table) all the past events, and as for the future he said that four of us would fail at the graduation exam – 2 Catholics, 1 Orthodox and 1 Muslim. This is impossible. The solution came in Seido’s dream. He had a vision that the guard Hadija caught Kurtagić, Zelenika, him and me during our night “raid” and took us to the black house. It stands to reason, therefore, that the graduation exam is very strict and that four of us must fail.

In Travnik a flag is being consecrated and several of the boys, members of the Croatian Catholic organization are going there. Maybe Plach. I have a great desire to go there to visit her grave47. I never forget her, not a day passes without thought of her and prayer to God for her eternal soul. If spiritualism were for real, I would go speak to her.

Banja Luka, 17 April 1914 – (17 years and 4 months)

Reflections on life, work, faith, happiness, evil and eternity

Today I almost finished the fourth drawing. Tomorrow I will finish and color the three of them. With this I am done with descriptive math for good. I feel sorry for her. Maybe one day I will do the drawings for my son. Otherwise, I did nothing else.

When a man works like this, like a machine, without thinking of anything, he doesn’t know why he lives. When a man is alive, he must think of eternal things and find happiness in these reflections. But, is one entitled to happiness here? Isn’t this world the world of work and toil and depending on how one performs in this world, he gets an award in the other world which is eternal. This life is only a preparation. Poets and philosophers say that a man can find happiness in work and that by mechanical work people will be improved. This is true, but with this work mankind is so preoccupied that it doesn’t think of evil and is incapable of commiting an evil act. Whereas, for intellectual workers where evil waits and sneaks upon the man from all sides and where one is forced to think, it is harder. Therefore, they do not resist evil in the same manner as workers do (not lazybones) and they become immoral (present-day “ingelligentsia”). An intellectual worker shouldn’t, as is the case today, work only for the sake of salary, but rather spiritually in the interest of higher causes and must create for himself a deep philosophical foundation to remain virtuous. This is very difficult and therefore, to prevent the penetration of evil, mechanical work would be better; but “Eternity” gave human nature and also directly through Its Son the primitive faith which is the deepest philosophical foundation. An intellectual worker, if he wants to be virtuous and to pursue his matters with interest, must believe. Faith is more necessary for an intellectual than for the worker. For the worker, under current state regulations, faith is not so necessary (in the practical sense, not metaphysical, because it is indispensable for all), because he must work to earn his daily bread. To a wealthier worker, it is necessary because it protects him from the misuse of his capital and from laziness. For an intellectual, faith is not only “practical”, but a source of eternal ideas – art, etc.

Banja Luka, 18 April 1914 – (17 years and 4 months)

About high school graduation, his ideals, the “dearest nation”, Tannhäuser and the first love

I completed all the drawings and with this I am done with descriptive math. Tomorrow I plan to study geography. All because of the stupid graduation. One loses time on things which will be forgotten anyhow. How much more I would enjoy reading poetry. When I read a literary magazine, my heart aches seeing how many beautiful and elevated things exist in this world, and I have no time to devote myself to that. When I will be in the Academy, I will edit Croatian papers and follow the affairs of my dearest nation.

Today I saw Tannhäuser in the cinema. It was wonderful. Painting motifs are excellent. Dance in the Venus Mountain, bathing, dance down the hill, old German attire. I already spoke about ideas; I will only mention music which illustrates how Venus makes suggestions to Tannhäuser and entices him to come to her.

Tomorrow is Orthodox Easter. I can never forget her. Schiller’s verse comes to my mind: “Oh, if it only remained eternally green, the beautiful time of first love.48

Banja Luka, 23 April 1914 – (17 years and 4 months)

Adventures, graduation, desire for philosophy

Yesterday the school started. It’s as if we didn’t have a break at all. On the 16th of April, Seid, Kurtagić and others went into the school, if I’m not mistaken. I lent them the key of the teachers’ desk. Seido’s shoe fell into turpentine, but they didn’t find a thing. (Outside the maids expect… Animals!) I didn’t read anything, but I learned geography pretty well. Optics and painting with colors (with 3 colors) interests me a lot. Yesterday I was looking at Saturn and its ring. I cannot philosophize as much as I would like, because mother is forcing me into bed.

Already as a high school student Ivan Merz was interested in literature and read a lot.

Banja Luka, 26 April 1914 – (17 years and 4 months)

Written graduation exam and a review of Peer Gynt

I am sentimentally contented today. A decree came from the Government yesterday that the written graduation exam is on 15th June, and the oral one on 10th July. Two of us are taking the examination in the morning, and two in the afternoon. My turn is on the 3rd day (12th July) in the morning, with Mujagić. I am glad to take the examination with him because he is a good man. I have sufficient time to prepare myself; in the course of preparations I read Ibsen’s Peer Gynt. I fully understood the first three acts, but by the end there were many things I couldn’t comprehend. The guiding thought of this drama is the following: what is the effect of excessive phantasy (as a matter of fact, hereditary illness) on man’s doings, if it cannot be channeled into poetic work. This can be followed transparently in the first three acts. The thoughts of the fourth and fifth act can be understood, but the details are incomprehensible (Knopfgiesser, etc.). I will write about this in my other notebook.

The building of the former Banja Luka railway station in the center of the town where the Merz family lived (first floor, left). This is where Ivan started writing his Diary. Today the building houses an art gallery.

Christ’s love in the Eucharist

I am reading Gral and I am uplifted. The more I get to know Catholicism, the more I see how inexhaustible it is. I already yearn to receive His Body: the Purpose and ultimate reason of humanity. How great is His Love, when He, the Immeasurable, who is beyond comprehension; He who directs the entire universe and every blade of grass and who knows and looks upon the quarreling of the miserable human race, gives us, small and worthless as we are, Himself to eat. “There are but few who know the secret of love, the unquenchability and eternal thirst. The God-given meaning of the Last Supper is a riddle for eartly senses” (Novalis). Mom is compelling me to retire.

Banja Luka, 1 May 1914 – (17 years and 5 months)

He finds accord in Turgenev’s thoughts about the transcience of life

“How empty and withered and useless is every thing that passed! How few traces it leaves behind itself! How senselessly and stupidly all these hours upon hours flew away. However, one wants to live, respecting life, believing in oneself, in the future… O, what riches one expects of the future. But how does one imagine that the next, the coming days will not be just like the one that just passed? Yes, one doesn’t consider it at all. One doesn’t like to think at all – and good for that. ‘Yes, tomorrow, tomorrow’ – one consoles oneself, – until this ‘tomorrow’ topples him down into the grave. And suddenly, in the grave, like it or not, you stop to think.”

This is a fragment from Turgenev’s poetic diary Poem in Prose. Such feelings were engulfing me until yesterday, but now there is a more pressing issue – Yugoslavia.49

Banja Luka, Sunday, 3 May 1914 – (17 years and 5 months)

Review of Turgenev’s and Balsac’s works

I am writing in bed; mom and dad think that I am asleep. It’s a pity I have to write secretly, but otherwise every day would just pass in vain. These are interesting times. I read only a little because I cannot get hold of a good book. I read Turgenev’s Poems in Prose. This is elevated poetry, Beethoven’s music. He is a great and pleasant writer. I would be happy to have a picture of him.

I am practicing French. I am translating Balsac’s Eugenie Grandet into Croatian, and then backwards into French. In such a way, I practice my style and learn the words. I always keep Faust in my pocket and learn the best passages by heart. The work is divine. For every occasion, for every disposition of the soul, there is an appropriate passage. Smoothness, strength, gentleness of the verses give this work a special charm.

Description of a repeated schoolboy adventure

On 30th April, if I am not mistaken, some colleagues went on a “raid” at the school (Ante, Šandor, Brico, Galicijan, König, Kulenović, etc.). Kulenović seems to have been badly frightened. He was on guard duty downstairs on the corridor, and he walked around, smoked and drank water. He spilled tobacco, but Debossens noticed it and cleaned it up. Kulenović must have been frightened, because he took his shoes and opened a window opposite the chemistry cabinet and jumped out so that the roosters crowed. When they left the teachers’ room and were looking after Kulenović on the corridor, and noticed the open windows, they got scared. They thought they were noticed by the guard attending the sewage facility nearby when they had entered, that he summoned a watchman who, they thought, must have called Kulenović. They came out and met Kulen, who said that as they were in the teachers’ room for more than an hour he thought they had gone. This is incredible, because all of their shoes were lined up together, and he must have picked his own among all the others. Therefore, cowardice.

Social and political situation before the breakout of World War I

In the afternoon on that day, at 6 p.m. in the Serbian Falcon50 a meeting was on about the harmony of Serbs and Croats. The hall was full. Kurtagić opened the session, speaking about the Counts Zrinski and Frankopan. I am sleepy. I will continue some other time. Yesterday I attended a schoolboy party and sang a serenade, while today I amused myself with Miss Franz. Self-analysis follows tomorrow.

Banja Luka, 4 May 1914 – (17 years and 5 months)

Resistance to Germanization and desire for the unification of the South Slavs

In line with his habit, Kurtagić was talking in cliches, speaking about the miserable Austrian politics and their behavior toward the hero of Siget. Then he spoke about the Zrinski and Frankopan conspiracy; he made all the right points, but he spoke with an empty heart, so it couldn’t make an impact. After him Bürger stood up. He spoke right from the heart, with enthusiasm: “The Black God triumphed over Svantovid51. Where are those 100.000 km which were inhabited by Slavs, where is the Rügen Island, the temple of Svantovid? All of it is German now. We ought to remember the Rügen Island. We must get together and establish a Yugoslav state. Let the Serb be a Croat, and the Croat a Serb, etc…” The entire speech was beautiful and full of persuasion. But not everything was correct. Did the Germans at that time, in the 11th, 12th, 13th century willingly Germanize the Slavic tribes, at a time when there was no national consciousness, but only a religious feeling?! The Templars who did the christening at the same time unwillingly Germanized these tribes.

Building of the Banja Luka High School which Ivan Merz attended.

Doubts in the project of a Yugoslav state

It is a big question whether a Yugoslav state is good for mankind, and especially for the Croats. One cannot blame those who are for it, neither the ones who are against; both strive towards their conviction – the truth. It is hard to say which is right. Observing history, every nation speaking the same language has united in order not to lose balance. This is a historical imperative. As every nation in history up till now after its unification had expansive purposes, the peoples who were not united had to unite in order not to be subjugated. This is what happened with Germany and Italy. As the Croats are really badly off, they must unite, hounded by the bad spirit ruling Europe, in order not to lose the predominance over other peoples, otherwise they are lost. (Every state – not the people – has expansive goals). But unification is bad for culture, because neither the Croats nor the Serbs have a sufficiently rich culture to be able to cross-fertilize each other, but these cultures are reflections of foreign cultures in miniature without a national color. Before unification it is necessary for the Croats to raise their culture, which means building schools; in order to do that, they must attain financial independence. Therefore, “with all available means” fight for this: the nurturing of religious organizations, strengthening of the morale among the people.

I read Ljuba’s New life which was given to me (Plach!). It is not the most interesting among the reading stuff, but emanates goodness. He traces the path for an epic writer, a comedian, a playwright, etc. in order to create Croatian national art. We should reflect. I did French. Today I didn’t play the piano.

Impressions from a high school graduation party

The pupils’ concert (2nd May) turned out nicely. We gathered 750 crowns. I danced with Miss Puškar and Miss Smiljanić, etc. We’d serenade Franjić’s daugther, as well as the Božićs, the Pukars, the Smiljanićs and Franz’s daughter. With the latter and Miss Kratenina we strolled yesterday and today. On Sunday I was not in church, because of the concert. I was up until 4 a.m. because we ended up singing a serenade in Miss Franjić’s bakery which sold bread rolls. (Ante, Šandor, König, Čengić and me. We met Stiks and woke up Odić.) Next time I will go to church come what may.

Banja Luka, 10 May1914 – (17 years and 5 months)

Review of Plato’s Phaidon

I read in bed Plato’s Phaidon and I find it very interesting. His conclusion is that life begins after death.

Banja Luka, 11 May 1914 – (17 years and 5 months)

Mood among the people before Ferdinand’s assassination, hostile reception of general Potiorek

Today Potiorek52 came by car. All the officials were there to greet him, and all the schools except our Technical high school. There was a rumor that the pupils will smear the black-and-red and Hungarian flag. In order to prevent that, the Director had them taken down and warned some pupils. When Potiorek arrived, deputy commander Milić gave a dry speech. Only a few persons shouted “Hail”. In the evening the Muslims prepared a torchlight parade. There were many, and Kadi gave a speech full of sincerity; that the Muslims can be brought on the right path, without losing their national identity, being always in favour of the Dynasty and otherwise equal in politics with all the other nations. Kadi ended his speech and shouted: “Hail”. All the Muslims followed his lead: “Hail”. Silence. At once, a voice was heard: “Down with him, he was a butcher.” Everybody stiffened. Terribly embarrassing. At that moment, some from the mass broke out with a song (under the leadership of Gutić, Kurtagić, etc.) Hail the Slavs… like some terrible irony for everyone. Everybody listened, and as I stood apart from these parties I realized that all of them are mainly wrong, and only a little bit right. I condemn the negative work because it originates from liberal paid fanatics. They don’t know what Love and Truth is, because otherwise they would praise Jesus and be good. “Gloria Tibi”.

Banja Luka, 13 May 1914 – (17 years and 5 months)

A comment on Prudhomme’s poems with an emphasis on ideals

Potiorek attended our French lesson. Skok picked me. I was translating Gautier’s Le pot de fleur. I did it wonderfully. This poem is similar to Prudhomme’s La vase brisé. The poet noticed a girl and didn’t know he loved her. Later on, love became so strong that he could only tear it out from his heart by bleeding to death. He compared this with a boy who found a seed and put it in a pot. After some time, a small bush appeared whose roots penetrated the porcelain and if he would have tried to pull the roots from the porcelain, his hand would bleed out. Prudhomme’s poem L’ideal is an especially beautiful symbolic religious poem. The poet compares the ideals of mankind with a star which the people haven’t seen yet, but he says: “You, the last people, give greetings to the star when it appears”. He wants to say that nowadays viciousness rules, which sees no ideals in front of itself. Only a few people have a presentiment of these ideals, but the time will come when everybody will live as a single herd with one Shepherd and the ideals will shine forth.

Every day I go to the little Miss Franjić. Peut être c’est une “graine”. Je ne le sais maintenant.53 She keeps her head leaned against her arm and reads. I ask her what she is reading (Ante and Debossens were with her), and she says Tena. I understood chrysanthemum and told her it would be better to smell them.

Banja Luka, 14 May1914 – (17 years and 5 months)

School, friends, girl

We were writing a school paper in Croatian. A verse by Burus. Together with Ljuba, we wonderfully analyzed Werther. I wrote about Aristophanus. Plach dreamt that I had died as a boy. Mira Kellerova came. True, she must have been beautiful as a girl. She still is.

Banja Luka, 15 May1914 – (17 years and 5 months)

Events of long ago, remembering Greta, the problem of conscience, the first mention of a Croatian Catholic Movement

Today I read Eugenie Grandet and learned the topic on electricity. I played piano. I like it a lot. Too bad that I am clumsy. Wroblevski went away. I feel sorry for him seeing him kiss his children. The little Miss Franjić is reading Chrysanthemum by Lotti. She is so cute, and I…? God, is it a sin? What is Greta feeling… She is my idol. Kratena discussed his movements with Ante. True, the boys from the Croatian Catholic organization54 did a lot for the people. They have many organizations all over. Ante is too much of an idealist.

Banja Luka, 17 May1914 – (17 years and 5 months)

Condition of the eyes, visiting church as a therapy against skepticism, daily happenings

Today I visited a physician. My medical documentation came back from the Corps Command because he didn’t write the degree of astigmatism. Dr. Pausal looked at me and I could read all but the smallest letters. Actually, I knew them by heart because I had seen the table up close, and this helped me to read better (FZBDE, OELZTG).

I sometimes have terrible thoughts in my head. Therefore, I went to the church service to find solace.55 Only Memento mori56 that the priest recited destroyed my skepticism and despair.

I read Eugenie Grandet and learned a lot of words. I played Cavaleria and Barcarola. They are especially soft pieces. Yesterday they were in school and Plach saw the marks. I have 3 (good) in chemistry and religion. He never asked me chemistry, but this is because I laugh during the lessons. I do it because he doesn’t explain anything, but translates from a German book and dictates word for word.

I always go to the little Miss Franjić for chocolate, and when I step inside, she asks me: “Milka?”

Banja Luka, 21 May 1914 – (17 years and 5 months)

Discussions about faith and world view

On Monday, 18 May we argued in school on grounds of religion. Kurtagić attacked religion in a shallow manner and insulted Luban. I got very excited.

On the same day, I left for Zagreb because of my eyes. Along the way, I had an argument with some Lutheran. He said: “God is also Satan, because he created sin. He is not almighty, because evil predominates in the world.” Therefore, he doesn’t believe in God, but in good and evil powers which are fighting each other. The evil one is prevailing. This is what the Protestants’ liberalism leads you to. To the denial of the human Ideal. Besides, the image of a good and evil power is illogical. He doesn’t believe in free will. So, the two have an argument. The evil power speaks from him, and, for the sake of argument, let’s assume also from me. And his arguments prevail. It means the evil power has outwitted itself. Thinking I am not receptive to arguments, he left. A young Orthodox priest wondered about him. In Sisak I met Kratena. I went to the 3rd class wagon. Here I met some Bosnian peasants who know neither letters nor crafts and still they travelled to Zagreb.

Ivan’s teacher Dr. Ljubomir Maraković in his younger days.

Description of his stay in Zagreb and various meetings there

As no one met me upon my arrival (Kranjc), I went to sleep at Kratena’s place. It would be better to say I stayed awake all night because in the house opposite there was singing and shouting toasts the whole night. When Kratena came, he was for the first time in Domagoj57, then he went under the window and shouted “lady colleague”. She, a member of the Croatian Catholic organization came outside, and they talked about some official matters. Another member lives with Kratena, a nice future lawyer in the fourth year of his studies (Perkovec?). The next morning I was in the military hospital and had my eyes checked. Astigmatism of 6/8 (almost normal) was established. I bought a copy of Vihor, a nationalist paper, and Le disciple of Bourget (Nelson). I visited the Kranjc family. They didn’t expect me, and Šandor came home late. In the evening, I was with them in the theatre and saw Schnitzler’s Flirtation. I was sitting in the second row. The theatre is the same as described in Nobleman’s Nest58 and I felt like Nezhdanov in the New Generation. He also came into the front row in an unusual manner. As he was unfashionably dressed, and he was hurrying toward the ticket office, a gentleman pushed him slightly. He, to show off, bought a ticket in the front row and looked upon that gentleman. In the theatre, he was sitting next to Sipyagin. A lady was sitting in front of me; as I later surmised, she had a girl-like face, blond hair, blue eyes, reddish elongated cheeks, a German type. Mildness and goodness emanated from her looks and movements.

Description and critique of Schnitzler’s Flirtation

Schnitzler’s Flirtation is technically successful, but otherwise absurd and shallow, what seems to be a general feature, I think, of modern drama. A pupil fell in love with a demonic lady. (…) Idea: a real, faithful love is found in simple girls, not in demonic ones. (…) The work has no depth, because it seems that the author is on the side of flirtation. This is against a deep moral. (…) The work is of passing value.

(Here follows a short overview and critique of the contents of the drama)

Return from Zagreb to Banja Luka and daily events

That night I saw Skerles going from the theatre and stepping into a car. When I heard his name, I thought of a gun. Today I heard that the next evening after the Théatre parée – Tosca – as he was leaving the theatre with Archduke Salvatore, a pupil wanted to shoot at them. Having slept at Kranjc’s place, I took the train at half past two, arriving at 9 in the morning, and at 10 I went to school. I slept in the afternoon. I played Bach and Beethoven from the Sang und Klang (Spring, Bagatelles). I read 8 history questions. I read Eugenie Grandet and I learned the words. I went for my Milka chocolate (Franjić). Tomorrow we go (the pupils) to Kostajnica.

Banja Luka, 29 May 1914 – (17 years and 5 months)

School trip to Kostajnica

On Saturday 23rd May we made a trip with Leinert. At noon, we sat in the carriage, 4th class wagon, where there was enough space. Already near the Emperor’s Street (Kaiserstrasse) some girls waved at us, and we sent them kisses from the train. It was amusing, we played and climbed upon each other. In Ivanjska we saw Anka Jovićeva. We had a good time all the way. In Prijedor and Novi we went out and bought oranges, cakes, etc. In Dobrljin we bought the tickets and switched (coffee!) to the 3rd class wagon. We arrived in Kostajnica and went with our backpacks into town. Hrvatska Kostajnica is a dirty town, although it has asphalt. Some old women sat by their doors and observed us critically. A real Saumur – Ville de Province. We passed through the main road, and took another one back, parallel to the first one. This road has parks. Here is our church, not of some beauty. Pretty maids sat in the parks, looking… and realized the nature of the game. We came back wishing to see the pretty girls. On the way, we shouted names of girls in Kostajnica which Plach collected while he was here. We came to the Una Bridge. Here it is truly beautiful. On the left side by the bridge we saw a tasty house in Secessionist style, and on the other side, on the other bank, the ruins of the Zrinski castle. A true contrast. We stood on the bridge and watched the Una River flow. It flows and flows. It is a proud witness of the Zrinski castle, looking at its ruins, and now also looking upon the modern building which will “soon” follow the destiny of the former. On the bridge, some Jew, a former waiter, gave us a moral lesson in the German language.

Hrvatska Kostajnica – picture from 1910

We passed the bridge to examine the old ruins. The view was beautiful. On one side one could see the Una River and the whole of Hrvatska Kostajnica, and on the other side, where once the cannon was placed, a view opened on the Bosnian hills. A courageous town. How many attacks did it have to endure from the Turkish side. We went a bit further and immediately we felt a Bosnian atmosphere. The Gypsies sang and played, while Muslims sat in front of the coffee shops, drinking coffee. Some Muslim, a teacher, greeted us and asked the Mayor to provide us with a place to sleep. We left all our things in that house. To everybody’s pleasure, the most beautiful girls were standing by the window and below the window on the bench. We went and sat in a coffee shop. The teacher treated us all with coffee. The girls were strolling beside us, and we were giving them regards from Banja Luka. I was shouting the family name Ostrašnjak which I had found out from Plach. And really, among these young ladies there was this Ostrašnjak. We went with the teacher into Hrvatska Kostajnica and he told us what a friend of his, a Turkish officer, told him about the taking of Drinopolje. The facts are as follows: the Bulgarians captured it courageously, not the Serbs, as they are claiming now. Several of us talked to three young ladies and parted with them forever. We returned into Bosanska Kostajnica and wrote the postcards – I wrote to Miss Franjić and signed “Milka”, and to my parents. While we were walking, the others occupied – God only would know how – all the Kostajnica beauties and had a good time with them. We came closer and made some order. We distributed all of them so that everyone, as if by law, had one girl, which means Kurtagić and myself had two each – Julka Rabađija and another whose name I cannot remember. In such a manner, we walked the streets some more. Alongside König was Julka’s sister, a big girl, but beautiful and refined. In such an arrangement, we walked and had fun. In casual conversation, I found out that this is the one whose photo Kratena showed me in the wagon; we and the three girls went into a dark alley. They sat on a bench, we brought another one and sat across. Now the singing started. The older Rabađija sang with a beautiful soprano. She sang with a high pitch some melodies of well known songs that became corrupted in Bosnia. We sang Đido and other songs. Bijelić also sang solo. The beauty of this evening will remain long in memory. Some young ladies went home on the order of their mothers, and we escorted the Rabađija girls. The younger of the two loves a certain Karger, the son of a hotel keeper in Kladanj, and she asked Kurtagić to write to Kladanj and inquire about him. He promised, and I sealed the promise. She is so kind. We parted forever.

I wonder how the hours of happiness pass so quickly. They pass quickly and therefore are not deep. What is deep in them, this is eternal. The memory of beauty is eternal.

To sleep was a nightmare. One couldn’t even turn around, this is how densely packed we were. We made chaos. I slept for half an hour, the rest I was awake. Around 4 a.m. we were on the move – we washed our face on the road and said goodbye to the beautiful Kostajnica. In front of the railway station we took coffee, and a mad dog on a chain tried to scare us. We fed him with bread rolls. We took the train to Dobrljin, passing over the Una River and then through Croatian villages which are so characteristic.

Visit to the Zrinj fortress

The path towards Zrinj was difficult, but beautiful. We ascended by the road and looked at cultivated fields and meadows. The sun was burning. We asked the peasants to tell us when will we come to Zrinj. They always said half an hour more, though we had walked for two hours already. Finally, we came to Zrinj. It is a beautiful village. One could see the church from afar, and it was a pleasure for me to see it. Chiesa nostra!59 Having eaten oranges and lemons, Plach and I went to the priest to lead us. He had to celebrate Mass, so he couldn’t. Some of us took milk in a peasant house, then we wrote the postcards. The notary took us to Zrinj, the fortress after which the Croatian family Šubić got its name Zrinjski – a name now so famous and honorable. By roundabout ways we came to the ruins where the heroes lived and defended Europe from Turkish attacks with their mighty hand. All you can see is in ruins. Inside is an orchard. You can see the buried hole which led into an underground tunnel. We went to the northern side of the citadel and looked down. Terrible. This is the strongest part of the fortress, and therefore, here was the apartment of the family. Then we climbed on the tower which looks toward the south-east. They had small windows on all sides, and the view stretches on with no end. Immediately below the fortress we could see the roofs of houses on one street, and a little further down is the church. In the distance, we could see the mountains, around which there is a road twisting. The walls of the tower are thick. Once upon a time the Austrian military kept guard here waiting for the Turkish attack, but as it never came, out of despair they burnt the place, so it had to be renovated. After that it was burnt again two or three times, and then, following the catastrophe of the Wiener Neustadt it was deserted. Now these ruins are only the living history, a memory of former glory and power. Everything passes. Only the great unknown always is. One should strive towards it.

Ruins of the old town of Zrinj – the tower

Passing through Novi

We ate well and around 11 a.m. we set out towards Novi. The way was good. Though there was still some climbing to endure, it was not as bad as before. We passed through many villages, and the peasants were friendly, clean. Although it was a Sunday, we didn’t see anybody drunk. We saw drunkards only before Novi and Dvor. We were tired by then. We stopped everywhere. We lay in the shade of a nearby small forest and ate sugar. We arrived in Novi around 4 p.m. It is nicely situated. The Una River is beautiful with its banks and houses reflected in its waters. We returned home at 9 p.m.

Return to everyday school life, about Greta in dreams

The next day Ljuba gave a lecture on the history of the novel; he made it all really good. I took notes. Yesterday I dreamt about Greta and spoke with her in a dream. I felt such heaviness in the morning. I was sad the whole day. I read Eugenie Grandet in Serbian, then in French only 110 pages. There are many unknown words. I read almost the entire Civic science book. In Luč Magazine a rather nice article about Beuronese art (l’art pour Dieu).60

Banja Luka, 3 June 1914 – (17 years and 6 months)

Preparations for the high school graduation exam

Yesterday we prepared the drawings (freehand) for graduation. It was the last day of drawing and descriptive maths. Leinert told Mujagić that he would give no more examples. In all probability, he will give those which he already gave us. Kurtagić asked Pavičić in private if he will ask everyone what each of us had learnt, and he told him: “Graduation is a formality, to say good bye to us, and tell your colleagues that they already know their questions.” (With this he said that they will ask each of us what we know). When I heard this, I realized graduation is a children’s game. Maraković told me to learn the realistic novel because of Elkehard. To Debossens he said Werther, etc.

I did nothing yesterday, because I felt weak. Today I am reading Eugenie Grandet in original.

Banja Luka, 4 June 1914 – (17 years and 6 months)

Work in school before the graduation exam

In the French class, we spoke about H. Taine and his view that a state is nothing else but police power. In Croatian, we completed the writers Lazarević, Ljubiša, Veselinović and Matavulj. In the afternoon, I played tennis until 6.30. I worked on a descriptive example (icosahedron) and translated Eugenie Grandet.

Banja Luka, Friday, 5 June 1914 – (17 years and 6 months)

School, reading, tennis, playing music

In religion class Pajić read from a book about the inquisition. It seems to justify it in part, e.g. the expulsion of Arabs from Spain. Fanaticism. I played tennis for two hours. I did my descriptive example (pentadodecahedron) and read Eugenie Grandet. I read Maraković’s wonderful review of Rabindranath Tagore’s Gitanjali in Hrvatska prosvjeta. I will surely study him more. There are no more night “raids” on the school, as the questions were distributed already. The last time they went was on Saturday. They were looking for copies, but didn’t find a trace. At 4.30 p.m. I was supposed to have a piano lesson, but as I had played tennis, and didn’t have a watch, I forgot, so I came home after 5. This must not happen again, to miss a duty for the sake of pleasure. With this act, I created an upsetting situation for her, and I am sorry.

Banja Luka, Sunday, 7 June 1914 – (17 years and 6 months)

Preparations for the graduation exam, literary works, amusement, dream about Travnik

Yesterday he asked me physics (optics: the formula for the calculation of the distance of an image from an object 1/a + 1/b = 1/f) and I did well. Leinert spoke about the history of mathematics and said that we ought to know this at the graduation exam. A part of Fant’s equation and spheric trigonometry, too. This frightened us a bit, but nevertheless, after that we were jumping and had fun. Vujičić indirectly called us swines for playing during his class.

Yesterday I read Eugenie Grandet. In the evening, I went to the fair. In the evening, Ante went with me to see Miss Franjić, we had fun with her and Miss Vlašić. This morning I got up at 11, after a good night’s sleep. For this reason, I didn’t go to church, but it is a lame excuse.

The Göschen books arrived (Volkskunde, Geschichte der Mathematik, Pëdagogik, Diferentiall, Integral, Luftschiffe, Metereologie, Vetterkunde, Aufsatzentwurfe, Englische Literaturgeschichte, Ibzen & Bjornson, Shakespeare Astronomie, Natur & Geisteswelt and Miniatur Biblitek). They are appropriate for the graduation exam. Today I put into order the translation of Novalis’s Anthems and I myself wrote a poem in the manner of R. Tagore; I believe I will send it to Luč Magazine. I went to the fair and used all the tickets which the owner of the carrousel gave to dad. I rode with Miss Ballianova, Miss Puškar, Miss Szalay, etc. I saw an optical illusion – a head without a body. I cannot explain it. In the morning, I thought of Greta because I dreamt about Travnik.

Banja Luka, 11 June 1914 – (17 years and 6 months)

Daily events, girl, reading, Communion

These days the fair was on and I was there every day until today with the little Miss Franjić. She has a great education of the heart. I promised her books. I read a review about Shakespeare. For the graduation exam, I only did geography, and that was the day before yesterday. Today I received Holy Communion. I sent to Pajić the translation of Novalis to send it to Luč.

Banja Luka, 12 June 1914 – (17 years and 6 months)

Farewells and the end of the high school, transience

Today was one day before the last at school. Skok parted with us in an especially touching manner. Firstly, he struck the desk with the book, for the first time since we know him, and then he asked each one of us what our plans were. He gave us a piece of advice: to work honestly and never seek award. “I hoped that I would cry, but I believed that I would endure”.61 And so, the time passes. Everything that was dear to me comes to an end.

Banja Luka, 13 June 1914, 2 a.m. – (17 years and 6 months)

A regretful contradiction with the ideals

God, what I just saw. Nastiness and beastliness. Poor Croats: you are yourself to blame. Colleagues whom I had respected went to snatch the maids and provoke and bring shame upon the others. Some others went into the public house! Poor Croats! Always ready to speak about ideals, and you wallow in the mire.

Banja Luka, 16 June 1914 – (17 years and 6 months)

A walk and amusement with colleagues

On Saturday, 13th June all of us except Kučinić went to Machnig where a Serbian teacher wonderfully played the accordion. His darling drowned in the river, because her parents wanted to give her to somebody else. He imbues all his melodies with this pain. After that we went to Vlahović; some had already parted. Here we sat at a long table in a small room. At the other table, there were some married men, supposedly Croats, and they did all kinds of things with the maid – a fat bastard with gleaming eyes. Zelenika himself teased Plach and me because of her. God, how mean is a person who cannot respect another’s principles (even in joking). The only good thing was singing. We left this place after Zelenika pushed this maid on Plach. As we were going back, I thought we would sing the serenades62, but they didn’t want to. They love to drink and do other things, but what is beautiful – no. When the Catholics are by themselves, all of us have said that everything goes nicely. Otherwise – with exceptions – it turns nasty. The next day I didn’t go to church. I had planned my time badly and I couldn’t get up. It will be better the next time. I didn’t sleep well this night, I was thinking about the written graduation exam. I woke up at 5 in the morning. I took a walk in the shiny morning and I rememberd the trip (the early getting up).

Written graduation exam

We went to school corporatively. We were curious to see how they had placed us in the room. I got a place at the back. Across from me to the right – Kurtagić. Therefore, they placed us according to our abilities. The Director came in with a sealed envelope, and after him Ljuba, a bit pale. He opened it and read to us:

Youth is hope – old age is memory.

The value of navigation for our Monarchy.

Nobody had expected this. At the first moment, I picked the first topic. Nine of us did the same. I wrote it as I had written an ordinary school paper. I mentioned the phases of a man’s youth, the youth of a nation and humanity and the phases of old age and how the past gives vitality to old age. (The past gives a nation the strength for further development, etc.) I was done in three hours, and I it took me two more to make a clean copy. There were six pages in all. The others wrote more or less about the same length. Luban was the inspector. A man of gold!

Banja Luka, 17 June 1914 – (17 years and 6 months)

Relaxing with colleagues after the written exam

After him there were Pavičić, Leinert, Skok and Harazin. Skok and Pavičić are too formal. They make a note of everyone who goes to the toilet. But luckily there was no need for swindling. When I was finished, I was tired. In the afternoon, I lied down and after that I went to the Vrbas alley with Plach, who came to pick me up. Here we met Jarakula and we decided to go to pick cherries. We met Bürger and Bijelić and the whole party went to Vorkapić and we took the boat across the river. We went to Starčević to pick the cherries. It was a nice day. The sun was shining. We came to the orchard, but we couldn’t bother to climb the trees, so we bought a bag of cherries instead. We spoke with the peasants and they said: “What heroes these Montenegrins, only a handful of them, and they resist the Turks…” They are Serbs and they realize the value of schools. One of them attended school with Jarakula and told us that he was a veritable little devil. The peasants worry most of all because of the three-year army duty. A younger man said: “It is good to be ill when the recruiters come, and they leave you in peace”, and another one joined: “Nope, I prefer to be healthy, come what may”. We came back to the Vrbas River and Jarakula gave us a ride in a boat all the way to the town bridge. It’s an easy life. Some of them were only in their swimming trunks, they swam in the river, climbed upon the boat, caught some fish, sang and engaged in all kinds of entertainment. Little Divjak jumped from the town bridge. As we passed across Alilovac, the boat almost capsized.

Graduates of the Banja Luka High School 1914. Ivan is sitting (second from the right).

Written math exam

I slept well. Yesterday we were curious to see the assignments that we will get, and to our great joy, we got three which Leinert had already given us. We were all happy. I did all the three assignments and showed them to others. We helped each other because the inspection was lax. Leinert was the inspector, and he was showing us what to do and helped everyone complete the assignment. Harazin, Maraković, Besenhofer and Harazin again. We couldn’t hope for more. When we handed in our papers, the other pupils from the school broke into the room to see whether we had completed the most difficult subject. Afterwards, we took a walk, praising Leinert on our way.

A break and preparation for tomorrow’s continuation of the written exam

After lunch, I slept like a log. Then Debossens came and we drank raspberry juice, and I relaxed some more, still with a full stomach. Then I corrected his homework about airplanes, because we expect to get that topic at the exam. Luba hinted at something from modern technology, and we already had that topic once. Ante (Katović) composed his homework in Croatian and I translated it for him. I translated the homework for Jarakula the day before. Plach and I went to little Miss Franjić, and she wrote three questions for me. I got the fourth one today. After that I corrected Seid’s homework. After dinner I was about to ask Luban how our homework came out, but I didn’t find him. I escorted Ante Debossens home and returned.

Written exam in German – high school certificate

I slept well and was almost late for school. We sat in the room as instructed, the Director opened the envelope and Maraković read: Luftschiffe und Flugversuche. We all looked at one another with an ironic smile. He said three more points of exposition:

1. Geschichtliche Entwicklung

2. Luftschiffe Ballons

3. Flugapparate & ihre Erfolge.

I wrote a clean copy immediately and was done in an hour and a half. I had corrected a number of homeworks, although Pavičić and Skok were inspecting, until there was none to correct any more. Maraković and Leinert were still inspecting. Skok gave us our certificates, Kurtagić and I graduated with honors (for the first time my name will appear in the report with bold letters! Cheers! Although some of the success was a gift, actually). Others also got good certificates. These certificates are a stupidity. One should only say “passed” or “failed”, and put an end to it. Because, if one is interested in a subject, and gets a bad mark, he loses the will to pursue it further. Also, there is the issue of envy. Nearly everyone finished before the time was up, and we took a walk. In the afternoon, I had a good sleep again and I paid Wolf 16 crowns for the ordered books. I still owe him 10 crowns because today I got Englische Literaturgeschichte (Göschen) and Geschichte der Musik.

Dad gave me 5 crowns for honors, and mom was so happy, she couldn’t stop talking. I went to play tennis, but returned as the court was closed. I was waiting for Miss Latas until 5 p.m., and as she didn’t come for the piano lesson, I went to the tennis court again. I played furiously for half an hour. Luban was there too, and we talked about the school assignments. He had examined nine papers by then, and when I asked him if anyone missed the topic, he said yes, to a point. I asked him if he had examined mine. He did. “And how did it come out?” “This is an official secret”, and then in a low voice so no one could hear: “A nous deux.” I knew it, I realized I should’t ask in front of the others. Tomorrow we are writing French. Graduation exam is a children’s game. Some make a lot of fuss about it, others waste time in vain. Those five hours of work pass like a minute.

Transience of time – living for one’s profession

In the evening, we got together, spoke about this day and the next and we realized how time flies with incredible speed. Things that we spoke about for so long, and with such an expectation, pass and tomorrow something new is on, and that is bound to pass too and soon there will be death. If life was only such a mechanical work as it was for the last few days, one should kill oneself, but when one stops, at once a feeling of Eternity and Love suffuses one’s being, the feeling of beauty and fascination of life. I want to live for my beloved profession, even if I were an eternal pauper, and not to sweat in mechanical work, earn money and as a respected philistine63 lift the nose, pretending to be clever, serious and mystical while I am not. Eviva l’arte!

Banja Luka, 19 June 1914 – (17 years and 6 months)

The end of written graduation exams and rest in nature

The written part of the graduation exam is past. Yesterday we had an assignment in French – thirteen stanzas of Lamartine’s poem L’Isolation. Skok was writing on the blackboard never wanting to end, this is how long it was. During copying I knew all the new words. I must have made a dozen papers for others. We copied with indigo. If I am not mistaken, everyone except Mujagić translated the whole poem. In the afternoon, we went to pick cherries. Mujagić ferried us across the river together with Bijelić and Plach. Firstly, we climbed on the cabin of a peasant whom we saw the other day. He didn’t want to pick cherries for us, because the land-owner was expected to come to pick them. A peasant cannot sell anything if the land-owner doesn’t allow him. Serfdom is a difficult condition. They must work for others. We climbed more through the orchard and came to another house. A dirty peasant with a terrible goiter greeted us, and then a muddy meagre peasant woman. We asked for cherries and they brought us some. When we had eaten enough sitting on the grass, we asked how much it costs, and the woman said: “If you don’t want to pay, you don’t have to, and if you wish, you may leave as much as you want”. Good people. We paid and took the muddy road towards the Vrbas River.

Ivan (first on the left in a white suit) with colleagues on a picnic after passing the graduation exam. 12 July 1914

Meeting with girls, struggling with passion

Zelenika took in his boat some fat girl whom they call Baraba. We entered the boat, and she sat in such a manner that a large part of her leg could be seen. I was struggling, there was a terrible fight in me between Eternity and passion, and I could hardly wait for us to disembark. Passion directly halts logical thinking and I had a difficult time recollecting what my ideals were – o Ewig-weibliches, memento mori, work for mankind, esthetic feeling, etc.

That day I visited my little one and we talked. They – Misses Balhan, Franjić, Markezić and Vlašić call Ante “the little Antica” and me “the little Hansika”. In the evening, I wanted to escort her together with Ante, but we were cowards and the plan fell through. This morning I slept until 9, and then went into the Vrbas barracks where Ante and Debossens read civics. We didn’t learn a thing. It rains every day.

Banja Luka, Saturday, 21 June 1914 – (17 years and 6 months)

About the graduation exam, a look into the future

Yesterday evening we tried to catch Maraković, on account of our graduation papers, and we succeeded. After Anto was with me at Miss Franjić’s, we met Šandor and Šukan (Jarakula) and we saw Kurtagić on the corner (Imperial Road, Railway station, Balkan) standing with him, talking. Then the four of us split up; Ante and I went in front of the house. We found Zelenika. After waiting we met him, and he asked as always if this was a state of siege.64 He said that Bijelić could pass his German exam; he said something about other school issues. We thanked him and left. This morning I got up at 9 and went to Plach to see if there was any news about my poem in Đački vjesnik65. None. I took a stroll through Borik and Banja Luka Field and I came home to study. I had a little quarrel with mother: her dreams are that I will go to Army Headquarters, which is against my principles. It is terrible when they make a choice for you, against your will. I did math a little, but I am not progressing at all. This is more interesting. I played piano. I practiced the Serenade by Moszkovski. I will learn it as best as I can. I will read a bit. I find it difficult when I cannot occupy myself with what I want. I had a walk with Grünwald and colleagues. They were pestering me about the graduation exam. Bürger told me that Ljuba was telling him how I went a little bit off the mark in my Croatian paper.

About the girl and love

I went to Miss Franjić in her shop and I was telling her about Đalski, Kumičić and Maraković’s humoresques on the court. After that I had a walk with Ante and Šandor and Plach under her window. She was upstairs like a Đema66. Is this love? It isn’t. She doesn’t know me. I don’t know her. We never came to any intimacy. She is rather tied up, and so am I. It is not as it was with Greta who immediately expressed her feelings – but why do I keep coming back to her. She is not some great beauty. But she seems to possess a good nature. Tolstoy says: love is passion. All literature on love is based on this tenet. But there is no passion in me. Still, it is natural for a man to be attracted to a woman. Maybe it is the Eternal female67 that pulls me, or some suggestive power, as Kleist says. It will probably be the latter because why does it keep pulling me to her. Or is the male nature – this strong and resilient nature – only one half of the essence, forever seeking the other part, an inborn tenderness and caressing. This remains an eternal riddle.

Contemplating the magnificence of the universe

It is a beautiful night. The immeasurable mechanism of the universe stands still. There are no strings or scaffolds, and still it stands there. With what speed this immeasurable expanse runs, while dust – a man – contemplates all that. Where does it all lead to? Why does man have a body when he is a soul in his essence? Why? Where? How? Eternal mysteries. Thought – spark – mind, this little spark of eternal Truth leads us toward elevated thoughts and lets us comprehend as much as we can; and what is the Immeasurable. When I think about this, I become dizzy. A flash, which a man cannot contemplate. The Spirit of the Earth68, but not an ugly face69; a flash of absolute Truth which the little spark cannot withstand.

Banja Luka, 25 June 1914 – (17 years and 6 months)

Criticizes the girls’ superficiality and comments their vocation in life and in the world

The other day at Sips’s there was a Falcons’ party. The falcons70 did a good job exercising. The little one (Miss Franjić) was there and I danced a little with her. I escorted her home. The day before yesterday I was in her shop with Ante. She was especially beautiful. Miss Vlašić and she are good friends. They spoke about death. Both desire it. I wouldn’t be surprised that one of them like Greta… they don’t know why they live. Or, they spend the whole day at their work and think. They come to the conclusion that time passes and when death arrives, it seems as if you were just born. There is no idea that would support them in the world. They don’t know that life is a sacrifice. They love each other, they are tender and gracious, but they don’t know why they live. They ought to have some female organization for them to see what great mission they have among mankind (upbringing of children, supporting their husband, promoting the good, enthusiasm for some social work). They have no inkling that they are obliged to work for another, and not merely pursue pleasure. They – this is the female nature – would help everyone, but their reason doesn’t tell them why. They believe in the Almighty, because their feeling tells them so. This is good. Why do they go to church? They don’t know, but they like to see men in the church as well. Ante and I were closing the shop that evening and we escorted her home.

Making friends with works of literature

Every afternoon I work for about four hours. I am nearly done with maths. I read Verlorene Liebesmut. Yesterday Ante and Debossens came to me and we worked together in the park. Novalis’s Anthem did not appear in Luč, and they sent no notification of receipt. It is always stormy. Life like this is stupid. If I had money, I would study Shakespeare and send an essay to Luč for their jubilee.

Banja Luka, 28 June 1914 – (17 years and 6 months)

The killing of Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo

Terrible! I am making a break in my diary. Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the throne in Bosnia – in Bosnia – killed! His wife too! Where is the dream of the Croats!? The fate is pressing down on us. The ideals are broken, a poor young man stands and mourns. Killed by the “friends” of Slavs, the Serbs. His wife also dead. Barbarians!

Banja Luka, 29 June 1914 – (17 years and 6 months)

A detailed account of the Sarajevo assassination

Yesterday I couldn’t finish because my parents came. Everything is still secret, but I found out all. There was a whole Serbian plot against him. Firstly, they found a dynamite charge on the train from Metković. In Sarajevo, a bomb exploded and general Merici, if I am not mistaken, was seriously wounded. When Ferdinand found out about this, he rushed by car to the hospital to see him, and at once, near the bridge by the town hall, revolvers started shooting from all sides. He was wounded at first, then he leaned to the left, then she was wounded and she fell upon him. He lived for ten more minutes. They say an officer jumped on the pupil Princip who shot Feredinand and tumbled down with him into the Miljacka River, and nearly drowned him. God! Along with that there were many innocent – small children – wounded, killed. Murder and utmost malice! What is the Prince Marko – the ideal of the whole mankind – doing? Dying. This mean plot is a symbol of Serbian mentality. One nation is good in its essence. Or not? Does hereditation apply to it? The future will decide. Is this plot a sign of striving for freedom? No way! Freedom is an ideal to which one aspires by honest means. If Ferdinand had been a tyrant, enemy of the Slavs, one wouldn’t wonder, but he had the heart of a man. The Czechs and Croats loved him more than anyone else, and now their hopes disappeared like smoke. Those who say they are one with the Croats – the Serbs – destroyed everything. What do they deserve? History will judge them. This excessive egoism, Nietsche’s nature without faith, it will all bring about appropriate fruit. The age of the French Revolution will come to Bosnia. Egoistic people will instigate the people under the guise of freedom. A mutual butchery will start. Animals! – The human beast71 will rise: He calls it Reason, but only uses it to be more a beast than any beast as yet. I also heard that Catholics and Muslims – the Croats – joined forces and demonstrated against the Serbs destroying the Hotel Europa and other.

Franz Ferdinand and wife Sophia in Sarajevo on 28 June 1914 entering a car immediately prior to the assassination.

Behavior of the Serbs after the assasination

An exemplary organization of Serbs has spread its network all over Bosnia. And here is some kind of centre. The Orthodox bishop of Banja Luka got the order – God knows why – to flee from here. Supposedly a demonstration is being planned. The army is on the alert.

An even greater contempt grabs you when you know that yesterday was St. Vitus’ Day. There was a Falcon provincial rally organized.72 They exercised since 6 a.m. With the 9 o’clock train around 1,500 peasants arrived. Among these were the “blood brothers”, peasant Falcons anti-alcoholics. It was nice. The Falcons came from Zagreb too. They had their own music and organized a procession of some 3,000 people, peasants, Falcons, peasant women, children, citizens which paraded through the town, etc. Ahead of every peasant group was an Orthodox priest. One had a Falcon cap instead of a priest’s. It was an impressive procession, but terribly dead. Usually there is singing on these festivities. When it became known, everything broke up and all the peasants were sent home by train. What is most odd, all of them had a black ribbon 73. Where did they get them when the shops are closed? They already carried them along. It was so brilliantly organized that they knew Ferdinand would be killed and therefore they came here perhaps to stage a mutiny. Also in Brno, there was a mutiny. But the biggest irony of all was Croatian flags which the Serbs unfolded on the exercise grounds and in front of the railway station. To kill a friend of the Croats, and as a sign of friendship to unfold Croatian flags! Irony! Where then is sincerity and love?! From this chaos, Truth will emerge unscathed. Where is Christ, whom His enemies crucified and who gives the Light of the Truth? He will lead his followers out from the chaos.

History is the struggle for Truth!

Assassination of Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo on 28 June 1914.

Banja Luka, 30 June 1914 – (17 years and 6 months)

Events after the Sarajevo tragedy, reactions among the people

This morning I found out from the newspapers that everything I heard yesterday was true. My father also told me that the Montenegrins and Serbs created a de facto union. Petar and Nikita are not in Montenegro, to give the impression that the plan for the assassination was prepared without their knowledge and to break out across the border, thinking that the entire army is engaged in maneuvres. They were wrong. Potiarek sent the Jäger (Hunters) and said: “Kill everybody without excuse”74 As a military man he must have pangs of conscience that partly due to his fault his future emperor was killed. This evening the Muslim Croats and Catholic Croats are organizing a meeting to decide how to publicly express their sorrow. But it seems that the destruction of the Balkans75 is in preparation and that they are getting ready for butchering with the Serbs. The pupils – the trustworthy ones – have been invited. This doesn’t smell good. To show publicly that they are dissatisfied with the Serbs, but not to destroy. This is not positive work. Evil must be overcome with good.

I am not nervous any more, I realized: Political poem, phooey, an abominable poem76. You cannot arrive at anything by nervousness and hatred. An absolutely evil character exists only in phantasy, not in reality. The Serbs acted meanly, but it doesn’t follow that all of them are evil. Otherwise, they couldn’t have created wonderful epics – of an ethical nature – about the Prince Marko.

Arrest of Gavrilo Princip immediately after the assassination in Sarajevo on 28 June 1914.

Work for the graduation exam, girls

This morning I was at Ante’s. In the afternoon, I learned the Alps and lay down. Maraković gave Ante the text that he will ask him. He is too good. I wrote it for him. For Debossens I made the comparison between Lazarević’s and Goethe’s Werther. A fresh copy of Luč came to me and I composed a poem in Debossens’s name for his darling Miss Balijan. Ante and I gave it to my little one and said – spurted out – that Šandor wrote this for his darling, and that we found it accidentally. The little one – Miss Franjić – will give it to Miss Balijan.

God, give me strength not to be low-spirited.

Banja Luka, 2 July 1914 – (17 years and 7 months)

Continuing preparations for the graduation exam

Yesterday and today – morning and afternoon – I worked and completed geography and nearly all of the civics. But I still don’t know it. The graduation exam is on the 10th of July. Here a court martial has been declared. Standing on the carriage, Rosman – the guard and soldier – blowed on the trumpet or beat the drums and read the Declaration. During the day, it doesn’t matter, but at night it is unpleasant. One cannot utter a single word. Maraković gave Burzić the text, and confided only to me: from Precko’s novels. I don’t know if he is doing well. He is helping Burzić, but I have the feeling he made a pledge not to give off any secrets. But, as he never committed any evil and always did only the best and most noble, I gather he knows why he is doing that. I wrote up the assignments for Burzić, Katović and Debossens.

In the afternoon, I walked and waited for Luban, but I didn’t find him. I think a year has passed since his mother died. Quickly, how terribly quickly time passes. The same is with Greta. But about her the next time…

Banja Luka, 4 July 1914 – (17 years and 7 months)

Contemplation about the universe, man and God

Nine o’clock has passed. The train arrived, and I said farewell to my friends Katović and Anto. The rain was pouring outside, and the clock ticked tic-tac, tic-tac. I reflected. One year ago, the earth was in the same place in the universe. But, as soon as I have written this, it has travelled an enormous path and it always gallops and whistles through the universe, at an enormous speed and it takes it a whole year until it completes its journey. Our small earth, and us, these tiny people, tinier than the smallest of worms. We look upon it through a magnifying glass and we see it moving. This incredibly small thing is an organism which moves, feeds and has its purpose. And we, huge people, never care about these myriads of tiny organisms. But, what is eternity? Man and worm is not a good comparison – it is no comparison at all. The worm and the whole earth. This is too little, too. The worm and the universe, maybe. Yes, this is the real one. What is man the worm compared to the universe? The body is the worm, but man is not the body, there is something invisible in him which forgets about the body. His spark – an infinitesimal part of His spark, but still it is from Him. And this fragment gives us the power to conclude about the whole universe, about infinity, even about Him. This is wondrous.

Remembering the first love and a critical review of Greta and her life

Elevated by wonderful harmony, by melodies I feel but do not hear, by images I know though I have never seen them, I now think of my first love. What a fall from Eternity into transience. Everything that might have been evil in that and transient has gone, while the exalted and noble part still lives in my heart, elevates it and feeds it, maybe even sows a good seed. You Almighty, please, let it be so! Maybe at that moment she breathed her last breath. I didn’t even know of it. I fervently prayed to God to keep her alive and was convinced in the success of my prayer, but it was too late. She has already ceased to be. Her soul has rid itself of the transience and went. Where to? Into eternity, but God, I am overcome with horror when I think that she took her own life. Life is a struggle for Truth, and she cowardly withdrew from this struggle. She was a child of the 20th century, of lenient views. If she were alive now, maybe everything would be different, maybe not. Maybe I would still be a child of the 20th century. Who knows? The Almighty directs everything in the best way.

The first love is the deepest, and therefore, this memory is sacred for me. I didn’t take flowers to the cemetery because the feelings would grow dull if exposed to the world. Her father and mother are crying, maybe, and I feel heaviness when I bring the images into my memory. She was smarter then her companions, she always read books and was enthusiastic about reading. But no one gave her the depth. Her life was drifting away monotonously, she was thinking of every new day how it comes and goes, and she waited for it to pass. Maybe she would have gotten married, had children and died. Life is like that. She didn’t know why she lived. Maybe she didn’t even know that there is an Eternity and that all the wonders of the world, all nature lead us to the awareness that an Immeasurable Spirit created all that, from the Ideals of mankind to Truth, Goodness, Beauty. It is all past now, I will pass too, and everything around me, but we will all still be. Maybe she is! I am enveloped by darkness when I think that she might have lost Eternity. God, merciful God, hear the prayer of this weak little worm who fears to look at You, whose heart is being poisoned by the devil, o give, you Eternal God, give Greta Eternity! Forgive me all my evil and show me the way of righteousness.

A spiritual comment on the political situation after the Sarajevo assasination

Let’s get back to the people. Life is a struggle for Truth, and so let us look at it. The graduation exam is on the 10th of July. I learned most of the civics. Today I didn’t work, because I attended the Requiem for Ferdinand. A lot of people, and there were Muslims, too. A cross versus the crescent moon! Thirty years ago, they would kill every Muslim if he entered a church, and now they are all getting together. God giving, it will be “one herd and one shepherd”. This will come with the centuries. No one went to the Orthodox Church, and at 12 there was a service in the mosque. Muslims – Bosnian soldiers – were led by the Lieutenant, a Muslim. Wonderful. If they only received support, and not followed the stupid Austrian politics. By giving them the schools, etc., they would get to be the best of friends, otherwise the most bitter of enemies. This is their nature.

In the afternoon, I was in the convent school and I took a ride in a boat with Seid and Plach. Beautiful. Then we talked for a long time in Seid’s office. Alić was also there. We debated politics. His conclusions are healthy, but he is imbued with the anti-dynastical spirit, without himself knowing why. He could be led on the right track, because he is amenable to deeper thinking. All of them are anarchic. For them to commit an assassination is nothing at all, and they do not consider that evil must be overcome by good if one wants to work for the Truth. “Who hits you with a stone, you hit him with bread”. I could see that he is fond of me, and he is sorry to see that we had just gotten to know each other and already we are being separated. That’s life.

I walked with Ante and Debossens. I saw my little one and her long hair. I asked her about the the poem and she told me that Miss Ballian was angry. Her mother doesn’t let me escort her. I gave Täugenlitz to Miss Vlašić, so she could learn German. In the evening, I took a walk with Bürger. He is still good as he was before, but he has changed. I remember the time when he was proving Christian ethics to me and its grandeur, and now he tells me that he would kiss a girl. Innocent though he is, this is what he says.

Yesterday Ljuba went to Zagreb. I spoke about Ante and he told me he would give me something to read about Turgenev (maturation exam in German). I am tired. Good night.

Banja Luka, 6 July 1914 – (17 years and 7 months)

Graduation exam is getting closer, various reviews of daily events

Time flies with terrible speed. Almost twenty days have passed since the written graduation exam, and I have the feeling it was yesterday. Every day I worked quite a lot, and nothing was done in the end. And there wasn’t so much to do. Yesterday I repeated civics with Ante and Šandor and I know it. I am done with it. Today I repeated mechanics and in the afternoon in the park with Bürger some physics. But I didn’t really learn it. Tomorrow and after tomorrow I will do physics and math, the things I don’t know, on Thursday geography and history, and on Friday it is the first day of the exam. My turn is on Saturday. I believe I will face this nuisance in cold blood. During the twenty days, I could have studied Shakespeare through and through and received moral support. This monotonous work kills a man. I didn’t talk a lot with the little one. I went to her with Bürger to have my sour milk. There wasn’t any. Miss Ballian gave Šandor the poem and they teased each other. I feel stupid. “The wonderful moonlight shines…” On the day when they killed Ferdinand, Andor Stern was there too. A financial aristocrat. A man of his era. Every one of his thoughts has an erotic element.

I am incapable of thinking. I would like to spend the whole day on a boat, swimming, singing, jumping and get rid of “majestic” books. Men of letters are not the books, they are the reflection of beauty and nature. Like nature, they lead you to metaphysics.

Banja Luka, Wednesday, 8 July 1914 – (17 years and 7 months)

Transiency in love, plans for the vacation

Life – work. This work is stupid. This life is pretty stupid anyhow, but still dear. Yesterday and today I worked the whole day (six hours) and completed physics. Tomorrow morning I will complete geography and history. With that I am done with the preparation for the graduation exam. In other words, it took me half a day longer than I had planned.

I come every day to Salvator Street where my little one walks with Miss Vlašić. We pass beside each other, but I cannot join them on account of her mother. I love her although I don’t know her. All of this is transient. It is difficult to find anything that I loved as much as I loved Greta, and even that has passed, I have memories, it ennobled me, but one can live even without it. My diary is my only memory of the poetry in the midst of this stupid work. I will go to the seaside. Where, I don’t know. I would prefer to go to a place where they speak only French. Alaupović is coming tomorrow with a car. The Director told us, the high school graduates, to greet him.

Banja Luka, Thursday, 9 July 1914 – (17 years and 7 months)

End of preparations for the graduation exam, visiting a girl

In the morning, I finished geography, I just leafed through it; therefore, I don’t know it. I tested Ante’s German (Nobel Prize, Sienkiewicz, Romantism) and his knowledge is excellent. In the afternoon, I took a bath. At 5 p.m. inspector Alaupović came, and we greeted him. I went to see my little one before the arrival of his car, and I went to her in the evening too. She read The Spring Waters, Taras Bulba. She is beautiful. It was raining. Ante is afraid of German. I am not, because I am aware that I did even too much.

Banja Luka, Saturday, 11 July 1914 – (17 years and 7 months)

Graduation exam is over

Finally, the end77. I graduated. I got rid of the worry, but… I cried at noon. God only knows why. A new step. The childhood is over. Great duties lie ahead. Ideals become real issues. Life will pass too.

Banja Luka, 12 July 1914, 2 a.m. – (17 years and 7 months)

A touching farewell to teachers and colleagues

This is probably the most beautiful and the saddest day of my life. Sadness prevails over gladness. I grew up with my colleagues, for eight years we have been together and now we celebrate the separation. It is almost hard to believe. It was hard to part with the teachers, too. Especially with Ljubo. We were all one body and one mind, we knew each other and we blossomed one beside the other. Therefore, we understand each other best. Everything will pass, but some memories will remain with us for as long as we live. When we shall meet as old men, there will be a tear or two in our eyes. Life is like that. A strange riddle. He explained all that and this is how it must be. A cup of honey must be full of bile, too. A detailed description follows when I am calm.

Banja Luka, Friday, 17 July 1914 – (17 years and 7 months)

A detailed account of the graduation exam

Today at 5 p.m. I am leaving for Abbazia – Opatija and therefore I hurry to write what I neglected earlier.

The first day of the graduation exam was 10th of July, Friday – a full week from today. In the morning, the turn came for Bijelić, Bürger and Burzić. The exam took place in the class 2a (…). I got up earlier than usual and we all waited in the corridor beside the school administration. The inspector was late, of course. When he finally arrived, the whole commission – Ljuba, Alaupović, the Director, Harazin, Pavičić, Leinert – entered inside. They conferred for almost an hour, and we were waiting impatiently outside. Finally, the door opened and we were called in. The room made a strange impression on us (…).

(In continuation Merz gives a detailed account of his graduation exam, as well as that of his colleagues, full of detailed observations and events that occurred as the exam progressed.)

Opatija 19 July 1914 – (17 years and 7 months)

Train ride to take a rest in Opatija, parental love

I break the order of my diary, because otherewise I couldn’t describe my impressions. On July 17th at 5 p.m. I set off on a train. Mom and dad made up their mind regarding my journey when they found out that Mrs. Teschner is coming too. They telegraphed to inquire if there is a spare room and when they found out that there is one at a price of 9 crowns, they sent me.

I kissed my mom, and my dad. Real kisses. I could feel all this love in them. We looked at each other once more and we kissed again. How sweet this parental love is. Love is stronger than hatred or fear. Hossana to Christ whom I insult so much.

In the train compartment, there was a lady with a small girl. We laughed all the time, the child and me, when we saw that we were a match for each other. In Prijedor I saw Joso. He asked me about our last evening together. In Dobrljin I spoke to Marjanović and he was again complaining of his career; in September, he is getting a post in Bosnian railways. From Dobrljin until Zagreb I dozed off. At midnight, I switched to the train for Rijeka. Everything was full and I stood the whole night in the wagon corridor. It was terrible, one couldn’t properly sit, nor walk. I had a difficult time until morning. There were girls – especially one, chestnut brown eyes, full face, round, a bit pale, with long eyebrows – she took my attention. She put one leg up on the heating tube so that, along with her mild innocent face she looked rather heroic. It was a dream, she is there no more. Two young ladies, one of them ugly, entered 2 hours before Rijeka. The ugly one talked in detail about her sister and her love affair with a certain Marko, etc, and envy was coming out from her every word. I arrived in Rijeka at 7 a.m., took my suitcase and one Croat, seeing that I don’t know my way, took me to the coast. I took a coffee in the coffee shop and went to the ticket office where one could see the nationalities of all kinds. With some luck, I got the ticket and proceeded to the steamboat. It was raining, and a terrible wind was blowing. Later I went into the salon. In Opatija, a servant took me to Pansion Lederer.78 Here the senior waiter, a philistine79, an arrogant young man told me he had a room for 14 crowns. I was shocked. With pains, I got one for 10 crowns.

Ivan in a boat (first to the left) during holidays in Opatija, July 1914.

Opatija, Pansion Lederer (Habsburg), room No. 96

19 July 1914, 21.45 hours – (17 years and 7 months)

Vacation in Opatija

At the first moment, I felt terrible. I was worried for having to pay so much, and on the other hand, I heard all around me the splutter of the stupid Hungarian financial aristocracy – Jews. I was looking for someone I might know, but there was no one. It was only on the second day that I noticed my distant relative Mr. Lochner playing in an orchestra. I strolled with him twice and he gave me some useful advice. He is strongly against the Slavs. He says – Opatija was built by Germans, Croats didn’t give a cent.80 This is true, but from this it doesn’t proceed that Opatija is German. This is the ancient land of the Croats and they couldn’t build it because they had no money. It is normal that they want it back, and it should suffice for the Germans to be able, as compensation, to build German schools on Croatian soil.

Yesterday I took a boat ride, and in the evening I was in the Quarner guesthouse with Krudil, a pupil from Gorica whom Mr. Lochner introduced to me. A nice chap. Today I got up at 10, went to swim until noon, had lunch, slept, went on foot to Lovran and back, listened to the phonograph, had dinner, went to my room, wrote five postcards: home, to Burzić, Bijelić, Georg and Seid. I do this every evening. Today I received cards from Šandor and dad.

Pension Lederer, today’s Hotel Agava in which Ivan stayed while he was in Opatija.

Commemorative plate put up by the Brothers of the Croatian Dragon in 2007 on the Hotel Agava (former pension Lederer) in memory of Merz’s stay in Opatija.

Opatija, 22 July 1914 – (17 years and 7 months)

Swimming, walking, remembering Greta, prayer to Mary

I got up at 9, sunbathed a lot, and got a suntan. On the beach the erotic element has a strong impact on me. I see that instinct is a terrible thing, it could throw all my ideology into the mud, and still it raises its head on every occasion. When I ask the Virgin to help me, she helps me a lot, but the instinct keeps coming back. Sojourn here is pleasant for the body, but people think too much of the body. All they think about is when they are going to eat, sleep, where to go now, what to do later. The sea is extraordinarily beautiful, but it is hard to enjoy it all by myself. If there was only somebody here who understands me. I always remember Greta. Whenever I see a girl smiling with a guy, I find it hard to bear. The likeness of Greta I will never find. And even if I found one, the memory of Greta would cast a shadow on this relationship and it wouldn’t be so deep, so sincere. After swimming (at a cost of 1.58 crowns including milk), I went to the Lokey guesthouse for a lemonade, and then to lunch. In the afternoon, I slept, then went to Kuruzmica, had ice-cream, and met Krutil, the pupil from Gorica, took a boat ride with Mr. Lochner and Krausz. After that I bought the photographs, had dinner and returned home.

Strewn about on the table were the postcards which I wrote home, to Joco, Kulenović, König, Bürger, Šerbetić.

Opatija, 23 July 1914 – (17 years and 7 months)

Critical towards immoral behavior

I got up around 9. The postman woke me up. I got 100 crowns from dad, and secretly 10 crowns from mom. She sent it to me because she wants me to have a good time – my good mom! I will never be as good. The sky was overcast, and the waves were propping up rushing toward the coast. There they hit the cavities in the rocks and were forced back to meet the oncoming waves, and at once there was only a lot of foam. I didn’t swim today but took a walk to Kurumzica. In the Andolina beach I saw the liberalism of morals. A man grabbed a black and beautiful woman… He was not ashamed of the world and everybody laughed. And with all that, she sat on his leg, etc. Someone played a Wagner’s melody solo when the rain started and everybody scrambled for cover.

Inspiration in nature for his poem Storm, the only poem which remains preserved in his heritage

I came home, and a terrible storm appeared. To spend the time until lunch I took Heine’s Nordsee and read a beautiful Sturm, Thalatte and one more. In each one of them the picture at the beginning is exquisite, but by the end he stops painting and casts in verse his mythological knowledge and his sarcasm. I also got the idea to try myself out like Heine in free verse and I know that my rhythm is occasionally scandalous. For the purpose of versification one ought to start like Heine, with the easiest verses.

S T O R M

I sit alone by the window
And gloomily I look at the flashes of lightning
Which appear and disappear
With roar and thunder.
The winds howl
And chase one another like phantoms
And strike powerfully
At my windowpane.
The spirits of storm lose their power now
And run effervescent somewhere far away
A cloud gathers
Showering a cold downpour
On the lush green of the trees
Which shiver moving left to right
And bend
Only to rise boldly again.
Then the sky starts to appear
And the blue cover
Starts to show its pure face
And I open my window.
Look – what scent now fills the room!
I long to breathe it all in,
My lungs are filled with the freshness
And the human heart after the storm,
Is born again like a charming sun.81

Refusal of eroticism

Lunch was bad. We were served stinking meat. Along with that, there was a long wait between dishes, so that the waiters were greeted with applause when they appeared. Everybody was pointing to a Bosniak, a Muslim. There was noise, applause, disrespect. Everybody was saying Tözek, Tözek82. A Turk, though he is a Croat – but it would be a shame to say he is a Croat. I slept until five, and taking a walk ran into Moska Poljokan. He was glad to see me, and so was I. When he saw a navy boat, he sighed – technology, technology. He started to speak erotically and I asked him to stop. He saw Kodaks in a shop and wanted to ask for the price. He was wrong. He entered at the wrong door into a store selling underwear. This is just like him.83 I wrote postcards home, to Carlo, Siebenaciger, Kurtagić, Kušnić and Jarakula. I wrote to all the colleagues. Tomorrow I plan to write to Ljuba. There is storm outside.

Opatija, 25 July 1914 – (17 years and 7 months)

Announcement of war, political situation in Europe, spiritual review

Yesterday I sent ten postcards (Kobsa, Kajnovchy, Ljuba, Nappey, Lanka, home, Alica, Debossens, Aranka, and Inuš) and today one to Pajić. I almost forgot him. With this I am done with writing. Yesterday I went for a swim and I lay down in the afternoon. I cannot sleep during the day, and not much during the night either, because it is hot in the room. In the afternoon, I met Lochner, and walking around he told me about his work. He is a good man. I met the young Bahtijarević, formerly from Banja Luka, and now attending trade school in Sarajevo. Elegantly dressed, like an aristocrat, red shoes, etc. I was glad, and so was he, that we met. Today I roasted myself in the sun. I got a suntan, but it’s a pity that I am still very thin.

After the beach, I came to lunch, and a young lady sitting next to me said that probably there would be a war. It was like lightning from a clear sky. I had forgotten politics completely. War with Serbia. Only now I remembered hearing the Hungarians speak “ultimatum, Serbs, bombs, etc.”, but I did not comprehend why. After lunch, I rushed to buy the Neues Wiener Journal. In bold letters it said that an ultimatum was delivered. There were a lot of phrases inside, but also a great amount of deep and justified feelings. It is evident that the politics of Serbian leaders is brutal egoism whose victims are crown princes and others. It is a pity that this egoism has penetrated into the Serbian people, who are basically noble, with Prince Marko and Fairy Radoijla as their ideals. Now, this egoism is being taken as something sacred – going from one evil to another. History is a fight for truth, I repeat, five million evils struggle for one grain of truth. You get this grain of truth, but then there are new evils which you must fight. Prince Marko is asleep. No one listens to Christ, although he lives in the minds of deeper people. Our Monarchy has a lot to blame, but if we would like to take a straight road, an even greater evil would occupy us, because the opposing side doesn’t have the slightest intention to pursue the right road. I read Figaro and it is terribly chauvinistic. It takes a stand with the Serbs. It says: Austria, instead of protesting because of the assassination, makes political and economic moves which are unrelated to the Sarajevo event. Then it threatens saying that France and Russia are on the Serbian side and that a larger confrontation looms. If they only knew – and maybe they do know – how terrible the politics of Great Serbia is – they conduct their politics in the most frightening way, by assasinations, spreading of pamphlets, sending bombs, vulgar education of the youth.

In the afternoon, I lay down, and then went to listen to the music. I met Bahrijarević, and later his brother Faik and the humpbacked one – womanizers. But I always steered the conversation elsewhere. I walked with Bahtijarević while the music was playing, and we liked what we saw, and they liked us too; a Croatian girl of beautiful and intelligent appearance. We laughed. But she vanished. Later we went along the seaside, looked into the air and teased people. Now I have sent the postcard home. Until now I have spent 96 crowns (for 8 days).

Opatija, Sunday, 26 July 1914 – (17 years and 7 months)

Spiritual reflections on the state of war, visit to the church

The impossible is happening. We are already at war. No one expected this from Austria. How energetic. Surely, the Count Tisza84 must have his fingers in this. It is just to punish the egoism and brutality of the Serbs, but Europe could have done it. Barbarism of the 20th century is greater than its culture. Instead of solving this in several days, it seems now that the egoism of the nations will lead to a world war. From this war, Truth will emerge unscathed. Everything will pass – but My Words shall not pass; but there will be many new evils. Again, after that, one side will fight for the rights of the righteous, but they will do it by evil means, and all over again. A new evil should be plowed over with a plough that cuts deep inside the ground, not with something that merely slides on the surface (Turgenev). This morning I went to church, but it was packed and people were standing outside. I couldn’t follow the Mass from outside, so I left. Which means, two Sundays without the holy Mass. I myself am a lot to blame. I could have gone there earlier.

War disrupted his vacation, uncertainty

I found out that the war is on. The Serbs didn’t accept the ultimatum. They have the Russians behind their back. Some say that trains are not runnning, some say they are. I didn’t know where to go. I cannot stay here because of my parents. They are worried. If the trains are not running, I will go to Bohemia. I sent an express card home and told them this; to be certain, I went to Rijeka and here everybody was crowding around the man selling newspapers. Here I found out that the passenger trains are going in all directions. I returned to Opatija, just in time for the music. They played

Radetzky March, Tzarevska and other pieces. One guy didn’t take his hat off and they slapped him all over. The same was during the morning. The passions are high. Stink of the 20th century culture. I met the Bahtijarevićs and Mrs. Trdak and Bahtijarević took a photo of us. She has been here for two months and now travels with me to Banja Luka. I am leaving tomorrow morning at 7. I have 30 crowns. So, 23 crowns is the price of the apartment, and I gave 11 crowns as a tip.

Zagreb, 31 July 1914 – (17 years and 7 months)

Departure from Opatija, everywhere crowds due to war

Mrs. Trdak didn’t come on the steamship. I went by myself. In Rijeka I jumped into a full tram and headed for the Railway station. Everything was crowded. Some women, Serbians, pushed their way through rudely and asked for tickets for Belgrade. The train was entirely full. People were rushing into the wagons, fighting, pushing, shouting, and women were in despair. I watched. People are truly Nietzchean. They push one another to get a better place, but this system of Nietzche’s proved to be a bit unpractical, because there were non-egoists among the people who helped the vulnerable ones and stopped the rude ones who wanted to get a place at any cost. This is a picture of life itself. In the words of Goethe, Only the laws can give us freedom85. They – the laws – determine the path for us to follow in order not to come into opposition with others and on which we can develop immeasurably. Such is also the Christian faith. It is a moral law for us and it opens the immeasurable path which is just and shields us from coming into opposition with the good. The wagon was full to overflowing and we stood in the corridor. We waited for a long time for the train to leave, full of soldiers. Some arrogant Jewish boys quickly found a place for themselves, while the women and children had to stand. When I got tired, I went to the toilet and there sat on a bench. Later I went to the dining car, had a good lunch, and pushing my way back through the wagon came upon Malvić. In the afternoon, I arrived in Zagreb and left the luggage in the left-luggage office.

Zagreb, 2 August 1914 – (17 years and 8 months)

Reactions of the citizens in Zagreb to war, demolishing of Serbian buildings and institutions

I immediately went to Mrs. Teschner’s to tell her not to go to Opatija. She was sleeping when I came, and Mrs. Supanek received me. The unmarried husband of this lady was drafted into the army, and there is rush in the house. I went for a walk with Mrs. Teschner. At once, in the Ilica Street someone shouted: “The Serbs are demolishing.” We were startled, and then they clarified it and said that the crowd was demolishing the Serbs. We hurried to the Jelačić Square where the crowd had gathered and saw the fire burning in Nikolić’s store, while some lads threw stones and kicked at the store. I was horrified: it means that the Croats, when the Serbs are in danger, destroy them. But the crowd was elated. When the firefighters arrived with a nozzle, they didn’t let them extinguish the fire. As a matter of fact, they threw all the stuff out of the store and set it aflame. The army came and everybody vanished. When they realized that the army wouldn’t take any action, the crowd shouted: “Long live the army.” Then they went into the People’s Coffee Room, threw the chairs onto a pile, broke the doors and set it all aflame. On the monument and around it the people lined up and looked at the things burning. Women were happily throwing the chairs into the fire, and men broke the doors with shovels and legs and threw all of it into the fire.

Then the crowd left while the kids shouted: “Down with the Serbian murderers”. They went toward the bank and Ćuk. Ćuk was destroyed in an instant. Metal window covers were torn up like paper. The bank was bombarded for a long time. They threw shovels up toward the windows, and whenever a glass was shattered, the crowd roared with pleasure. They threw large stones at the doors. Some rabid people, blood flowing all over them, were banging their fists at the shop windows, climbed on the doors, unlocked, descended, and again kicked at the green venetian blinds on the first floor. When the outpour of rage was over, the army came, but people already gathered at the Serbian Falcon and threw large stones at the shutters. Somehow, they managed to get inside and they pulled all the new chairs, piano and other furniture onto a pile and set it aflame. Everything burnt up. The army blocked all the streets, and the people receded toward the Zrinjski square where they demolished the Drobac’s shop. At that moment, martial law was declared in Zagreb, and the people gradually grew quiet. After that I went with Mrs. Teschner toward the Railway station (she paid for my dinner at Jägernhorn) to escort her friend’s lover. Today he passed the second state exam and is already on his way to the Russian border. He is a Serb, but nevertheless he goes. He doesn’t look very intelligent to me: he doesn’t know who Schönpflug86 is. The whole station was full of soldiers and he kissed us farewell. It wasn’t easy for him. Both Mrs. Supanek and Mrs. Teschner cried. Another woman cried with terrible gestures and at first it seemed that she was laughing. I escorted them and we looked at the debris. A carriage passed by the Drobac’s shop and the coachman said the sausages were braking the carriage. People were all around us, while the army stood guard in front of the Starčević home87 and in front of the Maraković house. What contrasts.

At first I wasn’t approving the demolition, but now I see that it is an outpouring of the Croatians’ sincere nature. They know that the commissariat was introduced for the sake of the Serbs, that the people whom they demolished are Sebian disseminators, that bombs were found in some of the shops, and they poured out their rage in such a way, destroying their material possessions. True, there were people here eager to fill their pockets. They did not harass anyone in person. They were enthusiastic about the fight and shouted: “Long live the Croatian king Franz Joseph, long live the army, long live the Croatian army” and other things.

Critical view of the attitudes of Greta’s mother

When I had escorted the ladies in the rain, a woman passed by and raised her skirt so that a lot could be seen. I turned instinctively and they started to talk about the erotic, and that I am going to change, in that manner. It was hard for me to hear such things from Greta’s mother whom I love a lot, but I see that this single erotic element in the upbringing of her daughter killed a natural religious life in her, so that she opted for suicide. The mentality is this: I live from day to day, I allow myself erotic thoughts, I live from day to day, without prayer and thoughts of eternity and life loses its purpose. Why not kill oneself, one then asks at the moment of resignation and one can really do it. We parted and I proceeded toward the Railway station and found Malvić and Mrs. Trdak. She in a red dress was sitting with a young lad. She loves him. When we were alone, I could see that he is a fanatic enemy of the Serbs, though I had thought he was a decent lad. Immediately after, he switched onto the erotic. I see where’s the point.

Return to Banja Luka

We entered the train and Dr. Panzal (army) was also going to Banja Luka. We slept as we could. We got out in Sunja to get some coffee. In Dobrljin I found out that mother departed to Opatija on account of my being there. I got off at Ivanjska because dad was transferred there. He is fine. Firstly, we spoke about mother and I should have gone the next day to fetch her in Opatija, but I decided instead to wait for her return. I slept there and the next day I came here. Everything is as it was. But, the army is gathering. Mom came the next day by train and told us she had suffered terribly. Being so nervous she ate nothing at all, she was only looking forward to seeing me, asked the waiter and I was not there. She went home immediately, carrying heavy suitcases by herself toward the train. She had to sit outside where she was trampled upon, and women told her the waiter must have deceived her, that I was still in Opatija. She cried for making this whole trip in vain and thought she might never see me again because they told her she had been drafted into the army in 1896. She was happy when she came home, but she is still a bit nervous.

Banja Luka, 3 August 1914 – (17 years and 8 months)

Social and political situation in Banja Luka after the outbreak of war

War was declared upon Serbia and therefore I wish to portray the colors of the town at this time. The reservists and the draftees came from the villages by trains and carriages. Around 4000 peasant carriages gathered on the Banja Luka Field and every day they go towards Mostar. Reservists and draftees are situated in the high school building, girls’ school and the Orthodox school. The peasants gathered around the church and they sang, went to fetch food, write down the names. Among them were Bogdan Babić, Poljokan, Izrael, etc. The day before yesterday they departed to Gradac. As bombs and other compromising material was found among the Serbs and as some of them are obviously traitors, a large number of Serbs in the town have been arrested. The organization of the break-off from Austria was exemplary. Only now materials were found which show that one day all the non-Serbs would be slaughtered here. Zarić, Mirković, Dabić, Glušac, Popović, Kostić and others like Škarić are under arrest. As a matter of fact, Dr. Kumanović, our Director of whom everyone thought as loyal was also locked up as a traitor. It is known that he knew of the assembly on the Zrinski-Frankopan day (30 April 1914) and that he didn’t report it. As this assembly was anti-dynastic, the leaders Jarakula and Kurtagić whom they brought from Vlasenica now lie in prison. Jarakula wanted to talk some Croats into this, but without success. Bürger is imprisoned though innocent. He didn’t think that “Yugoslavia” was anti-dynastic. He was merely in favour of love between the Serbs and the Croats, and had no thoughts of “Greater Serbia”. Because he said he was in accord with the Serbs, thinking they are pro-dynasty, he was accused as traitor. He is prepared to die, as I see it. Kučinić was searched on Jarakula’s accusation, but they found nothing. Some other pupils were examined, and Tomjanović, who took part at the secret sessions on Yugoslavia (four were held, as I heard), told everything and pulled in a number of teachers.

Developments of the situation on the home front, engaged in the Red Cross

Enthusiasm for the war is great. Our army bombarded Belgrade and already entered Serbia. Many soldiers are taken prisoner. Russia began mobilizing, and Germany declared war upon her and the navy is already bombarding Libava88. The Germans are terribly energetic. Even if this is a just war which wants to steer Sebia’s politics in the other direction, others must meddle in. Justice is on our side, God will grant us victory. The Croatian pupils of both confessions – as well as Jews – are enthusiastically against Serbia. They report to the gendarmes and police as volunteers. They march along the streets with other Croats with rifles on their shoulders, while long bayonets jut into the air. On their left arm is a black-yellow sign (Vereshchagin’s painting). Those who did not report to the army, joined the Red Cross. There are many ladies here. I was assigned to the Red Cross Post Office. Yesterday the Croatian Home Front soldiers came. The train arrived, and pupils and other Croats sang on the platform the Croatian anthem…and shouted: “Long live.” The soldiers reported in great numbers. Young ladies showered them with flowers. Coloner Schnitzler greeted them and gave over the town to them, and the Mayor greeted them wishing them to feel here at home. They sang the Tzarevska, Ahoy the Croats, Drina River and there were outrageous shouts against the Serbs. The soldiers were escorted and everyone along the road manifested against the Serbs, against “Serbian propaganda”, “the bombers”. This was even too much. Stupid women with kilometer-long tongues cried out without a heart. It would have been better to sing only patriotic songs and to shout with a sacred seriousness: “Down with Peter and Great Serbian propagators.” The shouts could also be heard like: “Long live Germany and Wilhelm, down with Russians.” The demonstrators went to the Mayor and shouted: “Long live the Croatian Mayor.” He greeted them all and told them to be tolerant toward the Serbs. Then Kučinić addressed the Mufti and stressed the harmony between Catholics and Muslims who are one nation with two religions. The Mufti expressed his loyalty to the Emperor. They sang the Tzarevska89 for the twentieth time (earlier it was sung in front of the Balkan and Bosnia, etc.). I left with a cleric – I don’t know his name – and his sister and we went home. Reading in Hrvatska prosvjeta the article Autos sacramentales I came upon a brilliant idea.

Banja Luka, 6 August 1914 – (17 years and 8 months)

The flames of war envelop Europe

The world is aflame – the devil triumphs. I’m enthusiastic because I am fighting for a sacred cause. We declared war upon Sebia for our own defence – otherwise they would poison us from the inside. The politics of Russian nationalists for whom nationalism is a religion aligned themselves with the politics of the Serbs which would like to destroy the Monarchy and thus weaken the strong Germany. Germany – Emperor Wilhelm90 – out of a just interest for his people and Niebelung fidelity allied with Austria. France and England were envious of the development of Germany and could hardly wait for a better opportunity to strike at her. France broke into Alsace without a declaration of war and captured three small towns. Reading the reasons quoted by Poincaré, it is visible that it is all slapped together and written without a heart. They killed Jaures, the socialist leader who wanted a just peace. The German army passed through Belgium, and the English said, that allegedly because of this they declare war. That our cause is a just one can be seen from Wilhelm’s speech, which is so simple and full of content and with trust in God. Poincaré never mentions God. The Germans bombed Libava and entered into Russia, we are succeeding against Serbia, but there has been no reliable news as yet. Rumania, Turkey and Japan are on our side. Italy is neutral. The chauvinism of the French – although I love them very much – is seen in an incident when a French doctor with two officers wanted to infect a well in Metz with cholera bacteria. “Culture!” Enemy airplanes were seen in our country. It seems that Russia declared war upon us. They found bombs in Sima Milanović’s premises – who would think of that! He was such a fine young boy. Great God, please grant the victory to our just arms. Whatever there is of nullity among us, burn it!

Banja Luka, Monday, 17 August 1914 – (17 years and 8 months)

Further course of war events in European countries

God knows why I haven’t written for so long. When one has the least to do, it is hardest to find the time. We live in the times of great events, but it is correct to say that the time of great events doesn’t exist. Time passes and shapes the conditions. With the time, nations rise materially and spiritually, gradually expansive ambitions appear, and it leads to war, gradually even this is over, many evil things are burnt, new ones come about, etc. Every day, every second is the carrier of great events. Wars are merely an explosion and ripening which takes place through the seconds. The European war is on. We are at war with Russia and we are already 70 kilometres into their country. Who would have hoped for that? Everyone thought that the Cossacks would penetrate into our territory. The Serbs had said they would reach Vienna within three days. Only in these last few days our army began entering Serbia. Some units came all the way to Valjevo. Another part of the army is going through Albania. There were bloody battles and many casualties on both sides. The Serbs poison the wells when retreating. Barbarians! But this will only enflame the fury of our army. Strangely, no one expected Austria to be that strong. A just cause and the ethically elevated person of the ruler made Austria united. Rumanians fraternize with the Hungarians, Czechs and with the Germans. If Austria after this war remains as compact as it is now, it will have achieved more than the taking of ten Salonikis. The Germans are advancing strongly and energetically on both sides. Near Muhlhausen and Legarde they beat the French, and took Liége. There was a lot of blood and newspapers reported that the French and the Belgians behaved like animals. They were killing physicians and the wounded. The chauvinists were doing that; still, the French are a great nation. I didn’t hope that the German army which is at war on three sides – that it would advance on all three. The navy ships bombarded Libava, one small boat sneaked up all the way to the Thames River and planted sea mines, while in the Mediterranean two German boats bombed Golben and destroyed two big battleships. Our navy is still waiting. The Danube Monitors excelled by bombing Belgrade with airplanes. This is about all. Victory is on the side of justice.

Poland is almost entirely liberated. Pupils from all sides are reporting as volunteers. Our Emperor issued a decree to the Polish people in which he says that he came to liberate her from the hands of Asian barbarians, from the hands of a government which oppressed and banished from their country all free-minded spirits (Dostoevsky, Gogol, Gorky). There was a beautiful declaration by a Ukrainian deputy which speaks about the battle of culture against barbarism. Russians are suppressing their national features, forbid them to celebrate their greatest poet Shevchenko, etc. The English politicians except Grey say they are fighting alongside the evil ones. Professors from Oxford and Cambridge issued a manifesto in which they express the horror of making war on a nation close to the English, whose science and culture is being transplanted onto English soil, etc. Italy yesterday declared war on the French and the English. Germany will have to divide the laurel wreath with her.

Banja Luka – the Vrbas River. In the background the Town Bridge. On the right a tower and part of the walls of the Banja Luka fortress Kastel.

Rest, literature, religion which uplifts, colleagues in prison

These last few days I rode in a boat and went swimming. I was in Šargovac on the threshing. I see my little one more often and Miss Vikta too. I read the Holy Scripture, Shakespeare and Turgenev (Smoke). Everything for pleasure. I find great enjoyment in this.

Sometimes I appear disgusting to myself: my only solace after such a day are religious thoughts which I entertain when lying down. Religious life. Thoughts of Eternity. Death, Love, this is something great. Only skepticism, charged with terrible irony wishes to destroy what is most elevated in man.

My colleagues were in prison for a long time. In Milanović’s place the bombs were not found, as it was first said, but yesterday the people’s guard caught him in flagranti in an awkward situation with a woman, and paraded them both through the town. He is not the only one in this respect among the “good ones”. Inconsistency with an ideal.91 – Bürger and Jarakula are still in prison. Jarakula pleads not guilty (!), Bürger is fine, but his parents are crying.

Banja Luka, Sunday, 30 August 1914 – (17 years and 8 months)

Situation on the battlefields, fight for the Truth

I haven’t been writing for a long time, although I was feeling an urge to write. What has been piling up for two hundred years now exploded. The fight for Truth. Flame, storm, the roar of cannons, but It will prevail. If the Poles, Ukrainians and other enslaved peoples do not liberate themselves now, they will do so a bit later. It is a battle of unseen proportions. A German and a Frenchman are at each other’s throats. Namur has been taken heroically and the Germans are advancing against the French. The Belgians are inhuman. We were successful in Serbia. The Croats have excelled, they took Šabac and Valjevo. The Serbs were also beaten near Višegrad. But, we leave the war with Sebia and go on against the Russians. The Russian left wing penetrated into Austria, while the right wing was halted at Krasnik. It is a big battle, four days have passed, and still it is not over. Tomorrow we will know more.

On the ethics of warfare, on the morality of self-defence

I have a nagging question, is war in any case unethical? Does it imply achieving good purpose with evil means? When somebody attacks me, and wishes to crush me in body and soul, I have the right to defend myself to prevent that crime. The Poles are rising, this is self-defence. In this case the war is holy. After this war, Russia must crystallize itself. What is unnatural in her must fall apart. Only then the real Russia will emerge, a country represented by such great minds. It is bound to be a better government which will not expel the free thinkers.

A review of read works

I myself don’t know how I spent the time; I read the newspapers. I also played the piano, but since I was enrolled in the Red Cross, I stopped. I read Turgenev’s Smoke and it is obviously Turgenev’s work, but it cannot, along with all its beauty, be compared to the Home of the Gentry. The motif of demonic love is elaborated in too much detail in some parts. But, along with all that, we have a wonderful elaboration of the great world view92, the matrix and poetry of life. For instance, after many years they see each other, but he cannot remember who she is. They make the acquaintance anew. The technique of a realistic novel has borne success. Demonic love must give way to a simple one. But again, we see this characteristic of Turgenev: females are stronger than males. The key characters: Irina after her love lives in splendor, but without her beloved, while Tatyana after her break up with Litvin remains faithful to him.

Comparison between Miss Franjić and Greta

I meet the little one from time to time. I realize more and more that she is not for me. She has good traits, but lacks the spiritual élan, the breadth of vision that I am looking for. With Greta I could read Schiller, speak about history and everything else, she understood everything and actually knew some things better than me. She was well read and free in the world. There are few girls like that. I think that this relationship, it if is a relationship, will gradually grow cold. I was flying after her, no – I tried to find her, to talk, but when we met, we talked about things devoid of any significance. Today after Mass – I myself don’t know why – she told me I have thin legs like Šandor. Strangely stupid. I wasn’t hoping to hear from her this talk about the body.

Spiritual struggles and temptations, desire for sacraments of confession and Communion

The temptations attack furiously, but prayer keeps me upright. In the Holy of holies (Rabindranath Tagore) – in my heart, there is an unshakeable faith. Though there is still some skepticism left. It is an eternal struggle. I know I am not perfect, my sins ache, but I don’t know what they are. In the moment in which I commit an evil thing I see that it is evil, but later I forget and repeat the same. If only I could have an intelligent confessor here to open myself to him, a man who would understand and warn me. I will do my best to go to confession before leaving and to receive the Body for strength in life that lies ahead.

Pajić wrote. Maybe he will come. My Ante is writing. Says he recovered. From every line of his letter, and everything in general I can see that this is the good old Ante.

Banja Luka, Tuesday, 1 September 1914 – (17 years and 9 months)

Situation on the battlefields of Poland, Ukraine and Russia

A terrible fight is going on. Mankind has seen nothing like that as yet. It is about the existence of the Monarchy. The chains which bound Poland and Ukraine are cracking. Or maybe, the time has not come yet. Shall we go a step back in history? Hopefully the Russians will not win and enslave. Then it would take a couple of centuries to get rid of them. Our army is good, and the awareness that we are fighting for a just cause is pushing us ahead. God willing, we shall prevail. This is what it says in the newspapers.

Banja Luka, 11 September 1914 – (17 years and 9 months)

War developments in Russia, leaving for the Military Academy

Tomorrow I leave for the Academy. I read Smoke. Brilliant. I wrote something about him. Russians in Lvov. Belgrade destroyed. I spoke with the wounded. War is a terrible thing. One should kill all the Russian potentates. Russian people are good and against the war, but their rulers want a butchery because they are not going to war themselves.

Gospodska Street in Banja Luka along which Merz often strolled with colleagues (See Diary entry of 7 March 1914).


NOTES

 

1 Diary, 9 March 1914
2 Diary, 16 March 1914
3 B. NAGY, Fighter from the White Mountains, FTI, Zagreb, 1971, p. 271. (in Croatian)
4 As above, p. 270.
5 Josip VRBANEK, A Knight for Christ – Ivan Merz, Zagreb, VKB and VKS 1943, p. 150–153. (in Croatian)
6 This is Byron’s original text. Merz wrote it in German translation.
7 Dr. Ljubomir MARAKOVIĆ. Merz mentions him in the diary under three nicknames: Ljuba, Ljuban, Luban.
8 Dr. Petar PAJIĆ, priest, Ivan’s religion teacher in high school.
9 Prof. Petar SKOK taught Merz philosophy and French. Having become a university professor in Zagreb, he was Merz’s mentor in the writing and defence of the doctoral dissertation on the influence of liturgy on French writers.
10 Albert BAZALA, (1877 – 1947) Wrote the first History of Philosophy in Croatian language, in three volumes, Zagreb, Matica hrvatska, 1906, 1909, 1912.
11 Milivoj ŠREPEL, Russian Narrators, Matica hrvatska, 1894 (in Croatian).
12 LEINERT – teacher of mathematics in the Banja Luka High School
13 A Hunter’s Sketches – collection of stories by I. S. Turgenev
14 Painting of the Madonna by Raphael Sanzio
15 In the original he uses the French word: sujet
16 In the original he uses the German word “Nachschlagebuch”
17 Rougon-Macqart – a general name for all twenty novels by Emile Zola tied together by genealogy and inheritance of the main characters from the same novels.
18 Here he uses the old Bosnian expression meaning “to create disorder
19 The Technical High School which Merz attended
20 “Germans“ – Merz’s colleagues who were not well versed in the German language for the needs of the school and needed help
21 Merz quotes this verse from Goethe’s Faust in his Diary in German: „Meine Ruh ist hin, mein Herz ist schwer, ich finde sie nimmer und nimmer mehr.“ (1st part, Grethchen by the spinning-wheel, alone). With this verse, Merz wanted to express his inner turmoil and pangs of conscience with regard to the pupils’ adventure.
22 In the Diary the word used is consequenc
23 Latin: voice of the people, voice of God
24 Milieu (French) – middle, environment. Merz uses this word in French often in the Diary.
25 Goethe, Faust, (1st part, Martha’s garden, scene of Faust and Margaret)
26 German: Allerhalter, Allumfasser
27 Speech from the stomach
28 Catechisation scene in Faus
29 Scene with the Spirit of the Earth, in Faust
30 German: Goethe im Alter
31 Weltschmerz (German) – world-weariness. A popular expression introduced by the German writer Jean Paul, linked to the romantics from the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th century. Became widely accepted also on the part of the so-called “lay masses”. This is a term which denoted a collective feeling of sadness and helplessness which at that time took over thousands of young people, mostly artists and intellectuals. It is a sentimental feeling of a whole generation, and it was their reaction (and expression of helplessness) in front of evil, injustice and lack of meaning which, as it seemed to them, marked the world they live in. Young people, usually under the influence of poetry, were veritable victims of “world-weariness” and frequently resolved it in the worst and simplest possible way – by suicide.
32 German: Burgfrauenabend
33 Sippung – a meeting of the members of the German minority in which friendships are cultivated, along with presentations of art and humor. It started in Prague in 1859
34 L’art pour l’art – a French expression denoting opinion according to which art is a purpose unto itself. It is also a esthetic trend based on the thesis that style and works of art have a purpose of their own and do not need explanations or rules. The expression was first used by Theophile Gautier in 1835 to describe art freed from religious and ethical constraints.
35 Ivan’s colleagues broke into the school during the night to see their marks in the teachers’ room.
36 Hernani – a drama by Victor Hugo
37 German: Ständchen
38 Petar SKOK, teacher of French in the Banja Luka High School. Later university professor and Ivan Merz’s mentor for doctoral dissertation
39 French: “Good evening. The concert was magnificent.“
40 Medical examination before being drafted into the army
41 Moderna (modernism) is an art movement which was born in Vienna and lasted between 1890 and 1910. It relates to the development of modernism in the Austrian capital and its impact on philosophy, literature, music, fine arts, design and architecture. The Viennese moderna had its influence in Croatia, too. We had new literary trends born. The causes are a saturation with previous styles in literature (realism and naturalism), and the emergence of new ideological and philosophical movements. The founder of moderna is Henri Bergson who claims that the “unconscious” in man is the cause of everything that happens.
42 Gral – German literary Catholic journal
43 German: Auf den Pfaden des jungen Goethe
44 Out of respect for Christ Merz writes on all three places in this sentence Who with capital W
45 Old Church Slavi
46 The Jovićs – a well known and numerous Catholic family from Banja Luka which gave two Jesuits Matija and Dragan Jović
47 Greta was buried in the Travnik cemetery
48 German: O, dass sie ewig bleibe, die schöne Zeit der ersten Liebe.
49 Some high school pupils in Banja Luka, especially those of Serbian nationality, met secretly and discussed destroying the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy and establishing a new state of Yugoslavia. Merz knew of these meetings, and it seems from this fragment that the idea began to appeal to him. However, he is about to change his opinion soon.
50 The Falcon (SOKOL) was an organization dedicated to physical training and culture which attracted both the young and the adult in Slavic countries. It was founded in Bohemia by Miroslav Tyrš in 1862. It was based on liberal world views. In Croatia it was established in 1874. In order to protect the Catholic youth from negative influences of the Falcon’s liberalism, a parallel organization was later established, called Eagle which was based on Catholic principles and world view. The Eagle movement first appeared in Bohemia by the end of the 19th century, followed by Slovenia and in Croatia it appeared in 1919. Both the Croatian Falcon and the Croatian Eagle were abolished in 1929 after the Dictatorship of the 6th January and in their place the Falcon organization of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia was set up.
51 A deity from the Old Slavic mythology
52 Oskar POTIOREK (18531933) was an Austro-Hungarian general and military governor in charge of Bosnia and Herzegovina. By the end of 1913, Potiorek invited the Austro-Hungarian Crown Prince, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand to visit Sarajevo. Potiorek was in the car at the moment of Archduke’s assasination. The assasin Gavrilo Princip intended to kill Potiorek with the second bullet, but he missed and killed the Crown Prince’s wife. After the assasination Potiorek was one of the most vocal promonents of the war with Serbia. During World War I, he commanded the Balkan Army and 6th Army on the Balkan battlefield.
53 French: “Maybe this is the seed (of love). At the moment, I don’t know”
54 This organization, part of the large Croatian Catholic Movement was established by bishop Antun Mahnić on Krk in 1903.
55 Edify myself, find solace, encouragement
56 Latin: Memento mori – Remember that you will die.
57 Domagoj – a Catholic organization for the youth, part of the Croatian Catholic Movement
58 Turgenev’s story from A Hunter’s Sketches
59 Italian: our church. With these two words, inserted into a description of a trip, Merz wanted to express his feelings and love of the Church as an institution and spiritual centre which enriches our inner life.
60 Beuronese art – a school of art which was especially cultivated in the Gernan Benedictine monastery Beuron, according to which art was a means in the service of creating sacred content and glorifying God.
61 French: J’esprais pleurer mais je croyais soufrir
62 Serenades sung under the window
63 The original Croatian word is filistar – a limited person with a small-town mentality
64 German: Belagerungszustand
65 Croatian: The Pupils’ Gazettee
66 A female character from literature which he read. A woman waiting for her suitor with dignit
67 German: Das Ewig-weibliche
68 German: Erdgeis
69 German: Abscheuliches Gesicht
70 Falcon – SEE NOTE OF 3 May 1914
71 French: Bête humaine
72 Falcon, see note in the Diary of 3 May 1914
73 German: Trauerflor – a sign of mourning for the deceased worn on the suit
74 German: Alles ohne Pardon niedermachen
75 A Serbian institution in Banja Luka.
76 German: Ein politisches Lied, pfui, ein garstig Lied
77 Latin: Finis finaliter
78 Pansion Lederer – Today this is the Hotel Agava in Opatija (M.Tita Street 89). On the lateral side of the hotel, the Brotherhood of the Croatian Dragon, Rijeka-Opatija Branch, placed in 2007 a marble plate with the inscription in memory of the bl. Ivan Merz who stayed in this pension for ten days at his vacation in July 1914.
79 See note of 19 June 1914
80 Croatian: filir
81 This is the only Merz’s poem which is preserved thanks to the fact that it was written in the Diary. The others are lost. This poem entitled Storm he wrote in German. Here we print an English translation. It was translated into Croatian by Professor Ivan Macan, SJ
82 Hungarian: Turk, Turk
83 German: Das sieht im ähnlich (E.g..this is how he behaves in other situations as well)
84Count István TISZA of Borosjenő and Szeged (18611918), Hungarian politician, Prime Minister of the Hungarian government from 1903 until 1905, and from 1913 until 1917. His second mandate was marked by the entry of Austria-Hungary into World War I, althoug he himself was against attacking the Serbian Kingdom. He presided over the government until 1917. He survived several assasination attempts, but was killed in the end by a soldier in his house in Budapest on 31 October 1918.
85 German:“Nur Gesetze können uns die Freiheit geben“
86 Fritz SCHÖNPFLUG (1873–1951), Austrian painter, caricaturist, graphic artist, the author of artstic postcards
87 In this place, the Starčević home, opposite the Main railway station, Ivan Merz lived with his parents on the 2nd floor from 1919 until his death in 1928.
88 Libava, a town in Latvia
89 The Imperial anthem Gott erhalte, Gott beschűtze (God sustain, God protect) whose melody is identical to the German anthem, was composed in 1797 by Joseph Haydn, based on motifs of the Croatian song Vjutro rano se ja stanem (I get up early in the morning).
90 Emperor Wilhelm II, 1859–1941, the last German Emperor and King of Prussia.
91 French: Incohérence de l’ideal
92 German: Weltanschaung