AT THE UNIVERSITY IN VIENNA 1915
Enrolled at the Faculty of Law and privately at t Faculty of Philosophy
Ivan’s parents finally realized that the Military Academy in Wiener Neustadt was not an option for their son. With a heavy heart, they consented to Ivan’s enrollment at the University of Vienna. But, following the wishes of his mother, he had to enroll at the Faculty of Law, not Philosophy as he had wanted. However, keeping it secret from his parents, Ivan enrolled in certain courses of the Faculty of Philosophy in which he was particularly interested. This was literature and the arts. In addition, he was preparing himself intensively for the exam in Latin which he did not learn in high school, as Latin was the precondition for his further studies at the University. He passed the Latin exam at the end of October 1915 in Sarajevo.
Confrontation with atheism and immorality, moral crisis, struggle and victory
In Vienna, Ivan laid a broad foundation for his literary, artistic and scientific education, his subsequent broad horizons and a deep religious culture. He observed everything, but accepted only what withstood the test of Catholic criteria. First of all, he observed and cultivated himself. Coming from a small-town environment to the University of Vienna, Ivan encountered a scientific and literary atheism, and its practical moral and social consequences. And, although already being a convinced Catholic, he wanted to lay down once and for all the account of the correctness of his convictions. The crisis of faith as well as the crisis of morals never had a strong and acute form in Ivan’s life. Religion was taking more and more the place in his soul which had been previously occupied by art. But, this process did not go without struggle. He was preoccupied more and more with the key issues in Christian life. He faced an intellectual crisis of faith. When surrounded by nature, he was obsessed with pantheistic thoughts. He rejected them. The intellectual crisis of faith in Ivan’s soul ended with a clear and decisive: Credo!
Ivan conquered also the moral crisis in his soul and his life. He was often in the company of young girls. From time to time he had to combat the sensual element which would surface in him. But these were only brief moments. He fought valiantly and emerged victorious in this, perhaps the most difficult of crises for a young man. He wrote in his Diary on 12 December 1915:
“I am at peace, perhaps for good, with nature; the female element has played out its role in my life. I have no more dealings to do with women. I will not fall in love, as this could degenerate into sensuality… The other day I promised to the Blessed Virgin chastity until marriage; but maybe it will last until the end of my life.”1 Before going into the army, Ivan wrote the following sentence in his Diary: “Chastity, eternal chastity should be my motto!”2
Guided by God’s grace he overcame both crises. Once they had been dealt with for good, Ivan placed God in the first place in his soul. Since that time, he knew of only one goal in life: to get as close to God as he could.
Cultural and social activities
In spite of weak eyes, Ivan read numerous novels, dramas and poems and gave extensive accounts and analyses of them in his Diary. He was a frequent theatre-goer as well as a visitor of Vienna’s museums and galleries. He used to buy reproductions of art works in the form of postcards which are preserved to this day and kept in his museum in Zagreb. On Sunday afternoons, he used to go into nature. The night sky strewn with stars never failed to amaze him and he mentioned it in his Diary too.
Following enrollment at the University, he became member of the Catholic Academic Society “Croatia” which was founded in 1903 for the benefit of Croatian students in Vienna and which was the root of the later Croatian Catholic Movement, initiated by the bishop from Krk Antun Mahnić. Ivan diligently attended the Saturday meetings, took part in lively debates, and occasionally even gave lectures. This was his main social environment. However, he was also critical of some members of the Society who were not in line with the moral goals of the Society and the Christian world-view, and he wrote about this in his Diary.
Long after graduating from high school and going to Vienna, Ivan stayed in contact with his teacher Dr. Ljubomir Maraković who continued to exert a positive influence on Ivan’s further cultural, spiritual and religious development. Ivan wrote to him often, and Maraković responded by giving him advice, motivating him to read books of value, debating with him on various issues in art and literature and the like. In one letter dated 15 June 1915, Ivan described his inner crises and struggles which he managed to overcome. This letter is an important illustration of his inner turmoil and crises that he had faced and we inserted it in the Diary from the period where it chronologically belongs.
Ivan completed this first period of his student life on 28th February 1916, when he said farewell to Banja Luka, entered the army, and thereafter went to war. This was a period which mostly contributed to his full commitment to God and Catholic faith which will become his life’s calling.
17 January 1915 – 28 February 1916
Vienna, 17 January 1915 – (18 years and 1 month)
Propensity for thinking, prayer to the Blessed Virgin Mary
I haven’t been writing for almost a month. I accommodated my desire and came here to learn law. All the tasks are almost completed and gradually I am becoming a man.
I think, therefore I am.3 Indeed, until now I have had little opportunity to think. Here everything is motivating me to think. If I see a gothic church or building, a baroque theatre – I think; if I see artistic paintings – I admire them, if I go to theatre I cannot even recollect all my impressions. From now onwards I think I will keep a diary; this is where I will analyze all the impressions which occur during the day.
My prayer is now turned towards the Immaculate One: let her escort me in every step in this city. Let all my movements, all that I see be directed towards the beautiful. In general, I want to take pleasure only in the beautiful. I think first of all of the theatre. I will buy tickets for the theatre at subscription prices and will try to become enraptured by all that is elevated. The same is with all other arts. My motto is Keats’s words A thing of beauty is a joy forever.4 It is only with Beauty that one can come to the Source.
Vienna, 18 January 1915 – (18 years and 1 month)
Gathering artistic postcards
I am enrolled. I spoke at length with Rešetar. He is an especially kind man. He asked me about Glušac and Čorović. He also asked me to get him some old Bosnian banknotes.
There are beautiful artistic postcards here. I bought Mater Purissima by Morelli, the Sixtine Madonna,5 Head of Christ by Reine and Liotard’s Chocolatière. It’s a pity I don’t have more money. I take some strange pleasure in pictures. Madonna and Jesus are particularly beautiful. That drop of blood on the head is terrible. In any case the religious paintings are the deepest of all.
They play Ibsen and others in the theatres. I must find out what are the cheapest places and hope to find books in the University library to prepare myself. I learnt Latin.
Vienna, 22 January 1915 – (18 years and 1 month)
Worried for his eyes
I write, but I don’t see what I am writing. They gave me atropine at the clinic. I am worried: worried for my eyes.
It is very nice here. The landlady’s daughter is intelligent.6
If I go blind, it would be terrible. God forbid. I created my entire spiritual life by looking and what if it all disappeared?! I am not so much attached to music. I will try to practice piano from time to time, to learn the pieces by heart, because who knows…
You eternal Mother, You who are the embodiment of Poetry, of everything beautiful and eternal, let me go on receiving the gifts of beauty!
Vienna, 27 January 1915 – (18 years and 1 month)
Admiring Christ in the Eucharist
Thank God, I can see enough to be able to write. I find it hard to read. I would like my eyes to be normal, not to lose so much time. I am lagging behind in Latin. I will have to work a lot if I want to make up for all that I missed.
On Sunday, I will receive Communion. It is incomprehensible that Christ, God the creator, the One towards whom everything strives, whom one feels when sleeping and when awake, the One who is strong and all-powerful, who is the mover of the universe, the One who cares about every blade of grass and every little worm, Christ whose arms and legs were pierced by nails, whom they spat upon, the One who raised the dead and loved children, the one who obscured the sun at his moment of death, and shook the earth, that he will be mine, that he will talk with me, a man whose spiritual recesses are known only to me. In this I see that it is Him, because in this He is showing his immeasurable love.
Walk along the Viennese Kärtnerstrasse
Yes, the Earth is spinning around. This I know, we learn this in school. I am strolling through the brightly lit Kärtnerstrasse. Various people, ladies with huge hats, red caps and white and black shoes, officers with bright buttons and cloaks. The cars pass, then the bicycles, buses and other things. Suspicious ladies, with tightened belts, wearing caps, with red and blue hair over the ears, flagrantly weave their way among the public. Some young man in a cloak with buttons, gray hat and stick with a white knob follows them from behind, throwing lustful glances at them. They don’t look, only turn inadvertently at him and weave their way further – the young man trailing behind.
Amazed at the star-lit night sky
I had enough of walking. I left the noise and the bright lights and only now I noticed that it is full moon, that it showers its silvery light on the roofs and gardens. There are a million stars in the sky. Those near the moon are whiter; those toward the horizon have a yellowish hue.
I leaned on the fence and looked upwards. The stars competed in twinkling. I saw a silvery cloud slowly sliding, coming closer to the moon and reflecting even more of the silvery light. It covered the moon but the moonlight was clearly visible through it. Its edges were silvery and yellowish and clearly distinguishable. Then the image changed. The right part has fallen apart, and the left shone even more. At once the moon appeared again in all its beauty.
The movement of the Earth and heavenly bodies
I looked and looked at all this beauty. The stars were still twinkling. I turned towards the Great Bear, the Pleiades, Sirius, everything was twinkling. Looking upwards, I seemed to lose touch with the ground beneath me. I could feel the Earth turning, that the twinkling is only the consequence of this rotation. I felt alone on this orb, and the Earth and me travelled and turned through the universe. The moon is turning too, as well as all the stars. They chased the Great Bear whistling in their direction. Everything is one giant movement, every star has its path, passing beside one another without colliding. The Earth continues to move, to turn around.
The Spirit permeates the heavenly beauty, but people don’t care
Where do all these worlds come from, whence this infinity, this orderly movement, this beauty? I feel the silvery threads of the Spirit who holds it all, who is nothing else but silk full of music playing silvery, extremely high melodies. I can see the threads of this Spirit in the shining Moon, in the stars, in the silvery dew which covers the fence. The entire universe and the whole soul is filled with this Spirit, and I am overcome with the desire to shake off the dust and to raise myself to his feet and to listen with my head bowed down and with closed eyes the melodies of his harp which reverberates like thunder and whose wavy sound turns again into a silent melody.
“State of emergency“,7 somebody woke me up. I snapped awake. What – isn’t the whole world raising its eyes, its heart toward Eternity? – “Great successes in Bukovina”8 – God, what is it? No, they’ve forgotten you; the worms fight, bite and kill. Have they gone mad? With such a beautiful sky, how is it possible?! I quickly left the park and mingled among the people with a balmy feeling inside me. The boys and women shouted “State of emergency”, the world stood in front of the window reading the most recent telegrams.
Vienna, 28 January 1915 – (18 years and 1 month)
Review of the lectures, criticism of bad behavior
Today I got up a bit earlier. I studied Latin, then I went to the lecture in French. The professor talked about the key works of Maribeau, especially on Marianne, a work indigestible because of its numerous digressions. I am very interested in that. In the afternoon, I again studied Latin, but didn’t do much because my eyes are still weak.
Professor Jurenka is an odd man. Even when serious, he seems to be grinning. His mouth is wide. With his good-natured blue eyes, he jumps from one subject to another, raising the skin on his forehead which creates horizontal lines: “Remember this, gentlemen”9, he says raising the forefinger of the right hand. I was again on the Corso. My yesterday’s account was rather successful. The image of Kärtnerstrasse must be portrayed even better. I saw at an exhibition the semi-act of Bukovac’s “maid”. I feel sorry for Pelz. I like him because of his love for children. He warned me about the rudeness of some members of “Croatia”10. True, there are several among them who are most uncultured, who swear and talk of lascivious things only, etc.
Vienna, 29 January 1915 – (18 years and 1 month)
He is happy, describes the impressions that art works make on him, looking forward to Communion
I am happy, simply happy. Everything is going well. I see a beautiful picture – I am happy, I see good people – I am happy, I dress nicely – I am happy.
I saw Segantini’s paintings At the Plough and In Spring. The first of them is particularly beautiful: until now I haven’t seen such a beautiful landscape11. I imagined myself being in the Alps, looking at those horses, fields and those mountains. I saw a lot of Böcklin’s paintings. Herbstgedanken reproduced in black and white is better than in color. Water is particularly beautiful. Jansen, a scientist from Egmont can be compared to Falstaff. An enormously strong figure of a literate man from the 16th century; a lot of humor mixed with cunning and patriotism. The language he uses is unsurpassed.
I am very much looking forward to receiving Communion.
Vienna, 31 January 1915 – (18 years and 1 month)
A better understanding of love, perceives the predominance of reason over the emotions inside him, some devil tempts him to doubt
Plach came to me. He was drafted into the army. For memory, he wrote several very beautiful sentences from Emilija’s letter. He confided to me being in love with Emilija.
(Here follows a part of the letter by Emilija Stiks, Rudolf Plach’s girlfriend, which Plach wrote with his own hand in Merz’s Diary)
Now I realized that love truly exists, that all these love phrases are an outpouring of a strange feeling, unknown to me. The eternal female draws us to itself.12 Truly, I am surprised by the warmth and conviction of Miss Stiks’s love towards Plach and the other way around. I believe that I am not capable of such deep emotions. In me, regrettably, reason is more at work, critical analysis and upbringing. What I see as noble in myself may not originate from emotions, but reason tells me that it is good and I act accordingly. In general, human nature is complicated, there is a devil who meddles into the deepest and most noble things so much that it makes me doubt in everything I have built inside myself with enormous effort.
I wrote to my parents, Plach’s parents and Miss Stiks.
Going to church and Communion
This morning I went to church. In the afternoon, I went to the “Croatia” Society. Buconjić was elected president. He seems good. Life is beautiful! The day after tomorrow I will receive Communion.
Vienna, 9 February 1915 – (18 years and 2 months)
Remembering Greta, thoughts about war, giving a lecture on Parsifal in the “Croatia” Society.
I thought of Greta. I would love to go visit her parents to see the furniture, especially the piano. Sad memories connect me to that place. I was in the ZFV Society which has as its motto All are one in Christ13. A professor of Lutheran theology discussed the issue of war in Christianity. He opposes war. I don’t know whether I am for or against it. It goes without saying, I think only of the wars for liberation. The current war was unavoidable.
I saw Parsifal. The impression was great, but not complete. I must see it once again. In the “Croatia” Society I gave an introduction to Parsifal, and I am due to continue next Saturday. I am glad Wayner liked Turgenev’s Fathers and Children. I am working on my Latin little by little.
Vienna, 15 February 1915 – (18 years and 2 months)
Review and comments on a theatrical piece that he saw
I returned from Raymund’s theatre. I saw Verschwender. A rich man squanders his wealth. He also gave to the poor.
(Here follows a brief account of the content of the drama and his comments)
The piece is moralizing. I think it might be good if it were modified a bit. The peasants love to watch things which triumphantly end up good.
Vienna, 18 February 1915 – (18 years and 2 months)
Analysis of a piece he saw in theatre
I just came from the Burgstheater. On the program were Wallenstein, Lager and Piccolomini. Regrettably I didn’t hear everything precisely. What I saw and understood was truly wonderful.
(Here follows a brief account of the content of the drama and a critique of the main characters)
The issue of love occupies him again
There is a nagging question in my mind, like Bazarov’s, whether love exists or not; is it something physiological, corporeal. Tolstoy denies love towards a woman that was celebrated in verse. Turgenev in Fathers and Children portrays Bazarov to whom, like Tolstoy, reason says that love is purely animal. Bazarov exaggerates a bit, but if I only think of his relationship with Arkadia: she loves him, but won’t admit it to him. On his part, he feels that she is something apart from the others, that there is some unknown passion for her which is not borne out of animalism, but caused by some spiritual, mysterious female features.
Love is his sphynx, remembering his love of Greta
To me love is a sphynx. Reason tells me it doesn’t exist, but when I think of Greta, I must admit that love exists. True, it had animal consequences in me. Nevertheless, I love Greta even now, and as I feel regenerated after her death, I think that, if she were alive, I would kneel before her asking for forgiveness for considering her an animal; but, this is past and love draws me to her. This love is not friendship, this is something else that cannot be verbalized – a sphynx?!
Criticizes Croatian Catholic students who behave immorally
Tomorrow I am travelling home for a court hearing.14 This is an account of what I did. I studied Latin more than was requested. I am nevertheless dissatisfied; I wish I had done more. I studied Parsifal thoroughly and gave a lecture in the “Croatia” Society. There was no debate. These people are not in their right mind. They swear, chase girls and are no different than all the others. I don’t know why they are members of a Croatian Catholic Organization, how do they intend to cultivate new fields in a Catholic way when they are partly un-Catholic. Generally, they lack a deeper outlook upon the world. They do not experience the problems of inner struggle and inner perfection. E.g. Puljić – the ex-Franciscan. Terribly one-sided. For him philosophy and history are everything, whereas he ignores, moreover insults the fine arts, music, dance and other things. One day he will be a teacher and educate people! He won’t succeed in that. Otherwise he is good and courteous. I was in Prater and on Kahlen’s hill.
Banja Luka, 28 February 1915 – (18 years and 2 months)
Taking pleasure in beauty and desire for strenuous work
I was writing in my other notebook. I am going back to Vienna tomorrow. I am dissatisfied. Here is the feeling which I focus upon: I enjoy a painting, I enjoy Wagner’s opera. I enjoy everything that is beautiful and I am dying of thirst for beauty. After every moment of pleasure, I snap out of it, and I see – I did nothing and there is such a lot to do. I want work, enormous work which will engulf me, so that I can think of nothing else. Perhaps work itself can be a source of pleasure, i.e. it prevents the feelings of dissatisfaction to appear. Work, toil and do all you have to do. Don’t think! Be a machine.
And I love her, though I know that she is not the chosen one of my heart. I cannot love her. I am trying to love her, to make her love me without questions about knowledge and everything I accumulated within myself.
Vienna, 4 March 1915 – (18 years and 3 months)
Clearly feels the existence of a soul, careful of outward appearance
I visited my parents. It was wonderful. My life is study and study only. Chances are I will fail the Latin exam. I still know nothing. This mustn’t happen, so therefore I am only studying Latin.
Today I feel clearly that the soul exists. I wonder how come my inner self, that which constitutes my being, is enclosed within a body by which the world knows me. Whatever body I might have, the face of Plach or X or Y, I still remain the same. I feel this so clearly. Observing people, I shouldn’t look at outward appearances at all, but penetrate into the soul. Outward appearances only irritate. A pure soul is visible in the look, in the beauty of the face. When looking at women it is difficult to penetrate into their essence because the magnetism of beautiful forms tarnishes clear vision. One should rise to such heights that while looking at a woman one doesn’t have the slightest feeling that one is looking at a woman. Only then can the Eternal female be discovered. Not before.
Vienna, 8 March 1915 – (18 years and 3 months)
Listening to a Brahms concert, reads Bourget
Yesterday I was in Wiener Konzerthaus. They played Brahms’s Symphony in D-major. The first part was beautiful. Not that I understood it. Kuliš was at my place today. Earlier I thought of him as a trader, but now I see that he is a true lover of art and that he exceptionally loves the Beurons.15 A strange coincidence that we met.
Bourget writes in a particularly beautiful manner: The outer triumphs and defeats show the inner qualities and insufficiencies.16 He works on the reorganization of the French society. I did some Latin.
Vienna, 10 March 1915 – (18 years and 3 months)
Criticizes Rilke’s view of Rodin, because this is the decline of morale
A candle burns on my table. Soon it will be midnight. I still hear the music, see the dead Werther and the winter landscape. It would be interesting to describe the impression of Werther, to analyze him, but analyzing myself seems much more important at this point. It is about the following sentences from the work of Rainer Maria Rilke about Rodin17:
(Here follows a quotation in German from Rilke’s work about Rodin in which the author, describing Rodin’s naked sculptures glorifies bodily pleasure without any moral constraints)
If I agree to these thoughts, it means I am throwing away my whole ideology and start building a new one. These words shake the existence of morals. Do they? Rodin’s naked bodies are wonderful. It is true that the passion towards a woman is a natural instinct. But, God, is it more of an artistic nature? (Is it like a gold digger?) At night, he gets up silently, sneaks up to her bed and looks beautiful… a wonderful play of nature. But why look; one ought to experience it oneself. I imagine myself sneaking towards the bed… But woe, that which is in me pulls me toward her with demonic power, while something is telling me: “Stop, you are doing wrong”. It is all about these two things: shall I go to her and drink delight from the embrace of our bodies… And live and die in that delight. But, even in this delight I will not find true pleasure.
Renunciation of worldly pleasures for the sake of reward in heaven
This powerful, demonic pleasure is holding us, but at once we stand up. We hear: Memento mori – remember death. What is holding you now shall pass, only one thing will remain after you and that which will remain did not consume the delight of those demonic moments. Not to enjoy means struggling against nature, as a matter of fact, denying it. I feel strongly that there is life after death and that this demonic life has nothing to do with it. It exists purely for the principle of justice. Justice is not a principle, but a spark within us and it tells us, if we want to achieve something we must really burn out. Rodin’s sculptures are wonderful, magnificent, burning with life, and the larger and more shining they are, the greater the pride for us, if we suppressed the greatness of this transient luminance for the sake of the luminance of eternal beauty which for the moment is still untouchable by our senses.
Life is a sacrifice, one shouldn’t look at many beautiful things! Danger of female beauty
Generally, I came to a conclusion: the battle against modern views is, it seems to me, concluded. Life must be a sacrifice, and we shouldn’t look at many beautiful things. I must now judge myself for having looked at a beautiful lady showing her cleavage in the opera. It is a fact that female beauty has something enchanting, beautiful within itself and in these transient moments we must always close our eyes and contemplate only the eternal content. Life is a mighty struggle which requires me to burn out, not to look at the beautiful. It is due to this struggle that a man’s life attains a higher purpose. To fight passion for a beautiful woman, conquer it and rise to those heights where the passion is not felt any more, but to look at the woman as one looks at a man, means to achieve the greatest of victories. Many people have perished because they succumbed to the demonic beauty of a woman. I almost got caught too. But from now on I declare: to close my eyes and not seek this principle of beauty which is only here and now, and to set up a battle whose reward is eternity.
L’Art-pour-l’art is the glorification of the devil
The principle of Rodin’s art is l’art-pour-l’art which cannot be justified because it is the glorification of the devil, glorification of the beauty which is a visible, momentary, sensual pleasure. It is the glorification of the transient nature which builds by destroying. The art ought to glorify a battle against this beauty; if, however, it creates such a beauty, the tendency must not be its glorification as if a different kind of art didn’t exist, but should be presented as evil which results in something good.
Vienna, 12 March 1915 – (18 years and 3 months)
Analysis of the moral and immoral in dance, attitude of the Church
Today I wanted to study Latin more than I did. I didn’t do it because I couldn’t resist the desire to read as much as I can from the history of dance. The book is written very well. It starts from the beginning18 – from nature to man. Further on, it explains the history of dance. Very interesting reading. The history of dance is a cultural history of a people. We know of Egyptian dancers, of dances in honor of Dionysus and the bacchanalia. Finally, the Christian era in the lewdness of dance does not lag much behind paganism. The attitude of the Church toward dance is interesting. It both attacked and defended it. St. Basil recommends it, while other Church assemblies condemn it. Of course, they do. It is not dance as an expression of feeling which is being condemned, dance as an art, but the degeneration of dance is condemned, immoral movements. They have nothing to do with dance and they often led to evil. In observing dance one should be very careful. Here, like in sculpture – Rodin – it is an expression of the desire, longing for a woman. One finds this in folk dances, but here the yearning is not for the Eternal female, but a simple gratification of passion. Such is the majority of Spanish dances. If I take a wheel dance and compare it to other peoples, I can grasp the greatness of our Croatian and Serbian folk in Bosnia. These are morose dances which, with the accompaniment of extended melodies, express the waves of tranquil and contented emotions. Actually, these expressions of pleasure are exaggerated, lacking in life energy. When I think of a wheel dance, I remember the work Our Cop by Đalski.
Is sensuality in art and dance justified?
I steered a bit off my track. Is it justified that sensuality is glorified in art, even in the mildest form? Or, is one allowed to take the images of the sensual, I am free to say even sexual life, to symbolize or express an inner feeling, an idea?!
Tolstoy says that all the arts are merely an expression of sensual longing and that due to that they cannot be justified. He is partly right. Dance, sculpture, painting, music and literature are all that. I have doubts about architecture. Dance, as I have said, led to corruption. It became pure bodily pleasure (ancient Rome!). Such dance is surely unjustifiable. But, in present-day salons there is dancing which is not pleasure in itself, but which with most refined movements expresses the desire for pleasure. The goal is simply sensuality. It does not proceed from that that dance is unjustified. It must represent with outer movements the inner states of the soul, and even more, represent friendship, love, etc. One must use one’s body in that. We should not condemn even if one point of this dance was a kiss. It might express the solidarity of a soul. Dance is art, an expression of the striving towards eternal beauty, not sensuality.
Moral dilemmas about nudes in art, Rodin and Sinding
Is a nude in sculpture justified? I myself am not in the clear regarding this. I believe it is. But, a nude must not be used only for expressing sensuality; coming back to love – it must be a means for expressing spiritual greatness. I do not judge Rodin’s Kiss in the same way as Rilke does who says that here that type of love is presented which draws the male sex toward the female. In my view, this is an expression of love in a spiritual sense. Every inner state is reflected on the outside, so that this adherence in Kiss is being painted in nudes too. I may be wrong. But, let’s take Sinding’s19 Kiss. Sinding presented the depth of love better, only he does not possess the technical skill of Rodin. Rodin’s nude could evoke sensuality in someone. Sinding’s never! After all, do the Greek sculptures evoke sensuality? Never. That’s why I say, nude in art is justified, it only depends on the tendency, what it is used for. If one wanted, one could produce a face which evokes sensuality. But this is a touchy question: why is sensuality inborn in man. When a nude is allowed, and does not evoke sensuality, how come I know that a girl that would uncover herself to me would commit evil. This very natural question refutes the sophisms in favor of the nudes.
A. Rodin – Kiss (a sculpture)
A never-ending story of the relationship of body and soul
I did not arrive at anything definitively, and I conclude this story with a big question mark. Time will tell. It is a fact that a Madonna made by a simpler painter evokes greater enthusiasm and leaves stronger reminiscences than a nude by Velasquez. This shows what real art is. Humans are destined to deal with these unhappy questions about the body and soul. This never ends. One cannot draw a dividing line, because we are both. Micika20 likes Rilke: “One shouldn’t be so narrow-minded”21 she says when I told her that my world views do not agree with Rilke. If she upholds the view that the animal instinct in man, heroism and natural beauty are the principles of good, she should be immoral. And truly, she is not. We live in an age full of contradictions.
Vienna, 14 March 1915 – (18 years and 3 months)
The death of Eckert, comment on operas and judgement of their value
Eckert22 has died. They say that Spreiser the elder was killed. All men of value are dying. Wagner resolved the problem of art in Tannhäuser. From the mount of Venus, he exits with a cry towards Mary. A path is traced from Rodin to Raphael. At least that’s how it seems. Wagner proved in Tannhäuser that the problem of the nude has the right to exist in art, if it is the carrier of a decadent idea.
I finished the book about dance. Nicely written. One ought to learn it all. I didn’t do any Latin. I will do so tomorrow. I wanted to go to the Volksoper to see Rossini’s
William Tell. The remake of Schiller’s works is an assassination of art. I now see that the literary value of operas is nil. It is only melody which predominates. These opera writers lack a deeper view of the world. It is said of the young Brahms that he had no talent for drama. Ivić23 came to visit me yesterday.
Vienna, 16 March 1915 – (18 years and 3 months)
Conversation with colleagues about the people, review of a text by M. Gorky, enthusiastic about Faust
I went to visit Ivić in the monastery. Poljaković and Vlado came with me, or rather, I came with them. We talked about all kinds of things. Mostly about the life of the people, the public morals and immorality. They were telling jokes. I didn’t do a thing. I read Emelyan Pilyai.24 A beautiful story: we see all the desperation of these poor people who are in their nature extremely noble, people in the full sense of the word. They lose their ideals only because of a bad organization of the state. They survive hunger, live worse than animals. I leafed through Faust again. The more I read it, the more I admire it. Kuliš went to Prague yesterday to join the army.25
+ Cum Deo
Vienna, 17 March 1915 – (18 years and 3 months)26
Vow to St. Anthony for healing of the eyes
Seido was here in the afternoon. We talked and took a walk. I worked a little. Time goes by in vain. Yesterday I made a vow to St. Anthony that for two months – until the 15th May – I will not eat sweets, if only my eyes get to normal. Help me God!
Vienna, 18 March 1915 – (18 years and 3 months)
Everyday events, the Blessed Virgin Mary helps
I did some Latin. A postcard from Viktorija came. In the afternoon, I was trying to find the Künstlerhaus. Without success. I went for a walk with Ivić talking French. I saw a soldier without legs and one arm. A lady from the Red Cross pushed him in a wheelchair. I read Ibsen’s Rosmersholm. Again, some social conflict which doesn’t leave a deeper, artistic impression; about the conflict itself, I will think later. I talked with the landlady and her daughter about death. The landlady is particularly good natured. When she sees beautiful flowers, she is almost moved to tears. She was telling me of her husband’s illness. She prayed to the Blessed Virgin Mary to keep him in this life. At night, she dreamt that Jesus came in a white garment while an old lady was praying to him for her. She described it all very nicely. Another instance: she saw a piece of tin on the floor. She threw it away. Tomorrow she found it again in the same place where she had found it the first time. Her son picked it up, wiped away the dirt and she noticed that it was the picture of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Her daughter said that whatever she asked from Mother, her wishes were granted. There are strange things in this world, my friend Horace!
Vienna, 23 March 1915 – (18 years and 3 months)
Impressions from a visit to a gallery, analysis of Goethe’s drama Torquato Tasso
Ljuba sent me a postcard. This morning I was in the gallery. I didn’t expect to see such great names represented: Rembrandt, Raphael. The works from the 15th and 16th century failed to make a deep impression on me. They all express the same thought: an epic story of love. Generally, the entire painting of the Renaissance contains nothing lyric in itself. It is all a story of love and the life of Christ. When I left the gallery, I felt dizzy. My brain couldn’t take so many paintings and impressions at once.
A little while ago I came from the Burg. Goethe’s drama Torquato Tasso was on. Goethe is truly a great poet. Elevated and dignified. You don’t see any stupid passions and children’s stuff on the stage, easy loves and infidelities, but everything is a battle and experience of great, eternal emotions. There is not much content, but a lot of psychology and thoughts. Tasso’s character is so suggestive that we cannot imagine the historic Tasso being any different. He is a poet who lives in conversation with nature, who draws all his riches from within himself (Schiller), who doesn’t care for the outer, worldly appearance. (…)
Mother sent me bread. She thinks I am hungry. Ah, my good mother! I barely think of her, but she doesn’t forget me.
I didn’t do any Latin today.
Vienna, 24 March 1915 – (18 years and 3 months)
I studied Latin. I made a sketch of Torquato Tasso.
Vienna, 4 April 1915 – (18 years and 4 months)
Article for the Luč Magazine, impressions of Good Friday, hike in the mountains
Buconjić asked me if I have an article for Luč. To write it I have to study Turgenev again, and complete his views on life. My aim is to present Turgenev as a universally educated man, as a lover of all the arts, and bring him into contrast with Dostoevsky’s and Tolstoy’s ethics. I think I will manage to do it in two days, and then I will get back to my Latin.
On Good Friday I visited some churches. The sun was shining, beautiful and sad. On all the faces, in every grin of various categories of people there was something sad – the feeling of war and Good Friday.
I received Communion today. The afternoon I spent in Baden. I had a longing to be in nature. I had felt helpless and wrecked wandering along the stinking streets, but when I came to Baden, my natural good mood and cheerfulness returned. It was wonderful in the park. There is a beautiful view opening on the wavy hills, the precursors of the Alps. Down between the hills and the place on which I was standing there settled a nicely arranged small town. I went to the cliffs, looked down into the gaping depth on the white winding road, and was overcome by desire to have wings and to fly over this abyss.
Situation on the battlefield is bad and behind it a system of protection and immorality
Situation on the battlefield is bad. In the Chief Headquarters they pour champagne. Mostar and Sarajevo are being evacuated. Premisl is already in Russian hands.
And indeed, this is all due to that gentleman in Crime and Punishment who stood by the bench in a vulgar manner looking at the groggy girl whom men have dressed.
We have no bread. The philistines want cakes, they have flour and are mad when we are not succeeding up there. Once again, if we perish, we deserved it.
Once again: in the Chief Headquarters they drink champagne! The Khuens are the ruler’s illegitimate children, they sent the archduke Schemon into retirement because he didn’t pronounce Khuen’s full title correctly and threw him out of the bed at noon! A system of protection and immorality must be punished. So many peoples will wail and be clad in black. Instead of immersing themselves in the growing of plants, the flight of a star, in the beauty of the Madonna, people fornicate all over Vienna. Patriots, you will win – just hope for that!
Vienna, 5 April 1915 – (18 years and 4 months)
Uncle Georg has died. Peace be upon his soul. An unexpected death is still incomprehensible to me, I cannot fathom it… Ljuba sent me Easter greetings.
Vienna, 8 April 1915 – (18 years and 4 months)
Plan for the article on Turgenev
“…But in everything I was thinking, in everything I was feeling, there was a hidden, half-felt, shy presentiment of something new, unspeakably sweet, female…” Turgenev, The First Love.
It is possible I feel similarly because I am under the impression of Turgenev’s emotions. I think I will be ready to start writing about Turgenev tomorrow. I read so many of his works that a number of scenes are mixed up in my head, but I think I have a good plan. Firstly, to present the reflection of Turgenev’s life in his works, then the analysis of three groups (love, individualistic and social), and finally to give general characteristics of Turgenev, how he portrays a modern, universal man (Goethe, Beethoven, Puskhin…!). It outlining his works, I will stick to Brunetière; the development of a personal novel (a separate kind of literature! – not epics!). I didn’t do any Latin.
Looking for female company, the problem with the vow to St. Anthony
Though I was tired, I went to Petrović. Actually – to tell the truth – not to him. I was drawn…I was looking for something female… and I found it. She isn’t at all beautiful, but those words, the laughter… it all reminded me of Greta. They aren’t similar in the least. But, about her some other time! I like her a lot because she is full of that female, shy, mysterious… a long time will pass… possibly I will never see her again. How could I go to Petrović again? I respect him, but I don’t like him. He feels the same about me.
I didn’t keep my vow to St. Anthony very strictly. Who am I kidding? The situation is as follows: I received cakes from home, and I am eating them in order not to have to buy bread, than otherwise not. I think I didn’t do wrong, because I said in my vow that I will try to eat as few sweets as I can manage. God, I hope I have not sinned.
Vienna, 10 April 1915 – (18 years and 4 months)
A review and analysis of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony
I listened to Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. I like it immensely. In the first part, one is touched by the void, the despair and an enormous fight against the awkward interior. Nothing seems to work. Destiny is not overcome and with its void it fills the entire universe. I didn’t quite understand the second part; but the misery and dissatisfaction after sensual pleasure push one into despair. In the third part, we see the glorious beauty of peasant life. It entices us, we submit to it, but still sensual pleasure attracts us. This process goes to and fro, until nature reveals to us the Creator; happy village melodies dance around Him (ländlich!). The fourth part is the most beautiful. We are happy, we have succeeded in battle and we enjoy wonderful nature and the Creator. This enjoyment is becoming stronger and stronger, turning into a powerful victorious anthem, which then dies down. It wants to express something, but cannot. Finally, words come to aid. The words express what the music has felt but couldn’t say. This song is an anthem to happiness, an anthem to God and love (Schiller’s Ode to Joy).27 Let the millions be overwhelmed! It is an anthem to the Creator. Faustian motifs, only better resolved than in Faust. Pleasure is not found in agriculture, but in the beauty of nature and an anthem to the Maker.
Vienna, 15 April 1915 – (18 years and 4 months)
Article for Luč completed, love in folk songs
I completed the article for Luč. It has about 40 pages. It came out rather well; only it is still somewhat unfinished. I should read once again A Hunter’s Sketches, the novella Faust, First Love and others. Mujagić is writing it all in clean copy. He works very diligently. If he is done by tomorrow, the day after tomorrow I will study psychology in order to get a grant for my studies. I don’t think I will learn it all in three days.
Tale was telling me a touching scene from the public house. A woman, probably driven to this “work” by poverty, when giving her body, cries. Apparently even among these people there are noble feelings. Here are the extracts from some characteristic folk songs.
(Here follows a transcript of a folk song which speaks about love between a young man and a girl)
These songs are wonderful, though they carry a lot of the erotic in them. But the shy and beautiful character of the girl is wonderfully mirrored. Naturally, this is not a real love which was ennobled by culture, but is natural in its naiveté, and the spiritual traits are closely connected with bodily acts. In this context, one shouldn’t think of the worst. There are kisses, embraces, caresses. Anyway, folk art is great.
Vienna, 17 April 1915 – (18 years and 4 months)
Info-brochure about Croatia, criticizes the libertarian behavior of certain Croats
Yesterday I sent my article about Turgenev to Luč.28 It finally came to 31 pages. I am curious to see whether they will publish it. I think they won’t, due to extensiveness.
Today there was a meeting in the “Croatia” Society. The topic of the debate was a brochure that will be published in order to inform the outer world about Croatia. In my opinion, it doesn’t make much sense. What are the Croats looking for? They always demand and demand, while wasting time in coffee rooms and partying. There are so many talented people, but everything is going down the drain. Now, when we ought to name the people who contributed something to entire humanity, such a name doesn’t exist. We are demanding to be given our rights, but woe! – we can’t come up with such names.
A short account and critique of Freytag’s comedy Journaliste
Today I read a bit from psychology, and in the evening, at the last moment I decided to go to Burgstheater to see Journaliste. The piece is not bad, but if we consider that it is listed among the best German comedies, we must say that this piece is bad. Molière – Freytag, incomparable. I think that Nušić’s comedies are better. True, here also one finds beautiful characters. The female ones are well portrayed, while the male ones are everyday men with their weaknesses. Mainly, all the key characters are shallow.
Vienna, 18 April 1915 – (18 years and 4 months)
An afternoon in nature
I spent an afternoon in nature, in the woods and in the meadows. It was a wonderful day; the first buds were already sprouting out on the branches, one could find violets. I went up and down the hills, jumping and lying on the grass, running, etc. When I returned, they told me there had been a procession which Vienna hasn’t seen yet. I didn’t see it and I am sorry. I didn’t do a thing. I am a fool and a weakling.
Vienna, 20 April 1915 – (18 years and 4 months)
A review of the contents and criticism of the dramatic tale The Drowned Bell by Gerhart Hauptmann
I saw Hauptmann’s work The Drowned Bell.29 When I initially read the work, I didn’t understand it. I saw many beautiful lyric places and I felt that the coloring of the tale was successful. (…) This is the tragedy of enlighteners: they create great works on earth which enlighten only the people. They do not reach the upper spheres. (…)
(Here follows an overview of the contents of this dramatic tale)
Vienna, 22 April 1915 – (18 years and 4 months)
Passed the preliminary exam in psychology, remembers the Serbian teacher Glušac
Yesterday I passed with professor Jerusalem the preliminary exam in psychology with the mark sehr gut (very good). He asked me what are psychological dispositions, what is the present, etc. I knew them well. Generally, he doesn’t demand a lot. He is a good man. This manner of learning at the University is great. One gets an impression about one’s value – and one can develop individually. When I only think of the lower grades of high school, of teacher Glušac, who called me “cattle”, so that I was desperate – I learned and learned the syntax, but I never knew a thing. I was convinced that I am an idiot.
Comparison between Parsifal and Christ in action
I spoke a little with Šantić about Parsifal. He thinks Parsifal is the true Christ. He fought like Christ against the devil and subjugated him. Kundri washes his feet like Mary Magdalen, etc. Indeed, there are many similarities with Christ; the very fact that Parsifal saved Kundri reminisces of Christ’s mission. These are just the similarities, but I think that the idea of the work is actually opposition to Christ. In Parsifal, Wagner wanted to portray a man – all by himself as an ethical unit in the universe. This ethical unit attains knowledge only by means of compassion. Parsifal is ignorant (is Christ ignorant?) and he never knew what evil is. But if something evil happens, he knows immediately, although he never heard about it before, that this is not good. It means, there is an instinct in man about good and evil. Wagner shows in Parsifal how this develops (with Christ it didn’t develop and it wasn’t compassion which told Christ that he must fight. Christ acted out of love). This is a psychological thin line; Schopenhauer’s compassion as a principle on the one hand is an ethical foundation and Christian love is another foundation. Parsifal noticed a wound and it hurt him and he wanted to fight the cause of this pain. Parsifal couldn’t be prompted by love to combat evil as Christ did, because he is ignorant. If he knew as much as every person who lived among people knows, he would act not only out of compassion, but also out of love. Christ is all-knowing; He fought only out of love for the people. Compassion is only a part of love; love is not only prepared for compassion, but it gives other goods as well: it leads one on the right track, advises, helps, etc. Parsifal and Christ are extremes; an ordinary noble man is between the two. He is an altruist and works altruistically on the foundations of compassion and love (…).
Vienna, 24 April 1915 – (18 years and 4 months)
Spirit and matter, nature and social sciences – contrast or harmony?
Yesterday I studied Latin, today nothing at all. For the sake of Marijanović, I went again to the University this morning, and after that I visited the Naturhistorisches Hofmuseum. (Yesterday I was in the Kunsthistorisches). I looked at a number of exhibits, until I became dizzy. I was particularly interested in ore and its colors. Regrettably, I don’t understand much about the other things there. When I saw these creations of nature, strange thoughts occurred to me. It is only now that I fully understand Bazarov.30 Nature is so great, such beauty and laws that one must study it. According to Bazarov, poetry, love, faith, friendship, even God himself is all mere sentimentality (“the sweet taste of honey”). Why bother with things that “do not exist”? To speak about love, justice, honor – “this does not exist”. Poetry, music, it is all “a stupidity”. According to Bazarov, we ought to occupy ourselves with what is, what exists, take the frogs and vivisect them, construct electrical machines, build large ploughs, study medicine and occupy ourselves with what is certain and irrefutable. Nature is not a temple, but a workshop, and man is a worker in it. Such thoughts pass through my head and want to stick with me, but of no avail. I see a beautiful picture, I stand and admire; I hear a good work, I am glad; I seek a friend, a woman, etc. I think of my parents; from the “natural science” point of view this love towards them is also sentimentality. I already see myself in a grave, because I’ve had enough of life which doesn’t tally with my “principles”. These “principles” deny everything philosophical – aristocratism, authority, liberalism… They are “unnecessary” for Croatian people… I deny and watch as my mom and dad, already old, come to my grave and cry. When I only think of this, I feel that indeed there is something else which is not mere matter, that the world of the spirit is truly here. I thank the Almighty for having permitted me to live through all this, so that along with my one-sided views of art and the humanities I have come to love the natural sciences as well.
Yesterday in bed a physical thought came to me: to construe a machine which writes when one speaks. It is based on the telephone without wires or on microphones adapted to each particular voice.
I visited Puljić. Today is name-day. My brothers from the “Croatia” Society were telling dirty anecdotes here too.
Vienna, 25 April 1915 – (18 years and 4 months)
Going to a concert after church
Today also I didn’t study as much as I wanted to. I got up late, went to the Augustinian Church. There I saw Canova’s Mary Christine.31 One priest preached about the Trinity. (…) The singing was rather good. In the afternoon, I did some Latin, then went to the concert hall. They played the
Eroica32, something by Mozart, Grieg and Wagner. Eroica is magnificent; I particularly liked the second movement – Marche funebre – and the third with its gaiety. I had dinner at the Mittlers. They tell me their mom is ill… Tomorrow the work starts, with God’s help.
While walking, he sings to the Creator of nature, then reads Dostoevsky
My soul is always singing. I was in a park near the Rathaus. Wonderful moonlight, beautiful moonlit clouds, the murmur of the white fountain, black water with a silvery reflection of lamps, the enchanting smell of flowers. I will not sing any more, to admire the Genius who created it all, who gave…
More work is necessary. I got up at 7, went to lectures by Becker and Wurzbach, studied Latin a bit, and continued reading Crime and Punishment. I perceive Dostoevsky’s genius more and more each day; to capture those psychological moments as he did is directly superhuman.
Vienna, 27 April 1915 – (18 years and 4 months)
Impressions and criticisms of Becker’s lecture, visit to the theatre
Today I did some more, but not enough. I got up at 6.30, took a walk in Rathauspark and went to the lecture. Becker spoke about Rousseau, his Heloïse and others. He was telling us how his religious ideas were too revolutionary for his time, while today they are reactionary. Sounds a bit odd. He is a present-day, modern man, and what was before is not modern but reactionary. Becker’s grandson will say that Becker’s views were reactionary. And so, people will always convince themselves that their era is the one of perfect views… I wonder that Becker – a great scientist – didn’t grasp the eternal in poetry, that which in spite of all the changes always remains true and beautiful.
Having said the above, I didn’t say anything about Becker. Indeed, I like him a lot; he lectures in an interesting manner. Wurzbach spoke about Ragnard and other comedians and devoted a lot of time to Lesage’s Turcaret. He has his drawbacks, but it is nice of him that when he mentions one work he enumerates the other ones who have the same motif or idea.
In the afternoon, I studied Latin, read Crime and Punishment and went with Mrs. Mittler to Raimund’s theatre. We sat in the first row. Anzerguber’s work Die Kreuzelschreiber was on the program. It has no deeper literary value. (…)
(Here he gives a brief description of this comedy)
Vienna, 29 April 1915 – (18 years and 4 months)
Lecture at the University, visit to the opera
Becker spoke about Chateaubriand. He admits he doesn’t understand him. Of course, because Chateaubriand was a convinced Catholic. Becker does not deny his genius, but criticizes him as well. I went again to the University because of Marijanović. The dean doesn’t believe that the Latin exam is equivalent to the high school graduation exam. I did a little bit of Latin.
In the evening, I was in the Volksoper to hear Smetana’s The Bartered Bride. A rather nice comical opera.
(Here follows a brief account of the content and critical analysis of the opera)
Opera house in Vienna which Merz often visited.
Vienna, 30 April 1915 – (18 years and 4 months)
Criticizes Professor Becker because of Chateaubriand
Becker continued lecturing about Chateaubriand. Between the lines, he said that the Holy Scripture does not tally with science; those 7 days in which God created the world Chateaubriand takes literally and says that God could have created rocks looking millions of years old. Chateaubriand is not a theologian and Becker holds that religion has no substance when challenged by science.
More about lectures at the University
I paid my rent. Not much money is left for this month. I did some Latin and read Crime and Punishment. I went to Jeruzalem’s lecture. He spoke interestingly about the notion of universal education: what did the Romans demand of a universally educated man, the Greeks, the knights, and what do we demand today. It would be interesting to extract from this topic that which is unchangeable – eternal. I spoke with Filipović. I like him because of his enthusiasm for journalism.
We – the romantics – as long as we believe in God, shall be enthusiastic and happy. We mustn’t be cold rational people who analyze with their tweezers all of the most tender feelings and thus destroy them.
(Here follow the verses in German which illustrate the above paragraph)
Vienna, 7 May 1915 – (18 years and 5 months)
Impressions about theatre performances
I went to Becker’s lecture today, also to Wurzbach’s and one juridical. The last one wasn’t interesting in the least.
In the evening, I was in the Burg. They were giving Goethe’s Die Launen eines Verliebten and Molière’s Malade imaginaire. The first of the two is a beautiful pastoral game. (…) Malade imaginaire is the best piece I saw on stage in my whole life. Molière’s genius is visible in every scene, in every speech. (…)
Vienna, 9 May 1915 – (18 years and 5 months)
Wonderful moments in nature with the Jesuit Miroslav Vanino
All the joy I felt today is indescribable. My heart is overflowing with emotion; it wants to sing songs and anthems to the Creator.
I visited the Franks, and had lunch at the Mittlers. Tereza is going to my parents in Banja Luka. She stuffed my pockets with chocolate. She is a good girl; I do not deserve all this goodness.
I spent the afternoon with Vanino33 in beautiful nature. We enjoyed the air, the grass, the clouds, the flowers, everything surrounding us. We lay on the grass and drank as much as we could of the beauties of nature being born. I liked Vanino very much when he said yesterday in the “Croatia” Society that every little flower is a source of joy. I truly liked him. Today I could convince myself that he enjoys the beauties of nature and that he is doing his best to cultivate a merry soul. It is a nice thought – we must always be joyful; only joy creates enthusiasm, and this, in turn, great works and blind perseverance.
Wonderful, more than wonderful is this Viennese nature.
Vienna, 17 May 1915 – (18 years and 5 months)
Inner crises and vacillations, cross-examination of his world view
My life is a big question mark. From day to day I am losing my childhood faith. I lack my previous distinction between good and evil. I ask myself whether all that I considered good is actually good. What is truly good, does it exist at all? All these world views, aren’t they merely a prejudice? And so, I go on living and questioning myself. At times, I seem to believe only what I see in front of me. This is what I see: I walk in a park in the evening and I see one pair on every bench, squeezing against each other, laughing happily, kissing… Factually this law of nature exists, the law of love (I now use the word love in terms of sensual drive of a man towards a woman). I don’t look upon these pairs with my previous eyes. There was a time when I thought of it as mere passion, a weakness, a lack of character which yields to the pleasure of the senses. But I cannot any more look upon this basic law of nature in the same way, although I know that at the time when I had a closer look at this life (Military Academy) I was disgusted with this filth and mud.
Proof that God exists, the necessity of prayer, feeling of justice
For the justification of this principle I must ask myself whether God exists or not. Then, what do I mean by the word God? It is a fact that He exists, that I feel him around me, within me, here, there, everywhere. His melodies uphold and fill the universe. Every human feels the breath of something greater and more eternal …Therefore, God exists. After that, I ask myself what is this God, what is his substance? Can we pray to him? Is he personal? Our inner being provides the answers to these questions in simple ways. If I insult my parents, I am terribly sorry. This is the proof that the feeling of committed injustice is not a prejudice, but that justice exists in us. Justice is a principle which lives in us and all our inner being becomes upset if we work against this principle. And the One whom we feel around us, of whom the reason tells us that he is eternal, towards whom the soul is inadvertently inclined, He will prove to be justice itself. In this way, we arrive at a personal God. He exists, and I firmly believe, even in the worst moments of temptation and doubt, that He is the only, eternal, great God.
The death of our dear ones leads us to recognize the purpose of our life
Now, having established that He exists, it follows that our life has a purpose. Then, we ought to think of something that people don’t think of and what could easily lead us to real knowledge – namely, that we are all going to die. We love somebody enormously and this person dies. We shall never, ever see him or her again. We are full of thoughts, doubts, strivings, opinions, our whole intellectual universe, our “I” is a center around which everything turns, which receives and sorts the impressions; we live through all this, sometimes with pain and suffering (however, this is proof that justice is not a prejudice, because if somebody is the cause of our suffering, we fight against this person factually), and now, all at once, we die. What was the purpose of all this? Why so many thoughts and strivings when all is in vain, when it vanishes into nothing, when the soul is not an independent element enclosed in a bottle like the ghost in Diable boiteuxu34. But, that cannot be! When everything in nature is so perfectly arranged, the eternity of our lives must also be in terms of justice. And it is truly so, and I believe in it and at moments when I feel this with my childhood faith, when I abhor evil and melt in prayer, at the bottom of my soul there is still that doubt, that great question mark of the last Adam. Why? What? And again, alongside all these doubts, I believe.
Faith must spur one into action, either Catholic or nothing
However, it does not suffice only to believe. Our faith must be a system, a signpost of life so that we do not act against the principle of justice and eternity. Religions provide the systems. And I say: Aut catholicus aut nihil35. In this respect, I never had the tiniest doubt. I know and feel that Catholicism is the only true religion (if religion exists at all). I never thought about other religions that they might be better than the Catholic one. Here, I am Catholic in my soul. But that primeval man36 in me, that Faust which doesn’t recognize upbringing or prejudices, pulls me downwards and makes me doubt everything.
Dilemmas, doubts, self-criticism, struggle for the moral good
But, enough of that. I should criticize my own life. As my pure belief in Catholicism has declined, every other kind of enthusiasm has declined too, as well as every sharp judgement on the things going on around me. This I plainly see, not knowing whether it is good or not. The world loves and embraces – well let them love and embrace each other. One guy slapped me on the face. Never mind, let him slap me again. How many people are poor, how many people are at each other’s throats. Let it be, as long as it doesn’t touch my skin. Factually, although my reason tells me this is not a right line of thinking, due to these inner doubts I experienced this attitude.
And now it is high time to shake this off and to consider that Somebody for the sake of Truth died for me on the cross. Having pulled myself together I see that these girls in the park, these men and beautiful forms are only dirty passion, that these are not people with strivings and pains, but simple beasts which do not differ from others. And I mustn’t justify such behavior because I know that the principle of a man’s leaning towards a woman is only here for the sake of our soul, because our soul is the principle which perfects itself and rises. This negative principle of beauty, this forbidden tree of Paradise is here with its beauty only to make people out of us. And I will try to break through the temptation, not to look at a woman as a beautiful body, and I must not be attracted to her by her appearance. I will subjugate these tendencies and in her I will only seek what is eternal. And really, I now feel again that I do believe, that I believe in a Catholic manner, that the Mother of God is not Venus, and that I am truly happy to be on the right track again. And observing life, I will know what is noble and what is not, what is moral and what isn’t.
All human strivings are really wandering around Catholicism
In this way I did an analysis of the senses, and if I had only kept to the sacred sentence “you will know the tree by its fruits” I would have arrived by means of reason, science, art, and most of all history to the result that there exists a certain truth, that it weaves its way through the entire history and that all human strivings and delusions are actually a wandering around Catholicism and that there are very few who truly experience it. Alongside everything that I believe, I am a man and a doubt lingers at the bottom of the soul and it strengthens me, because it enflames a spiritual struggle which as a man I am going through.
Vienna, 19 May 1915 – (18 years and 5 months)
Attitude towards a woman and her body, commends the veiling of women among the Muslims
The veiling of women among the Muslims is a brilliant regulation. It must have a very deep reason, because it has survived for so long. A woman must be hidden unless she wants to leads a man to a sinful thought. Looking always at bodily forms we forget the spiritual. Inadvertently, a man is always looking at a woman. For this reason, we must fight the temptation and look at her in the same way we are looking at a man; we must come to the point that we do not see a woman with a body in front of us, but a woman with her spiritual capabilities. It takes a lot of effort and struggle until a man reaches this elevated standpoint.
Vienna, 20 May 1915 – (18 years and 5 months)
Italian military pretensions on Dalmatia, prays to our Lady for help
We are at war with Italy. It is about our blood. The Italians want Dalmatia, Trieste, Rijeka and South Tyrol. It is a historical process; but our skin is at stake. I will try to rise above the passions and observe this in a cold manner. The only thing that remains is the prayer to the Eternal Mother to give us the strength to suppress the egotistical strivings of the Italians.
Vienna, 21 May 1915 – (18 years and 5 months)
Review of Wagner’s opera Tannhäuser, actuality of its message
I just came home from Tannhäuser.37 I cannot recollect all the impressions at once. It will take time to sort them all out. (…)
Tannhäuser is a type of man, I could say Faust. He always moves between two extremes: sensual love and the eternal-female. Both are in his essence. He is enthusiastic for one of the two at one moment, and for the other the next. But, he has a true human nature. In the embraces of Venus – sensuality – he doesn’t find pleasure. He pulls away from her and goes to fight…
Tannhäuser is dialectical; he is a man. He does not observe love one-sidedly. His spirit strives toward the eternal-female, for Elisabeth, but he is enraptured by reality. He loves a woman as a man does; his love is intermingled with sensual pleasure. This is the tragedy of man; he dives into the deepest depths, and from those depths he strives upwards, even up to Mary. These two principles fight each other and the spiritual principle, the eternal one, overcomes the beautiful world of nature and passion. God triumphs. Elisabeth’s eternal-female love destroyed Venus (she prayed for Tannhäuser, placing her visible life for him at the altar and redeeming him).
In Tannhäuser Wagner gave us a universal human struggle: the struggle between the sexes, the struggle that we experience from day to day, the struggle which always raises and perfects us. And Elisabeth has won, this is what he showed us, where a man ought to aspire to, if he wants to be a man.
(The parts in which the content of the opera is described are left out.)
Vienna, 22 May 1915 – (18 years and 5 months)
Meeting colleagues from the “Croatia” Society and discussion about war
I didn’t do anything today. I rested. My eyes ache and I cannot read as I would like to. This evening I was in the “Croatia” Society, and after that Kuvačić, Buconjić, Strauch, Petrović and I went to a coffee room (corner of Liechtenstein Street). The conversation was gloomy; we spoke about Italy and her arrogance. She wants to tear apart our homeland. We spoke also about love, God, etc. It is hard to talk about these matters.
Inner struggles, moral doubts and vacillations
I spent the whole day thinking why we are in this world, why God thrust our noble soul into this disgusting animal body. I know it all and I struggle and insult the Madonna, I insult the world, and again I fight. The notion of ideal love, the ideal of a girl sinks into the abyss as I look at reality around me; the baseness and shallowness of this world which looks only at appearances, these women with transparent stockings, tight skirts so that every shape can be seen and evoke animal feelings. The notion of the ideal is regrettably only a notion; I don’t find it in the world which now surrounds me. Oh, this doubt, the damned doubt! Why should purity be good? Isn’t it a prejudice? What, in reality is that “good” that we talk about so much. These are the doubts, but in spite of it all, I feel inside my sanctuary – my heart – that I will always preserve and feel the spark of something untouchable, invisible, unthinkable, Great.
I had a long conversation with Buconjić (until 00.30 hours. Now it is 01.30) about God and similar matters. He is not in the clear whether a man arrives at the notion of God by himself… He also asks himself, he doubts – he’s a man.
Vienna, 23 May 1915 – (18 years and 5 months)
Talks with colleagues about doubts and inner struggles
I was in church. I had lunch at the Mittlers, and in the afternoon, I took a walk with Kuvačić, Puljić and Lasić on a stretch from Mänwaldeg to Hutteldorf. We spoke about the role of monarchy in history. Kuvačić holds that monarchy was always a carrier of great ideas: the Turks, Napoleon, etc. After that, we declared our feelings regarding God and spoke about our doubts and inner struggles. Kuvačić, as I could see, is passing through a particularly difficult inner ordeal. He is a priest, must believe in a lot of things, but he is fighting. As I could notice, he was once in love… He always thinks about the world, relation of God toward the world and others. I insulted Puljić a little bit: I focused on his flaw of patronizing coffee rooms. He didn’t take it seriously.
Vienna, 25 May 1915 – (18 years and 5 months)
Struggle against passions, feels the existence of the supernatural, prays for his eyes
I don’t have much to write about, because I didn’t do a thing. Yesterday the whole day I was tormented by terrible passion, it forced me to run and battle with it. It defiles my ideals and pulls me into the mud… Where is my purity, moral, intellectual? Sometimes I am almost a disgrace to myself.
In the evening, I am always full of brilliant thoughts, noble intentions; I sense directly something supernatural, I can feel its existence. When the day breaks, all the beautiful decisions are forgotten, all the environment, all that is visible grabs my attention and I begin to act instinctively – rather evil in fact.
I spent the afternoon with Vlaho. He read to me his poems, and the best among them are those bursting with passion. He is very talented and can use his strengths nicely. Tomorrow I will start again with normal work. I find it hard to read for long because my eyes start aching, and I don’t discern the letters.
My prayers go to the Almighty and St. Anthony to have mercy on me and improve my sight, just so that I may read and work as much as my heart is longing for. There are many, truly many things I must still find out. There are modern, educated enemies on all sides, and one should fight with them with deep means.
God, I will use my eyes only for looking at the beautiful and for elevated purposes; therefore, help me, please!
Vienna, 26 May 1915 – (18 years and 5 months)
War destinies of his colleagues, complaining about his eyes
Ante is still not on the battlefield. This evening I met Novković. He told me that Kratena and Pavlović were wounded. Đukić was killed. Novković, poor man, got a reprieve. He has rheumatism, hardly moves his hands, suffers from headache, etc. He also suffers from some heart disease. The cause of all of this is poverty. In high school, he lived in a damp apartment, etc. Looking at people in such a condition, one must thank God for being healthy.
I studied Latin a little bit. In the afternoon, I fell asleep. Eyes, oh my poor eyes. If only I could see well, I think I would be a much better man.
Vienna, 27 May1915 – (18 years and 5 months)
On lectures at the University
Today I attended lectures by Becker, Brecht, Eisler, Fournier. The first of them spoke about Hugo, the second brilliantly analyzed Herodos and Marianne, the third spoke about Palamedes, Nirefeld, Vermeer and Fabriems. He compared the last one with Rembrandt. Fournier spoke about politics in the Monarchy between 1875 and 1878 and the motives for occupying Bosnia.
I studied Latin a bit. Eyes, my poor eyes. I see that my world view is again getting deeper; I suppressed the animal drives so strongly that I have almost forgotten them. The ideal of a woman is again developing more clearly.
My possessions are 20 crowns and one voucher for the canteen.
Gaudeamus igitur juvenes dum sumus…38
Vienna, 29 May1915 – (18 years and 5 months)
Art in churches
Kuliš was here. He spoke about hieratic art in Emmaus. The Benedictines and their pupils march steadily like in Parsifal. They sing the divine office. Women do the same. He told me that it is very touching. Then he spoke about the Beuron paintings: there are many. But, better ones are in St. Gabriel. A true church art, says he. In other churches, there are also many beautiful paintings, but the execution and style is too profane.
I studied Latin, went to a meeting in the “Croatia” Society and started reading Plautus’s Bramarbas.
(Here follows a brief description of the content and analysis of the technical execution of this work which he compares with Shakespeare)
University in Vienna at the time when Ivan Merz studied there.
Vienna, 2 June 1915 – (18 years and 6 months)
Reads the Luč Magazine and parts with colleagues who are going into the army
That’s how it is. I cannot go to Ante, but I’m going to Pilsen. I leafed through the Luč Magazine. The best of all are notes from Eckert’s diary and the obituary for Tieck… I will come back to this some other time. This evening many of my companions are going to the army. I never thought I would feel so sorry for them. Špiro, Buconjić, Petrović, Mujagić, Rebić and others.
Vienna, 7 June 1915 – (18 years and 6 months)
Return from Pilsen, analysis of a love feeling
This morning I came back from Pilsen. I was there from Thursday morning until Sunday evening (3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th of June). The result is that I am, it seems to me, in love with Rosl. Perhaps I ought to analyze my feelings and try to extract the essence of love. First of all, I ask myself: is love sinful? A difficult question. Earlier I thought that love is that same feeling which exists between a brother and a sister. But, it is not so. What else could it then be? It is some strange feeling which draws us to a female being, without asking our reasoning part whether this being possesses the spiritual beauty about which we have dreamt so much. If that is so, let’s hear what Bazarov says: love is a physiological process… According to this, our relationship is purely animal: an instinct that draws a man towards a woman. This is what I had thought before, but I cannot think the same way now. A man is not an animal – this is my principle, but still I feel an affinity, a love towards the girl and in the midst of these feelings my mind is clear as crystal. Admittedly, this inner feeling has a bodily background. I like her because she has a beautiful face, as well as body. But the beauty of a face, or rather the expression in the eyes, creates empathy in us, it is the expression of the inner being. The passage from this spiritual relationship to a purely animal one is not great: if our bodies just touch, even unintentionally electricity passes through us… Maybe this is due to imperfection. Even when our bodies touch we should remain impassive. “We must be as one of these little ones.”
Maybe I now understand love, a woman, as the center of culture of all the ages. This spiritual relationship created great works; it is in God’s plan. Of course, the poets held that love is sensual pleasure, the tingling that passes through a man; but here they were mistaken. What gives magic to their poetry is the spiritual, the eternal which they worshipped, as a matter of fact, the eternal which passes through the sensual pleasure. They thought that this is love, whereas love is the invisible, the incomprehensible. . .
Visit to family in Pilsen and related impressions
In Pilsen39 I rode in a car, saw the Morsers (35 centimeter cannon), visited my grandmother’s grave. I once visited Rosl, brought her here on Saturday from the Chotieschau convent. The convent had a positive influence on her spiritual life, she is a good Christian. But I know, the moment she leaves the convent, it will all vanish. It is easy for her to speak about Christian values in a convent. When she comes into the world and meets the barriers, she will succumb. One ought to fight bloody battles in order not to sink beneath the surface in the ordinary world.
She speaks good French, plays the piano and violin. She doesn’t have a deep intellect, but possesses a feeling for beauty. She is eager to learn, she would like to study music. I like her very much. When she held me by the arm, when we looked at the pictures together and finally when she gave me a farewell kiss, these were all beautiful moments for me. But, she doesn’t know my true feelings, and she loves me; of what avail is this for me, when this is not love!
Uncle Heinrich is a good man, helps everyone. He arrived at an influential post because he never contradicted anybody. This is not nice… I like him very much. Hedviga is also very good; she likes to boast a little bit, but she did whatever she could for me. Karl is a tramp. His daughters are cheerful. At the farewell, they got kisses. They were pleased. Tutz is rather introverted, but he doesn’t learn.
The Chotieschau convent is marvelous. The nuns are all spiritual beauties: the countess Kleist, the duchess Lobkowitz, a painter, an artist on the piano and violin, and there are others too. And all are so humble and dutiful.
Rosl has no altruistic upbringing. Too bad.
Vienna, 9 June 1915 – (18 years and 6 months)
Listened to Mozart’s opera “The Abduction from Seraglio”
Today I had my hair cut very short. It is a major event in my life. Good thing that mom doesn’t know it. I studied a bit of Latin. It is hard to study on such a hot day. I went for a swim.
I was in the Opera House to hear Mozart’s opera The Abduction from Seraglio. At first it gave the impression of being a comical opera, but, like in Shakespeare, the comical scenes are mixed with serious ones and it gives the impression of an opera in the end. Admittedly, for our modern taste, the terribly long recitals and duets are a bit boring.
(Here follows a critical account of the technical execution of the opera and its brief contents)
Interior of the Opera house in Vienna
Thoughts about love after listening to Mozart’s opera
Looking at two persons kissing in a work of art, it seems natural. We do not analyze this further, as if it is supposed to be so. What, after all, is love? Why does love between a man and a woman exist? Isn’t love a utopia? Or maybe it was human nature with its propensity to beautify everything which turned an ordinary passion into love? When I observe myself, I wonder and ask myself whether this love of mine is an illusion, does it have to be that way? I seem funny to myself if I declare that I am in love, that I feel attracted to another being. Love should be studied in poets, first of all in Shakespeare because he is hugely serious: Hamlet! At least his Ophelia and Hamlet made the deepest impression on me of all the theatre pieces I have seen so far (Zagreb!). Following that, love should be studied in philosophers and finally in people (the so-called good and evil, because who will convince me that good or evil is not a prejudice?) and finally in oneself.
Vienna, 10 June 1915 – (18 years and 6 months)
Studies Latin, reads Lesage’s novels
Again, I worked relatively little. After all, I cannot learn Latin by myself when no one is showing me anything. I will try to go to Jurenka tomorrow to ask him for his opinion. I would love to know Latin well… this is necessary for knowing literature, although the majority, Ovid and others, have very little poetry in themselves.
I read Lesage’s Diable boiteux. A rather realistic account, though all the power is concentrated on the exterior. It is vividly written. One recognizes the influence of the night (bottle with a devil) and picaresque novels.40 The influence of the classics is great (the devil’s cloak is made like Achilles’s shield).
Desire for serious work in the Croatian Catholic Movement
Here is the root of my dissatisfaction. All my literary work has come to a halt: I don’t read, I have no topic which I study. A man must have something higher to hold on to, to what he will dedicate his strivings, what will excite him. I would love to work for our Movement41 in the literary field; to bring to our attention foreign literature, to educate our taste and instill love toward other arts.
Vienna, 11 June 1915 – (18 years and 6 months)
Desire for creation
I have this immense desire to create. I’ve had enough of learning; I would like to turn my spiritual life into poetry. It deserves it, because it would be something deep, encompassing universal issues of mankind. I think I ought to have some content as a framework for all my thoughts. One ought to study Grabancijaš Dijak.42
I read further the Diable boiteaux. I must laugh seeing how everything is artificially made up, fabricated, e.g. the story of Belfort’s love.
(Here follows a short account of the content of this work)
Vienna, 12 June 1915 – (18 years and 6 months)
Always asks himself for the cause of everything, approaching the issue of love in an objective manner
I see that I have reached a rather high level. I observe life and ask myself always for the cause of everything, for that which sets everything in motion. The problem of love is particularly interesting. My view of women is rather elevated too; my passion has grown almost silent, and I observe everything objectively, in cold blood.
An act of love towards a Muslim soldier
I did some Latin. Today, Prinz lectured instead of Jurenka. I had dinner in Prater, met König and after that joined a Bosnian soldier (Muhamed Lišić from Sarajevo). I took him to the steep railway and to the Riesenrad (the panoramic wheel). When he was up, he said: “I would give a thousand crowns if my mother, then the sister, then the father were here to see what I see.” He told me how he would love to receive me at his home: he would kill a ram and wouldn’t let me leave his house for eight days, his mother would embrace me, etc. A very simple man, illiterate, but so good-hearted, and he says this of himself too. The adventure cost me 240 crowns, but I don’t mind; who knows, he might be killed soon; he was once in the war and was wounded. When I asked him if he was afraid before going to the front line, he told me he wasn’t, because it is predetermined when a man is going to die: you might sit at your coffee table or be at war.
Vienna, 14 June 1915 – (18 years and 6 months)
Lacking capacity for a deeper intellectual work
I only worked and worked, with little thought. I am mainly in a good mood, without any deeper foundations. Laughter and cheerfulness, light jokes, occasionally a worse one. I find it hard to find content and observe everything in a deeper way. Generally, lack of capacity for a deeper intellectual work. I fancy having some hidden poetic trait which would surface if I found a good content (especially from folk literature: Grabancijaš dijak).
Correspondence with Dr. Ljubomir Maraković
Ivan was undergoing a deep inner crisis in the spring of 1915, about which he left us copious notes from this period in his Diary, but also in the letters which he wrote to close friends. Dr. Maraković found out indirectly about this crisis and sent him a long letter of encouragement and spiritual assistance on 6 June 1915. Merz responded to this letter after ten days with a letter which we publish here almost in its entirety. Only the irrelevant parts are left out. The letter is dated 15/16 June 1915. In it one can see on the one hand the full drama of the inner crisis which Merz managed to overcome, and on the other a great sincerity and trust towards his former teacher who was his guide and educator not only in literary but also spiritual matters. This letter, due to its very intimate character wonderfully complements the picture of his emotional and intellectual state which he tried to convey through the entries in the Diary.
Vienna, 15/16 June 1915 – (18 years and 6 months)
“Clouds are covering the sky; it rains without end. I don’t know what is emerging in me, I don’t know His intentions. After a lightning, darkness falls upon the eyes and the heart searches for the path to which nightly sounds are calling it. Light! O, where is the light? I burn with longing for a burning flame. Thunder, wind wailing through the emptiness. A dark night, black as a pitch. Let not the hours pass in this darkness. Go, light the torch of Love with your Life.” (Gitanjali)
I think that every man goes through this sometimes. Terrible doubts are set to destroy the whole edifice of the spiritual world which one has built with such an enormous effort. Luckily, this terrible storm has passed and the sun is shining more brightly than ever. Only now I can take satisfaction in the fact that my whole ideology is not copied from others, but I built it myself through bloody battles. I know that inner ordeals are not over yet, but I am resisting all outer and inner evil influences because I believe that my inner ordeals will only lead to something better.
You guessed rightly when you said that Kučinić didn’t fully understand my letter. It was only a glimpse from my spiritual life at that time and I expounded the doubts I was struggling against. I am still not completely in the clear regarding the things I wrote to him; namely, I was rather preoccupied, even tortured, with the issue of love (ordinary!). When I say this I always think of Bazarov and ask myself whether it is a mere physiological process. Reason tells me it is not so, because it proceeds from history, literature and especially from folk art (Niebelungen Lied) that the only real love is something spiritual. But this is clear only on paper, I haven’t integrated it in me as yet, as I did many other things. This is how I choose to portray love: the soul of a man is in one sense incomplete, and in another more complete than a female soul. A man, namely, lacks the Eternal-female, and a woman lacks the self-conscious, the militant that is in man, something we could call the Eternal-male! Due to this incompleteness, they long for each other and this longing is love. It is interesting that there are a lot of poets (especially Musset) who lived in an entirely immoral way (especially with Miss Sand), and nevertheless gave us magnificent love poems. It seemed to these poets that in this sensual feeling, love is mixed with something spiritual; their poems are great because they reflect only the things of the soul, the eternal. Observing myself, I see that there is something true here; in love one feels something similar, and Goethe’s words the Eternal-female draws us to itself43 come to life every day.
After this introduction, I unburdened myself and I can thank you for your dear letter. There are a number of things in it which comfort me and intrigue me. Namely, I was glad to see that regarding the view on masterpieces I came to the same result as you did. Actually, this was not my own achievement, but I took Ruskin and these words opened new vistas in art: “Many of the greatest paintings that we have are mysterious, others are a beautiful toy, the third a dangerous means of enjoyment. In the dearest ones, we often find weaknesses, and in the greatest ones we often find guilt.”
Until now, namely, I never even thought that many of the paintings of a Raphael, Tintoretto, Da Vinci and others, along with their perfection are also full of sin. Actually, Raphael’s deepest work Sistine is not so good in itself – although it is more perfect – as Rosetti’s simple Beata Beatrix. This is so not only in painting, but other arts as well and I came to the conclusion that Raphael is not the apex of religious art, but that one day an artist will be born who will possess the artistic capabilities of Raphael, but he will also be holy – a saint in fact – who will know what it means to converse with God, to seek the ecstasy and to immerse himself in it in chosen moments. An artist must be a higher type of being, a chosen one…
I kindly thank you for your advice regarding books. Ruskin – as you could read – I already perused. (…) A week ago, in Pilsen I was visiting my uncle. He showed me an enormous cannon and other war machines. The workers sweating in heat create these huge cannons; they use and kill their own powers for nothing. When I was touring the various factories, I thought how good ploughs could be made from this material. (…)
Now that I have touched upon such a romantic matter, I mustn’t miss the opportunity to infuriate the philistines. Namely, there are so-called Catholics who not only ignore dance, but also theatre and the fine arts. For them “scientific work” is everything; other things are a stupidity. They infuriate me more than our obvious enemies; they are lethal for us and I maintain that they are one of the causes why a cultured non-Catholic world doesn’t understand us. They mock us on account of them, saying that we are backward, lack the sense of beauty and they say that we are always gloomy, dissatisfied. Oh, if they only knew how much joy there is in us, how we enjoy “the melodies of His music”, nature, virtue, Communion and other things, they would envy us. But these philistines among us are always gloomy; they believe in something without thinking, weaving along their philistine ways, criticizing the evil without understanding it, and surely without compassion.
It is night, midnight has passed long ago, the echo of some late pedestrian is heard through the window. These sounds are only heard for a while, then they die down. Silence, one only hears how the petroleum lamp draws the petroleum.
I’ve almost forgotten something! It’s been a long time since they asked me to write some literary contribution for the war issue of Luč (…)
(Here Ivan writes about his paper on Turgenev, how he completed it, sent to the editors of Luč, but it wasn’t published as it was too long, so he asked them to return it to him which they did.)
There is not much talk in Vienna about the war. Everybody wants peace and bread. Everything is very expensive. There are rumors that the crop will be good. I am more interested in the spiritual crop, will the humanity be at least partly regenerated by this war, will anything great emerge from all this spilled blood!? (Here he quotes the French verses of the poet Verlaine from his poem Sagesse). My only desire is that after this war people sit “at the tables of yearning which are always full”, as Novalis says in his Anthem and direct all their strivings in one direction, towards which mankind ought to strive. To an extent, we can have hope; I have seen many touching scenes already.
It is time for me to finish and go to bed; I could say much more, but we will leave it for another time, or rather, you know in advance what I mainly think. At least until now, whenever it concerns me, you were never wrong.
Many hearty greetings from
Vienna, 18 June 1915 – (18 years and 6 months)
Vienna – a frivolous city
I am mainly cheerful and in a good mood. Especially during the day. I like light. At night, I go out early. Evil thoughts pursue me like furies; namely, Vienna is a terribly frivolous city. In the evening one can see – at least this is how I see – only the shallowness, mean, sinful looks.
Praises Dr. Lj. Maraković and his virtues
The day before yesterday I got a letter from Ljuba. It made me very happy. As I was reading it, it is as if I saw Ljuba in front of me: that dear person, always enthusiastic. We lack such people, people who believe in progress, who enjoy everything, who are enthusiastic about everything. He is not a cold scholarly analyst, but a man full of God, or at least he is striving to be.
The good, beautiful and true in art
His views on art are brilliant, although I still do not comprehend them fully. I know that the good, beautiful and true are in the metaphysical sense one – God. However, I see that Rodin is beautiful, but is not true, and regarding goodness he is indifferent. The other works are true but evil, some again are a combination of the beautiful and evil, etc. We ought to find some connection. True, we are speaking only about transient human works and our notions of beauty are very changeable. Due to this transience, these three things do not overlap. Therefore, we must be careful and seek in the transient beauty that which is eternal and these three eternal things will always and in practice be in harmony. Such is, to an extent, Raphael’s Madonna: true, good and beautiful, although not as good as it would be if it were painted by a brush of an artist-saint.
Works by Rodin and Sinding with respect to truth, goodness and beauty
Rodin is beautiful, but, as Ljuba rightly says – he is a lie. When we say that he is beautiful, we must know that inside it there is also truth and goodness. Indeed, he has that. The bodily passion which Rodin has portrayed has also something spiritual in itself. It is not only an animal-to-animal relationship (Kiss), but the longing of a man towards a woman, real love. This is the true part inside it and therefore this work is good and beautiful to an extent. The beauty, however, exceeds the goodness: the work is not harmonious. A work of art must be an accord of truth, goodness and beauty. With this in view, I prefer Sinding. His Kiss was true (he didn’t show passion, but longing), and that’s why he is good. But he is not as beautiful as Rodin. Therefore, this also is not a work of art. Rodin is a greater man than Sinding, his technique is better (he creates beauty), than Sinding’s goodness (truth); due to that individuality, for the moment Rodin has greater value.
In future generations, at a time when an artist will appear who will be greater than Rodin and better than Sinding, he will say: “I came to my own art studying Rodin and Sinding (or someone else). The latter steered my attention to an idea and I developed it by myself. I sought the truth and in my life with God I felt the urge to create. I created and I cast these ideas into Rodin’s forms. In God’ eyes, Sinding has greater merit because he alerted me to the Idea, Eternity. Rodin was a man of this world: he studied only the exterior without thinking of the Eternal Will. He is a golden vessel – transient – into which I poured the Eternal idea.”
Impressions from a lecture about social problems
I studied Latin, went to a lecture by Daar Ude: Why are we Catholics abstinent. Caritas gives us the inspiration. Magnificent, he spoke in a poetic manner. He gave us statistics for idiots, morons, the weak, lunatics, prostitutes, suicidal persons, etc. He unveiled a terrible picture in front of us. It is true that alcohol is a greater enemy than others because it is an evil friend.
Vienna, 19 June 1915 – (18 years and 6 months)
Vices are the cause of the low moral condition of society
Contemporary man must by all means immerse himself into social thought. The issue of alcohol is surely one of the most important. It is hard to believe, but the numbers speak for themselves, they accuse. Daar Ude gave a brilliant lecture, especially regarding prostitution: “Masked dances and carnivals are derived from the walls of a brothel.” He is surely right. I highly respect a man who dares to stigmatize present-day conditions.
Vienna, 22 June 1915 – (18 years and 6 months)
Criticism of the politics of the Croatian parliament
Lvov is in our hands – Bravo! Rosl wrote to me. Croatian parliament is a pigsty. The Prefect and coalition partners behave as traitors. Now when the time is ripe to get free finances, they quarrel. The Prefect, as I have heard, said the following: “I am putting to your notice that the financial agreement is prolonged for one year.” To that, Hrvoje retorted: “Very comfortable.” He spoke from the soul of the entire Croatian people. An outrage; Croats are sacrificing their lives valiantly defending the Emperor, and they are rewarded with a new absolutism.
Vienna, 23 June 1915 – (18 years and 6 months)
Enthusiastic manifestations in Vienna after victory at Lvov
I just came from these huge manifestations. A lot of people gathered in front of and on the City Hall. Various societies, mainly scouts, marched singing the anthems. Then the Zionists with blue-white flags. Entire processions of Polish Jews were passing by, trying to sing something, but of little avail. High school pupils sang nicely, and a cry could be heard: “Long live the Ruthenian people” and others. Then the societies came together with soldiers. Hungarian military songs were sung. German officers were greeted with “Heil!”, and the “Heil dir…wacht am Rhein” was sung. Everyone was on the move, shouting triple “hooray”, waving the caps, hands, lanterns. A hugely elated crowd.
I liked Polish legionnaires best. They stood with torches on the cars and slowly drove through the crowd. They were jubilant, and the crowd waved with handkerchiefs from the steps of the City Hall. They sung in unison the Polish anthem. It’s a fact that I am living in a historical time when it is evident that there is an idea, that it directs wars, wins or loses. The Habsburg idea is immensely strong in Vienna; intimately, I couldn’t participate in all this gaiety. We, people from the South, do not share this unconditional trust in Austria, although we love her and without her Croatia would be unthinkable. Admittedly, Austria has a huge role in conciliating the nations, to kill national chauvinism. There was one Croatian three-colored flag. Bosnian soldiers didn’t take part, and I am sorry for that. I would love to hear “Long live” in Croatian in the center of Vienna.
The Vienna Town Hall
Love towards the parents – proof of the existence of the supernatural world
My dear parents congratulated me on my name-day. May the Almighty bless them! Whenever I doubt in the Highest, in Goodness and all the ideology of mine, love and loyalty towards my parents is something unshakeable; I feel it as something living, and it is a witness to me that love, soul, God is not a utopia, that all of this exists, that man is truly an idea striving towards its source. I should spend more time in nature.
Vienna, 24 June 1915 – (18 years and 6 months)
Name-day celebration, impressions from manifestations
My name-day passed nicely. I got a big cake from Tereza and other sweets. Similarly Puljić, and from Ivić I got a crucifix. This present I liked the best. The pardon of sins is connected with it. This is nice, he believes in it and he tried to support what is eternal in me, my religious feeling.
This morning there were enormous manifestations in front of the Schönbrun. The Emperor came out and others. I didn’t see him quite well. The crowd was shouting like mad, waving the flags, hats. In the evening the City Hall was brilliantly lit. It evoked the image of something medieval. From the black walls the illuminated windows shone; it reminded me of the times of the strongest deistic idea, on the times full of hope and love for the Almighty. The illuminated windows were for me the expression of this gladness. The crowd and again the crowd. They waved, played music, sang, marched. Girls in white passed by waving flags, like waves on a sea, swaying, playing, and separating again, this is how these small flags were moving. As everybody shouted, so did I. Not from some deep feeling, though.44
Vienna, 26 June 1915 – (18 years and 6 months)45
Preliminary exam in French literature
Yesterday at noon I decided to take a preliminary exam in 18th century French literature with Wurzbach. A rather extensive matter.
In the afternoon, I worked about six hours, and this morning around two. It was easy, because I had been attending the lectures. I went to the exam, and thank God he caught my Achilles’ heel.
(Here follows a detailed account of the exam which went rather bad because he got 2 – the lowest passing mark)
It’s good that he caught me. I really don’t know history, and it is indispensable for the study of literature. Even for its own sake it is interesting.
At the first moment, I was desperate; not because of the mark, but because of the embarrassment in front of the professor. It’s true, he pays too much attention to years, but they are necessary too. From now on, I will learn everything. The years strengthen the memory, and they are the basis of historical chronology. God help me! I didn’t know Latin well because I didn’t prepare myself due to the French preliminary exam.
Vienna, 28 June 1915 – (18 years and 6 months)
Michelangelo and Rodin – an impossible comparison
Becker finished his lectures today. He managed to mention Verlaine too. His lectures were good, I learned a lot. I studied Latin, and after that I read about Michelangelo. I must always admire these people from the Renaissance. It is not only the skill of the form, but their entire work possesses a deeper content: there is always an idea in the background. Michelangelo’s art is not a sin like Rodin’s, because he doesn’t admire sensuality, but quite the contrary: the forms give rise to the “empire of thought” which plays the greatest role in people. When I think of Michelangelo, I see that he is magnificent and strong like Moses. His paintings also leave me with the impression of being grandiose painted sculptures (Sybil, Jeremias, Adam, God).
Vienna, 29 June 1915 – (18 years and 6 months)
Melancholic thoughts on a rainy day46
The rain is beating at the window panes. It is gloomy and sad and the rain beats and beats, now stronger, now weaker. In the soul, it is also gloomy, sad and my soul wants to cry, without knowing why. I love this rainy day more than a bright one, because the light which reveals so many things, prevents me from diving into my soul. The rain is pouring down without the intention of stopping. I dive into my soul; I search around, but I cannot find a thing. I would love to cry long and enjoy this crying while diving deeper and deeper until my crying would meet Him who is eternally sad. And I would sit at His feet and the rain would continue to pour, and I would eternally cry and listen to Him without a reason.
This period is sad. As if it were autumn; I have no desire to go out, but enjoy taking a book and plunging into the world of thought. This is the best period for a deep, pleasant work.
After these rainy days, Greta comes to my mind, I remember the beautiful moments when I sat in her room and we chatted…
Vienna, 30 June 1915 – (18 years and 6 months)
Problems with Latin, criticizes his attitude towards God
I am desperate. I’ve been studying Latin the whole day and put a lot of effort into it. Prinz asked me precisely those parts which I couldn’t translate. Along with that, I failed at my written Latin exam. A tremendously bad omen: if I get a bad exam certificate with Prinz, I could easily fail at the graduation exam. Two years and more would be lost.
Along with that, I lost trust in my abilities. Others study Latin less than me, and factually know it better. I will try, with God’s help, to study harder… It killed some kind of pride in me, a self-assurance or conceit, if I can call it that.
Yes, lately I have become somewhat arrogant and I tried playing with God. If I believe in him, why do I torture myself with doubts? As He is greater than us, we must trust Him blindly. Regrettably, people usually take Him as someone lower than us, someone we are allowed to test somehow… From now on, I will try to act differently.
What would my parents say if they knew my bad situation with Latin!? I am sorrier for them than for myself.
Vienna, 1 July 1915 – (18 years and 7 months)
Tries to correct his mistakes
Ante wrote from the battlefront. Dad is drawing closer these days. Great! I studied Latin for several hours this morning, and five more in the afternoon. Maybe even more. This is my entire worry and I will not think of my specific affairs, I will put aside thoughts of beauty and life’s problems until I rectify my mistakes.
Vienna, 3 July 1915 – (18 years and 7 months)
Program for the summer vacation, prays to God and Mary that he might fulfill his mission in life
In Vienna, everything is going poorly. I just came from a preliminary exam in Latin. I passed with the lowest passing mark. True, I didn’t know it very well, but factually I know it much better than others who got the mark “very good”. Prinz is too much of a high school teacher; gives marks like in high school, etc., and will not make it easier for the student and give him a “very good”. A favorable certificate makes a good impression and one likes to receive it. Otherwise, these preliminary exam certificates are of no use at all. But, from these failures I conclude: during the summer break, I will study grammar, as well as history and geography. I must learn Latin to the point of reading Livy easily. It will ruin my vacation, but I must.
I am also glad for having discovered my Achilles’ heel. It is beyond doubt that there will be more. I also intend to learn French perfectly during future vacations (1916) so that I can thrust myself with full force into the study of esthetic sciences. My heart calls me to it; I myself wonder how come I disciplined myself for so long and didn’t read any literary works. But I reached a conclusion: one must firstly create a basic, I repeat – basic foundation before applying oneself to one’s favorite subject. Only then will one understand it in a comprehensive and deep manner.
God and the Virgin, you who are always so kind and pure, please, help this poor little worm who wants to fulfill his duty which is destined for him as a man!
I believe I am going home on Monday, the day after tomorrow.
Vienna, 4 July 1915 – (18 years and 7 months)
Conversation about topics of interest
I was in Prater with Šantić. We spoke about faith, love, the Prince Marko, etc. He spoke of Eichendorff and his poems. One ought to read them because they are full of intimacy, poetry, not aristocratic like the French.
Banja Luka, 19 July 1915 – (18 years and 7 months)
Acquaintance with the Polish Miss Dulka
I will spend a week at my home. I was sick in Vienna (tooth) and, as far as I can remember, I lived a rather intensive intellectual life; I prayed a lot. Yes, when one feels weak, when one admits his weaknesses, then one is at one’s best. But, enough of that, it is already past. Now I am at my parents’ place and I waste my time playing tennis and in the company of Miss Dulka.47 She is a very pretty girl; I derive a special pleasure from the fact that she knows of spiritual life, battles, observations. Of course, there are a number of things in her which are not quite correct, but they will vanish perhaps. I was with her on Petrićevac48 and she told me about the sisters from the convent where she was staying.
I would rather be the small deaf-mute Ćiro than what I really am, in order to be happy that I am not even worse off. One ought to strive towards such a simple soul… However, it is night time. Terrible thoughts come to my mind; but the day will come and all of this will vanish. An unsatisfied soul will sob. Light… light… Ivić49 is here.
Banja Luka – Petrićevac. Church and Franciscan Monastery at the beginning of the 20th century. In this place, Pope John Paul II on 22 June 2003 proclaimed Ivan Merz a Blessed of the Catholic Church.
Banja Luka, 20 July 1915 – (18 years and 7 months)
Is a friar allowed to walk on the street with a girl?
This morning I again played tennis. In the afternoon, I took a walk with Ivić along the Vrbas River. Later we met Dulka and after walking together for a while, Ivić said that he doesn’t want to walk in her company.
Was he right in saying so? I don’t mean him as a person, but he can be a symbol for his order. There is a prejudice among the folk that a friar mustn’t walk with a girl, and if he does so, he creates a scandal. This is a prejudice and we must fight against the prejudices. But, is this prejudice justified? The mission of the friars, namely, is not to be in the company of women. They have taken the vows of chastity, and their work is felt among the people. For this reason, it is good for the friars not to be in the company of women. But, to make this into a principle – as it is the prevailing view today – is an offence to women. This sends the message that she is something different than a man; this is only looking at her exterior, at her bodily role as a woman, an offence to her spirit which is human just like a man’s. I don’t blame Ivić because he did it in order not to cause a scandal.
There are times when I desire to be the deaf-mute Ćiro. But, these thoughts are bad, they are a sin. We must be happy that we are healthy. I notice that my spiritual life is becoming shallower and shallower. I am frequently with Dulka. But, the Grünwalds are always so childish that we never get a chance to talk about matters of a deeper spiritual value. By all means, Ante is already in the other world…
Banja Luka, Thursday, 22 July 1915 – (18 years and 7 months)
Life’s crises, inner struggle, duties
Life is terrible. If I didn’t have at the bottom of my soul the hope in faith and something eternal, I wouldn’t like to live at all. But, I am not a coward; I want to overcome all obstacles. Maybe I have pangs of conscience for being out the whole day, and I have so much Latin matter to learn. Tomorrow, I know, I will not – just as today – learn a thing. And now I will lie down and pray to God. But, how to approach Him being as I am? I myself don’t know. It is terrible. My life is abominable. But, nevertheless, I will work and try to earn some pleasure for myself.
Banja Luka, 29 July 1915 – (18 years and 7 months)
The analysis of love, spiritual life of a woman, purpose of marriage
“Shall we ever be able to throw an anchor into the ocean of centuries, at least for a single day”?50 This, I think, is a verse from Lamartine’s poem Lac.
This whole week I enjoyed playing tennis and being in Dulka’s company. No, my God, the times have passed when we spoke about love. Love doesn’t exist as the world and literature paints it. One thing is the law of nature and its arousal the world calls love. Flirtation and the like, this is pure sensuality. I am far removed from that. There is something else, devoid of any bodily element and bodily inclination, although it tries to raise its head sometimes. I am striving to get to know the spiritual life of a woman who has been through a lot of things already. Yes, the female spiritual life is completely different than the male; each of them has its beauties and a man doesn’t only strive to dive into his soul and from there extract the crystals of Eternity, but he also searches for them in the soul of his female friend. And in her soul a man finds a lot, because at the bottom of her soul there is something of the Madonna and this is what we are actually looking for. And it is possible that this is the search for those eternally-beautiful sparks, the longing and love. God’s plan is being executed so marvelously. In marriage, whose goal is the expansion of mankind, we achieve this connection in a thoroughly spiritual way. As to the inborn religious striving – this is all a search for parts of Him and the Madonna. This is what is beautiful in Dulka. Marriage is not her ideal. She is enthusiastic about various ideas, reads diligently, actually she even studied philosophy, is interested in music. But, one cannot put it all into words. I will write more the next time.
Banja Luka, 30 July 1915 – (18 years and 7 months)
On Dulka’s plans for the future
I spoke with Dulka. She is leaving for Krakow soon. She is very happy that she is going to her homeland. She told me how Maraković tried to propose to her, but she avoided the issue saying she doesn’t intend to get married, or she might have a Pole for a husband and live in Poland, not in Bosnia.
Banja Luka, 31 July 1915 – (18 years and 7 months)
Visit to a Polish family in Slatina, the beauty of nature at sundown
Tomorrow is Communion… The day before yesterday and today I was in Slatina. Today it was especially beautiful: I was a guest of the Irzykovski family. Again, I had little, very little chance to glance at Dulka’s spiritual world. She was telling me about her sister’s betrothal and mentioned something to the effect that she hates it most when people smooch… I read Faust to her in the forest, and she asked me to correct a letter she is writing to a certain Andrić. I will write it in clean copy tomorrow.
I was returning from Slatina; more on foot than on the bicycle (the front wheel broke down!). The first dusk on Kremerice, shadows of oaks, the last sunrays penetrating through the trees, all of this made a great and gentle impression upon the soul, everything reminded of something greater and more beautiful. Shadows were cast on the Vrbas River. From the bridge, I could see dark-grey waves milling around, while the dark shadows of the willows prowled on the water.
Banja Luka, 10 August 1915 – (18 years and 8 months)
Visiting Greta’s grave in Travnik
I was in Travnik at Greta’s grave. The inscription on the tombstone reads: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.” The flowers were blooming; I took one pansy with me. I would prefer to stay longer at the grave and ponder, but I will try to penetrate into the problem of death even without the grave. Travnik is a beautiful town: it has a real Bosnian-Catholic, or better to say, a South Croatian character.
Dulka’s conversations about love, his thinking on this subject
I was listening to Dulka’s conversation with Oskar on the problem of love. She has a deeper insight into it than Oskar. The latter mixes love, attraction and friendship and makes assertions without any logical connection. Instead of going deductively, proceeding from God or the idea that everything in life has its purpose and to deduce what love it, which connection it has with the Logos and how it finds a real spiritual and bodily expression in marriage. For memory, Dulka wrote something in my diary. I haven’t translated it yet. She got a letter from Ljuba. What she read to me aloud shows that he loves her with all his heart; but she wants only a Pole and wants to live among her people, and not in Bosnia… It is tragic, although Ljuba has a much, much more purified and developed soul than her. Namely, she hasn’t met a man’s soul yet which strives to cultivate and perfect itself.
Banja Luka, 14 August 1915 – (18 years and 8 months)
Criticizing male-female behavior of others, as well as his own
Dulka is a riddle for me. Sometimes she entertains herself and speaks seriously, leading one to conclude of a deeper spiritual life. But today, she was dragging along with Oskar under the arm and smooched (not really, but she tightened her lips, etc.). It’s not that I have anything against walking with someone arm in arm, but apparently, it is sensuality which lies at the depth of this freedom and gaiety. I can penetrate much deeper into Oskar’s soul. He is now at the right age for smooching: he pulls her hair, her arm, enjoys walking with her arm in arm, etc. With him it is a boyish pleasure, although I know he doesn’t have the slightest loathsome thought at the bottom of his mind. But anyway, the background of everything is a child’s sensuality. I don’t blame him. Not so long ago I myself wanted to walk arm in arm with Roza; I was saying to myself that it was something spiritual, although, as I can now see, it was a veiled sensuality.
The topic of the conversation is spiritualism. Mother is ill; I fear for her.
Banja Luka, 17 August 1915 – (18 years and 8 months)
Dulka is going away the day after tomorrow. In Vienna, she will stay at my landlady’s. I feel sorry for her…
Banja Luka, 18 August 1915 – (18 years and 8 months)
Visiting a Protestant church, listening to the sermon and commenting on it
An Imperial day. Wehrmann in Eisen51 unveiled in Vienna. Kovno52 fell. Pastor gave a beautiful sermon in the Protestant church. He took a verse from the Psalms: “They trust in horses and chariots, and we in God…” A powerful thought. The enemies trusted in the mass of soldiers, cannon, etc., but nevertheless they were defeated. Yes, the words of the Psalms are eternal. (…) Otherwise, Protestants are Jews in the noblest sense of the word. They hold themselves as a chosen people whom God helps and look upon their enemies as symbols of evil and vice… like in ancient times. They still lack the objectivity and justice which finds traits of greatness even in the enemy. The impression in the church is rather elevated; it possesses a lot of spiritual greatness and secrecy. This torment (…) could regenerate mankind. It is a pity that Luther didn’t carry out his reform within the Roman Church. Battles are all in vain… at the end the world will slowly drift towards the center.
Critical of spiritualism
In the afternoon, I was with the Grünwalds for coffee at Dulka’s. (It’s her name-day… she’s leaving tomorrow.) She played with the cards, and then they engaged in spiritualism. Until I get the permission of the Church, I will not involve myself in it (namely, one should respect authority, because otherwise the whole social setup goes to hell!). I saw the plate moving and answering questions. Speaking of future things. The table moves horribly; it knocks according to beat, it squeaks – factually incredible. I watched carefully if anyone was cheating: but I didn’t notice a thing. They all swear it is not their doing. I’m skeptical until I try it for myself. Tymszyszyn also spoke to me a lot about materialization. But, who can trust him? These are not spirits; these are some unknown psychic powers at work (hypnosis, magnetism, telepathy, they are all the manifestation of one essence!).
The acts of Satan in the world and his lies
It’s a fact that the acts of Satan in the world are truly awful. I needn’t even mention the task of Mephistopheles, but here he has a suitable field in which this king of lies acts; the evil acts. So many people have gone mad… It might have to do with Satan who is being expelled on the feast of St. John. So many intelligent people speak about this without prejudice, that it’s a bit odd. For a twentieth century man to think of such things – magic, spirits, witches… But there is something factual in this medieval witchcraft. We know that they cheated people, but there were also those who possessed various psychic powers and did the so-called supernatural things. I heard that some Muslim priests can tell the future. Maybe with the help of spiritualism.
Thinking about Antichrist
I already sense the spirit of Antichrist who is descending upon the world. This will be a genius and an evil man combined in the same person, who will know both the natural and the supernatural evil powers and who will perform miracles even greater than Christ. And the world will convert to him; monism53 will flourish because the Antichrist will be a monist. This is how I see things: all things spiritual will be seen as a manifestation of matter over which he has complete power. Yes, yes, Du Prel says that we would see the world differently if our brain was different. If human brain changed just a little bit, this would be evident. I believe we would see this more or less; but the world would remain the same and those inborn ideas of the Trinity would be perceived more or less.
Feels the need for confession
I am terribly sorry for Dulka. I gather that towards her I already feel an ennobled friendship. There wasn’t even a handshake which would support the feelings that I’m a male. Thank God, just let her go on and evolve.
Due to this dabbling in spiritualism I wish to go to confession. The impression of this writing is learned, stupid and immature at the same time. These are the things about which a man cannot make judgements without being prejudiced. There are many things, my friend Horatio, in this world…
I didn’t do a thing. Terrible.
Banja Luka, 19 August 1915 – (18 years and 8 months)
A sorrowful parting with Dulka, decision to work for others
Dulka left. I could barely hold back my tears. She thanked me for everything and left. And now I feel like crying all the time. Life is terrible. One starts to dream a beautiful dream, and suddenly it is all gone, as if it didn’t exist at all. I know, time will heal everything and maybe I will forget her completely. But this very thought breeds horror in me. I am caught in a feeling like when Lavrecki left Lisa54 (but, we are not in love…!) and he, to kill these feelings of sorrow, went to work for the people. I will also try not to think of it and work a lot for others and for myself. May God be with her.
Banja Luka, 20 August 1915 – (18 years and 8 months)
Spending time with friend in nature on Petrićevac
She is now in the theatre in Zagreb. Everything has passed. I look through the window and in an instant, it appears that she is coming, but then I remember that she is not here.
This evening I lay with Oskar on Petrićevac55. We listened to the music of cicadas and other insects. The shadows of trees were, in Oskar’s words, soft à la Corot56. He understands the life of nature. But there is no altruism in him.
Banja Luka, 22 August 1915 – (18 years and 8 months)
Now Dulka is on her way to Krakow. I was following her all along. Her individuality is gradually fading in my soul, and the image of the Eternal-female is appearing.
Mother is terrible. Poland is being divided…
Banja Luka, 25 August 1915 – (18 years and 8 months)
He cannot get Dulka out of his head
The day before yesterday I had a wonderful prayer to the Mother of God. We were very close; of course, in this immense closeness there was a desire to get even closer. And in this passionate prayer again there was a void and a burning desire for Her.
Since Dulka is here no more, I am having a hard time. I work a lot, and due to pouring rain I rarely leave the house. I sleep very badly and due to that I’ve grown terribly weak. There is a maelstrom of thoughts in my head and I always think of Dulka: what is she doing, what could I write to her, what could I say, etc. I don’t understand myself. Love doesn’t exist. She is dear to me as all other people of a beautiful soul. But, she is female and this is again something completely different. Although I tried to erase this difference between male and female, I realize that it’s impossible. Both man and woman are humans: each with their traits and their purpose in life.
I discussed with Buconjić the “inborn” ideas. I said: if they didn’t exist, I wouldn’t believe that God is. He doubted my words. The question of monogamy – is it an ethical principle – is also interesting.
I already received postcards from Dulka from Zagreb and Vienna.
Banja Luka, 30 August 1915 – (18 years and 8 months)
Still thinking of Dulka
My life is drifting along without deeper feelings. I study Latin, walk, play tennis.
Dulka is often on my mind. Her eyes make that deep impression on me as is described in Brown’s Abschied von England, the scene at the unveiling of the Iron knight.
Banja Luka, Sunday, 5 September 1915 – (18 years and 9 months)
Doubts concerning faith, confused feelings, problems of love and marriage
Let me confide again to my best friend!57 I was in a terrible state of mind the whole day. I couldn’t recollect myself properly in the church, nagging thoughts were pressing upon me questioning whether I am merely deceiving myself, is it all just a false assumption. Along with all that, I had a terrible conflict with nature. Namely, here I am at a disagreement with myself.
True, there is no difference between male and female, but I inadvertently flash a smile at a girl passing by. What an offence! By doing that I degrade her to the level of an animal – and myself as well – because I am showing that we are not the same. And marriage itself. Isn’t it a stupid prejudice? Do people have to take each other as husband and wife? I know, the question is abnormal, because my reason tells me about the laws of nature and metaphysics which are at play in marriage too. But again, this stunted brain! It is desperate that a man cannot be by himself and is seeking someone else. This again implies that there is something spiritual, and we are afraid of that. This is sheer stupidity – spirituality, it doesn’t exist. It is best to deny everything. Aut Caesar, aut nihil – either a Catholic or a nihilist, this is what I maintain. But why these terrible doubts, this vivisecting of oneself? And along with everything else, there is egoism which makes me disgusted with myself.
Admittedly, I am on my way out of these confusing feelings. The image of the Madonna in purple is before my eyes!
Banja Luka, 9 September 1915 – (18 years and 9 months)
Conversation with Dr. Maraković about literature, love and marriage
Yesterday and today I took a walk with Ljubo. Yesterday we walked along Petrićevačka Road and Krešo was with us (…).
Tonight, Ljubo was telling me about his intentions, about his paper on Kos and how he intended to resurrect Croatian drama. A lot of beautiful ideas. We spoke a lot about the society Nova et vetera and on French religious drama… He recommended me to read The Imitation of Christ.58
In the end, we debated about love. He holds that the realization of love is – marriage. Love without a material substance is not love. Love in poetry (Dante) was a striving for this realization. The love in the novels is fruitless because marriage for them is a matter of a small-town mentality. This is actually good; and the metaphysical relationship between God and the Madonna does not change here in the least. Until now I held that this love, “our” love without any material substance is purely spiritual, whereas now I see that it is in the Will of Nature that this spiritual relationship, connected with a striving for beauty, is directed toward the unification of souls in a child.
This is something that deserves further thought!
Dr. Ljubomir Maraković, Ivan Merz’s teacher and educator
Banja Luka, 13 September 1915 – (18 years and 9 months)
Continuing dialogue about love
In the following days, after dinner I would talk with Ljubo mainly about love. He holds that love cannot be completely separated from sensuality (the refined one!). We love a certain woman because of her very nature, her hair, eyes. Then there comes a moment when one likes to kiss (he sees it in a humorous way!). All of this is sensuality.
We live in an anti-Christian age. The state and marriage. Marriages are different now! A man, says Ljubo, should get married in order to place his full trust in somebody. He loves children, but it doesn’t satisfy him. Yes, this is how it is, but it is too conventional! It seems to me he didn’t attempt to penetrate into the very essence of human love.
Banja Luka, Saturday, 18 September 1915 – (18 years and 9 months)
Thoughts about the ethical side of war, walks with Dr. Maraković whom he admires
Today I found out that I will have to take my army medical exam again. I am not too happy about this. In truth, I would prefer peace and am not convinced that the war is about ethical truth, although its foundations are ethical. A man might sacrifice his blood if he were deeply convinced of the idea.
I am taking a walk with Ljubo almost every day. Yesterday under the moonlight we were on the other side, and today in Šeher. Tymczyczyn painted a Bosnian motif in water color. A small house, greenery, and the Vrbas River underneath. Not a great work of art.
About Ljubo I must say that he is finer and finer with every passing day. He is not perfect, but he is wonderful.
In the soul – a void and shallowness: lack of natural faith.
Banja Luka, 21 September 1915 – (18 years and 9 months)
Desires Communion, interested in studying Christ’s life
I am disgusted with myself. I have terrible dreams that I do not wish to remember when I wake. In my soul, a terrible shallowness reigns. This eternal studying of Latin has become a bore. I am tired, I long for nature and art. The evening is so Christian, ready for every grand thought, and when the day breaks, it all vanishes, and a man is so weak, he can’t even comprehend the thoughts he entertained the previous evening.
I yearn for Communion. I must admit, I neglected my religious life terribly. I would love to study the life of Christ, I would love to read the thoughts of great men about Him and I would melt in this enthusiasm studying Him.
Banja Luka, 24 September 1915 – (18 years and 9 months)
Thinking about the existence and purpose of all creation
I hold a pencil in my hand. I let it fall. It falls on the floor. I turn the switch and the electric lamp turns on. Is there any purpose in my asking whether the pencil exists, as well as gravity, is there a light? No. We should only enter into their essence, to seek out their purpose.
Is there any purpose in my asking myself if love exists when I see that it does. I mustn’t be such an egoist to deny it out of fear, not to admit that I myself am an ordinary man subject to the Will of the World. The most important aspect is only its essence; actually, we shouldn’t ask ourselves if it is good to be exposed to everything. Yes, we must be convinced that everything that exists is good because it has a purpose. And love exists, it has its purpose. Evil exists too; the good also has its purpose because it is intended to create.
A wonderful moonlight. I am walking with Ljubo and Mihać in silence. A full music circulates through the nature. The Creator of all this is even more beautiful!
Banja Luka, Friday, 1 October 1915 – (18 years and 10 months)
Transience, and at the end of the journey Resurrectio
This life is a hard and strenuous work. I identified myself to a great extent with the spirit of ancient Rome and its literature. I know a lot of this literature, but I still haven’t read all the prescribed works. Perhaps I would have been already finished, if it weren’t for my aching eyes.
It is dark outside – black, dense clouds. Odd thoughts come to mind and, without knowing how, I remember Dulka. It is all a dream. I met her and this is past. The parents will also pass and everything will look like a dream until I myself enter the dark, terrible alley; no, it is neither dark nor terrible, but light, full of supernatural luminance! It is there that the Resurrectio59 is celebrated.
Banja Luka, Thursday, 7 October 1915 – (18 years and 10 months)
Conversation with Dr. Maraković on the founding of a congregation and on his diary
My tooth aches. I worked quite a lot. I mainly read Tacitus. I had a walk with Ljubo. We spoke about setting up some kind of congregation60 here. It is indispensable. We also spoke about his diary. Namely, he finished today a lot that he had left out previously. I asked him if he intended to publish it, but he said no, but if someone finds it after his death, it will be published anyhow.61 However, he is not writing it with that intention, but because of the inner need for self-analysis and a proclamation of his thoughts.
They say that Bulgaria has involved itself in the war.
Banja Luka, Saturday, 16 October 1915 – (18 years and 10 months)
Literary traits among ancient Romans, Romanic nations and the Germans
I have roughly completed everything I need for the Latin exam. I worked a lot and learned a lot. I think I probed rather deeply into Roman literature. I read Horace a lot and I understand him well. Generally, I noticed that it is not only the French literature which has an educational character – as Ljubo says – but that of all the Romanic nations. Horace wants to improve morals, and he comes forward as a preacher to the people. Virgil sets great examples in front of his readers. Ovid is the greatest artist among them, and he also has many educational elements. Philemon and Baucius. I prefer not to speak about historiography, because it is by its very nature moralizing. Then, the greatest Romanic work Divina Comedia has the deepest and directly pedagogical character. We suffer all those pains in order to improve ourselves. What is the situation among the Spaniards, I don’t know; but I have the feeling that the same could be found in Don Quixote and Calderon. French literature in the 18th century is completely under the impression of moralizing, and Romanticism (in novels) couldn’t shake this off itself. What is Atala? A pedagogical work? But, I almost forgot Emile Rousseau. Actually, Ljubo brilliantly noticed that naturalists, like Balsac, in their digressions often play moralizing chords.
How about the Germans? Completely different. Faust is the most striking example of the difference between the Romanic and Germanic nations. Here, one can see the noble egoism, the penetration into one’s self and the drive to experience everything. There is not a shred of moralizing: Faust could never be a leader of a pedagogical revolution.
Yes, Romanic nations are social and therefore pedagogical and leaning toward the arts, while the Germans are philosophers. But, what about the Slavs? I leave this question to the future.
Remembering Greta, her death and her continuing existence
Yesterday Greta again came to my mind. I was sitting on her grave and read out her name: Greta Teschner. Strange thing, the inscription on the tombstone! And in this grave, lies the one who played the piano, and I stood by her, the one whom I loved even without knowing it. And I saw that it really was love. It seems funny, because I myself don’t know what love is and I am too much of an egoist to succumb to that feeling without a philosophical justification – a real, burning, first love. I have the feeling that it will survive all. Yes, if she were alive I would give all that I am to her, all the latent love would flow to her like a thousand voices from an organ.
No, it’s been enough; she is no more and let us leave the dead in peace. Dead? What does this word mean? A girl lies on a sofa, her hair is golden, she looks just the same as the one who spoke so nicely, but she doesn’t move. Her mother comes, moves her head, calls her. Nothing, not a sound. They take this body and bury it. There – this means to be dead. An incredible ceremony! And we think about her; she lives in our hearts and her essence still exists; everywhere, up, down, around us and in us and this is eternal. We shall stop here. One ought not to think of eternity unprepared.
Banja Luka, 25 October 1915 – (18 years and 10 months)
Finally passed the Latin exam
The Latin exam is over.62 Here is what they asked me: in the written part I had to translate King Titus from Croatian into Latin, and a chapter from Livy’s 39th book – the death of Hannibal – from Latin into Croatian. Oral: Alcaic stanza, I had to translate the 31st ode from the first book and one paragraph from Dialogus de oratoribus. I was pretty good. Kesić asked me Horatio, Virgil, Cicero. As to the latter, I wasn’t quite good, I didn’t know the philosophical work De amicitia.
I stayed in the Jesuit monastery. Already at five in the morning the bells toll, the organ plays and they sing the church songs. There is a lot of poetry in all that. I am now focusing on French and I want to immerse myself in art.
Some places in John’s Gospel about Communion are simply brilliant. During the last Mass, I thought a lot about them and penetrated into them so deeply that I mystically felt the transubstantiation and that Christ is present right there and that we should bow down to him. Yes, we want to pray to that Christ who lived long ago, and we, poor people, don’t know that the same One is present here, even more beautiful.
The Sarajevo Seminary where Ivan stayed when he took his high school examination in Latin.
Banja Luka, Thursday, 28 October 1915 – (18 years and 10 months)
Seeks a deeper meaning in everything and speaks about this with a friend
When one is not working, a strange dissatisfaction enters the soul. In this past year, I somehow stepped out from that literary, artistic enthusiasm. True, I still love to read and observe, but I cannot grasp the deeper meaning in everything.
Lately I have been spending a lot of time with Krešo. Today he left. He was handsome, had fun with the girls, showed interest in deeper problems, but without knowing why he distanced himself from our fundamental principles. He denies the existence of inborn ideas saying that man by nature possesses only the capacity of receiving what the outer world impresses upon him. The ideas of justice and truth do not seem inborn to him, but also learned. He ignores Romanticism and literature.
I remembered Roman Tieck.63 Pity, a great pity for him. He was the first Croatian poet in a Faustian spirit. Penetrates into the deeper issues of life, seeks solace to his discontent. I will study him more.
Conversations with Dr. Maraković about art and literature
I am seeing Ljubo every day. I looked at his paintings; he really has a lot of them. Yesterday I looked at Spitzweg and I saw that Romanticism among the Germans is almost the only great art which expresses their character and which has a place of dignity in world art. And all those Corynths and other popular ones – they are mere triviality.
Yes, he gave me three of his poems as a gift. Enoh Arden is a pretty idyllic epic… There are no great events here, nor deep emotions; no, this is an anthem to marriage, ordinary and simple, and at the same time an elegy to a seafarer’s life… The entire work is permeated by intimate religiousness…
(Here follows a brief review of the content of the poems, quotations of verses which made an impression upon Merz and a comment on the poems and their key characters)
I am now travelling to Vienna to enroll. Already I began to miss Vienna. Soon I will have my army medical exam.64
Vienna, 12 November 1915 – (18years and 11 months)65
A review of The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
It is difficult to give a completely clear characterization of this novel. There are scenes which excel in refined psychology, while others remind me of the style of a criminal novel. (…) The work is full of contradictions, and all the poet’s views are outright odd; maybe even evil. (…) It is known what Wilde was accused of at the time of Dorian’s publication and consequently, this work seems to be a kind of poet’s self-confession. Perhaps he was striving to improve, but a vivid memory prevented him in doing so. In order to shake off these feelings from himself – like Goethe in Werther – he gratified his artistic instinct and portrayed himself in this work; his double nature: the esthetic – ideal one in Basil the painter and the vegetative one in Dorian Gray. (…) In Gray the tragic destiny of modern man is shown, a man of decadence. (…) His life was evil and he was bound to crack up. (…) His whole philosophy of life is “pleasure”… Love for him is a physiological process. He observes the exterior and does not delve into deeper problems. (…)
(Here follows an extensive description of the work and its contents with numerous quotations and a critical review of the work, its author and characters as well as the message of the work)
Vienna, 13 November 1915 – (18 years and 11 months)
A review of the romantic opera Lohengrin by Richard Wagner
Regarding the music, I understood the foreplay best. An azure ether, with angels slowly appearing from two sides carrying a chalice in the middle. Their contours grow stronger and stronger and they descend with the chalice on the ground. The motif of the Grail is in extremely high tones (similar to the Parsifal). There is a stream in the middle which touches the earth and encompasses all people with love, reaching further and further until the whole world is full of this magnificent love. The angels place the chalice on the ground where the chosen ones receive it; they rise into the air, losing gradually their contours, until they disappear in the blue ether. The content is from Germanic history. Wagner, of course, elaborated these motifs a lot. The technique is rather antique – not as expressive as in Parsifal.
An all-embracing human idea is present here, an idea present as far back as the ancient Greeks in Zeus and Semele and Odysseus and Circe, likewise, in Lohengrin – the story of a tragic genius. In this work, Wagner succeeded to give an ideal historical milieu. It is a wonderful work full of lyric melodies and psychological fine points in music. (…) Yes, this is the primeval image of yearning when God through the Holy Spirit descended upon a woman and gave the God-Man.
(Here follows an extensive presentation of the content of the opera, its characters and a comment on the message of the work)
Vienna, Monday, 15 November 1915 – (18 years and 11 months)
A review of Sophocles’ tragedy King Oedipus with a special emphasis on the role of the chorus
A truly remarkable work. I studied it because of the chorus66 and came to the conclusion that this is the highest point which a chorus may achieve. I maintain that chorus is the key element of the future Croatian solemn drama; it must be a representative of an ideal observer from the people; it must be the quintessence of the people. (…) Let’s get back to Oedipus. The chorus is an ideal observer who experiences the entire course of the tragedy and thereby is spiritually cleansed and ennobled. This is what an observer ought to be; pious to the extreme, and hugely objective at the same time. He laments the misfortune of the hero, and draws consequences from the work. This tragedy is great due to a deep religious idea. (…)
(Here follows an extensive presentation of the content of the tragedy and its characters and a comment on the dramatic side of the work with a stress on the role of the chorus in the work itself)
Vienna, 18 November 1915 – (18 years and 11 months)
A review of the drama Bride from Messina by Friedrich Schiller
When I saw the Bride from Messina in the theatre the other day, I was elated. If I had written about this work at that moment, I would surely say that it is something extraordinary. Now I speak differently because I became familiar to an extent with Schiller’s means of presentation and came to the conclusion that Schiller cannot be compared to Goethe by far. His works are too much the fruit of a great reason, technical prowess, diligence and learning, but not a spontaneous outpouring, pain. (…) Zipper is right in saying that this work is not a tragedy of destiny and that the Bride from Messina is the work of a genius but not a genial work.
(Here follows a lengthy account of the contents of the drama and its characters and a comment on the dramatic side of the work with a stress on the role of the chorus in the work itself)
Discussions about the future Croatian drama or opera
I spoke with Jušić at length about the future drama and he says he is in favor of a future opera. Already some Stipančić (if I get the name right) wrote a libretto which needs music. It is the coronation of King Tomislav; he would have a lot of people on stage and loud music out of which as a Grail-motif in high silvery tone the motif of the Croatian anthem would emerge. Great idea; but I think that we do not have an appropriate historic moment for such a solemn musical drama; because everything is known already, while in mythical characters (Marko and other) it is much easier because from them one can create representatives of the people and at the same time the entire humanity. History can produce some “royal dramas” like in Shakespeare, where a conflict of characters is shown, but it is never a carrier of the idea of the entire humanity.
Vienna, 22 November 1915 – (18 years and 11 months)
Review and comment of Goethe’s drama Iphigenia in Tauris
In Volkstheater I saw Iphigenia in Tauris. The work is extraordinarily beautiful, but like the other Goethe’s dramas, non-dramatic. Goethe is no dramatist at all. In its deeper idea, Iphigenia is like Faust, Parsifal and other. It is all about the salvation of pure humanity. (…) The leap from Euripides’s Iphigenia to Goethe’s one is tremendous: a leap from the Antique to the Christian world view. In Euripides, for a good end she can even make use of a deception. True, it would never happen in Sophocles, but Iphigenia is purified by a Christian spirit, she never lies, but wins over everyone with pure truth, even if in the face of death. (…) Her religious life is beautifully presented. Those prayers to Diana and the gods could easily relate to the Blessed Mary and to Him. Only the form is classical, as well as the story, but the idea and execution are Christian. (What would the Jesuits say about this?!)
(Here follows a lengthy account of the content of the drama and its characters and a comment on the technical execution of the work)
Vienna, 23 November 1915 – (18 years and 11 months
Visit to a gallery and a critical comment on paintings he saw there
One might lose one’s head looking at the beautiful nudes by Titian. Some sadness envelops a heart looking at these wonderful, beautiful, nude human bodies which are tightly bonded with nature and represent nature’s most beautiful flower and decoration. If anyone would have even a single nasty thought, we ought to tell him that he is corrupt, not the painting. But, God, the human body is like an outer image of the soul.
Titian, Ecce homo, 1560
Just like the world is an idea of the Godhead and a work of art an expression of the world of the artist, so the exterior of a man corresponds to this inner harmony. “So, God created man in His own image” Magnificat Dominus! (…) Ecce homo – Christ is in the upper left corner, and although he is not in a predominant position, the composition is arranged in such a way that he is the center of action. Hands, posture of people, head and everything else is arranged to lead our eyes to Him. Along with that, here he is dramatic as probably no other Venetian. There are many other beautiful paintings in the first section of the museum. Giorgione is represented by a female head which I would almost call divine. He called it “a girl”, but actually it deserves the title of Madonna, much more than numerous paintings bearing that name. (…) I liked Palma il Vecchio with his Venetians: all the paintings are anthems to fashion and Venetian girls, without depth. (…) Bellini is much more intimate with good landscapes. Cima de Cortegliano features his Alps in all his paintings, and the scene from the Madonna’s life he also places in nature. He is idyllic, devoid of any dramatic content.
Plans for the drama about the Prince Marko
The future drama about the Prince Marko faces immense difficulties. He is an ideal – and epic character; in a drama, he couldn’t act and fight on all sides, because he is the ideal of the people and conciliatory, winning over the others to his side. If we wish to be true to the poem, in a drama he would have to keep silent and experience the whole action within himself. In order to create a dramatic figure out of him, we would have to find him an antagonist, and a real fight would have to ensue which ends with his victory. But how can we weave into it the chorus – that solemn conciliatory principle which expresses the ideas of the people and all of mankind? And again, to insert the theme or idea of the yearning of a man for his ideal woman (Eternal-female) which can exist no longer because a man needs a real love which has a sensual basis, and not worship.
Vienna, Wednesday, 24 November 1915 – (18years and 11 months)
Dilemmas about the study, concern for his future profession
I am now in a much better mood than I was several days before. I found at least some entertainment; I read, although I do not possess the works which I should read. I am not going to buy them because I already spent too much money on books, artistic postcards, coffee rooms, sweets, taverns and other pastimes. I would like to study systematically Goethe, French lyrics, heroic epos, I wish to learn languages, history, art, everything, but I don’t have the books which I need for that. So, I must make do with my poor library. After all, the history of language and details from literature are also interesting. I am supposed to be a lawyer and I haven’t been to a lecture on law yet, I go to some lectures in humanities, and I learn a lot by listening: but it is not the real thing. I would love to immerse myself into it and explore everything in detail. When I think of my future profession, to be a state employee, I am terrified at the thought of having to work in an area in which I find no pleasure at all. I would like to be a teacher in Bosnia, to open the minds of children, showing them a deeper connection of things, rousing their enthusiasm for faith and the arts, and in the meantime, be active in the field of literature, maybe even write. It is not some egoism, the altruistic element is immensely strong in me, and I am not satisfied merely to accumulate wealth, but wish to help others spiritually, give them of my blood and my knowledge.
Admires Christ and his love, strives for him and wishes to unite with him
Lately, I worked somewhat more intensively on the cultivation of my soul. I read The Imitation of Christ and reflected upon it. It is a great book, full of mystic content which I need. One sees on every page how small one is, and how great is He who died for us, who gives us the Bread – God, Himself, all that greatness, that Love, to us. It is beyond words what one feels when He unites with us; here is the desire for more and more, for the entire Christ, for the eternal Light, for God the Creator, for whom the heart strives strongly, bursting forth. Yes, and in every single moment one may succumb to a thought, a glance, something empty; and again, one always yearns and dares to ask for that which is hidden in a man’s soul as if by a veil, which sometimes shines forth and illuminates a part of one’s interior with supernatural light. This is what I would like to be in my greatness, to be a non-body and connected with this Luminance.
Reviews of two read books
I am reading Montesquieu’s Contemplation on the Greatness and Decline of the Romans. (…) I read Björns’s village novel Syunnöve Solbakken. A pretty piece. A eulogy to village love. When the main female protagonist sings on the hill guarding her sheep, we have the impression of listening to the singing of a nightingale resounding in the forest, mixing the gaiety with the pain and longing of lovers. And this sad song resounds through the forest, this song of love.
Again, he analyses the problem of love and tries to find an answer
Again, one might ask what love is. An axiom which moves life onward, both nature and mankind and it would perhaps be the best not to get lost in speculation. This is how Providence has been arranged, and we must submit to it, we shouldn’t in Bazarov’s manner suppress this longing for a woman which is in our heart. Although, to be fair, when I go to the dancing hall, when I look how males and females got to this place and no one wants to admit that it was the opposite sex which drew him / her here but will say that he / she came merely to relax. They dance, exchange words and tease each other; a real love game of sparrows and nightingales. Observing this, I wonder what love is, where it comes from, the question – am I subject to it, and I say no, I merely watch from a distance this game of love. But at the same time there is in me a desire for love; not only transcendental, but also an ordinary human love, understanding, warm feelings. I remember Dulka often (my God, Greta seems to be forgotten already!) and I must admit that I might fall in love with her. True, she is far away from me, in my memories of her soul only the eternal-female has crystallized, and this is surely the reason why I think of her so much.
Banja Luka, Monday, 29 November 1915 – (18 years and 11 months)
Reflections and planning of the future Croatian drama
(…) For a Croatian drama, a historical content would be appropriate: Zvonimir, Tomislav. One ought to find a tragic guilt in their character and create a drama around it. Admittedly the Greek technique would be the best, with a preliminary because otherwise the chorus in a vivacious Shakespearian piece would have no role at all. But I feel so sorry that I wandered away from the notion of a solemn drama in which Prince Marko could play a role. After all, maybe Tomislav could be the hero of a solemn drama; but this Tomislav should not be the historical one, just like the Sophocles’ and Aeschylus’ heroes were not historical. Neither was Odysseus (he was a thief!, etc.). This topic, the yearning for the ideal female and a tragic breakdown would be more fitting for an opera than a real drama. Along with everything else, I fear a future drama; it cannot be a tragedy, and a presentation of irreconcilable antagonists, a living battle takes away from the solemnity and silence. The Greeks are tragic, but in them the tragic guilt of the protagonist is metaphysical; therefore, their tragedy is solemn. But what would ours be like? One ought to study heroic poems.
I live in a state of discontent. I have no real mission in life.
Review of Björnsen’s book Synnöve Solbakken
Synnöve Solbakken is a pretty thing. The Norwegian environment is nicely depicted, but there are many drawbacks in realistic detail. It portrays life in a village, people go to church, to Confirmation, weddings are celebrated, a fight breaks out, etc. The key protagonists are the peasants. (…)
(Here follows a presentation of the content, analysis and critique of the work)
Banja Luka, Thursday, 2 December 1915 – (19 years)
Conversations with Dr. Maraković about the topics of Croatian drama
I was accepted into the army because on the medical exam I forgot to say that I have weak eyes.
Regarding the future drama, I spoke with Ljubo. He is thinking of a pentalogy: “St. Anastasius, Tomislav, Zvonimir, Svačić and something else.” A great thought, especially the first drama which would include the prophecy about the future Christian people – the Croats. The unity of the place would be preserved, these would be some analytical dramas. “The Croatian Kingdom”. One is at pains to find those great faults which destroyed the kingdom. Therefore, Ljubo thinks that we should find this in Glagolitic67 struggle. But for the moment, I still remain with my heroes from folk poetry.
Review of a Balsac’s novel, complains of losing connection with God
I read a German translation of Balsac’s novel A Woman of Thirty. I didn’t quite grasp the idea. It is probably focused in the words of the dying Helen: there is no real happiness outside the law. Everything moves around it. The work is very disjointed, actually, full of the effects of criminal novels, but one can sense that great Balsac nevertheless. Napoleon’s glory is portrayed in bright colorful lines… The vibrations of a female soul, all the secret corners are presented with such finesse, actually with an adoration of the female soul, the soul of a lady from high society. But, sincerely, I admit that Balsac accumulated so many thoughts about the female psyche that I couldn’t follow him. Probably I am going to read it again.
The connection between my soul and God has grown somewhat cold. I will try to become intimate with Him again and to be happy.
Banja Luka, Friday, 3 December1915 – (19 years)
Ante was really killed…
Banja Luka, Thursday, 9 December 1915 – (19 years)
Communion for the killed friend, reads Pavlimir by Junije Palmotić
Today I received Communion. I dedicated it to the late little Ante… I had a walk with the Grünwalds. Oskar is still very sensuous, but his taste seems terribly refined. On a picture, he notices refinement or mistake immediately; also in other things.
For the sake of Croatian drama, and especially the meter, I read Pavlimir by Junije Palmotić. As a drama, it has no great worth. Pavlimir is an epic character, a saint who does not initiate any act. Timor and Sniježnica are more dramatic. This is not an analytic drama, but actually an account of the foundation of Dubrovnik in dialogue, where all people are ideal characters. The village scenes give the work a charm. It reminds me very much of Italian pastoral games. Chorus is at times well positioned, but it lacks expansive depth. (…)
(Here Merz gives copious quotations from the work, analyzes them and comments, presenting the key characters of the drama, describes the role of the chorus and gives his assessment)68
Banja Luka, Thursday, 9 December 1915 – (19 years)69
Completing a review of Pavlimir
Once again: Pavlimir himself is an epic character, more action proceeds from Timor and Sniježnica – the demons – although it is only formal action. They are not strong antagonists: their means of action are intrigues. Therefore, intrigue is the main dramatic plot, and we know in advance that Pavlimir will win: it is his destiny. The idea of the work is a glorification of Dubrovnik:
For as long as the sun shines
Spinning around the world
Your glory will always shine
Eternal among us.
Beautiful art thou, o Dubrovnik,
A white and noble city
Who is bound to spread your glory
All over the known world.
This is sung by shepherds in different variations praising and glorifying the future Dubrovnik, a hearth of freedom. (…)
Banja Luka, Saturday, 11 December 1915 – (19 years)
Contemplating the stars, Earth and the universe
I am rather sad. After a long time, I recollected myself a little bit in nature. I went to the Petrićevac Road70. The sickle-shaped moon was in the sky. Around me the black contours of hills, dotted with red lights from the houses. Along with that, barking, an incessant barking of dogs. I turned in the opposite direction and observed one star. It was green and twinkled at great speed as if it wanted to catch up with someone. It trembled speedily. Around it there were other stars, bigger and smaller, and they were arranged in such a way that they seemed to be connected with thin lines giving the impression of an infinitesimal number of geometrical shapes in the sky. While the star was still twinkling, I lowered my gaze and saw something like a black plate. This is the Earth; the Earth which now seems to be the center of this enormous universe. The steadfast and black Earth, and along with it the stars. In this whole scenery, this Earth trembles and vibrates in space, as if suspended on thin lines which are about to break. Fear. It will fall into the abyss, into infinity. No, it won’t, no, no, it is safe here, the stars and everything around them is safe, everything keeps an order, everything rushes, turns, moves. Somebody directs it all. Hosanna to Him who gives life to all, who gives the speed, life and purpose!
And we, the people, the little dots on this dark Earth! We are also subject to this magnificent order; we are also parts of this huge purpose…
A pair in love just passed by.
When one meditates like this in nature, it makes one wonder and admire all this beauty; pantheistic thoughts come to mind. But, one must wait for some veil to be lifted in order for everyone to realize the significance of one God.
Impressions about the paintings of Corot
I especially like Corot71. He is a great painter; magnificent landscape painter, possibly one of the world’s greatest lyricists. One must observe his paintings for a long time before feeling that great, eternal meaning in them. His biographer rightly says that his paintings are the supreme truth, but no naturalness.72 This is truly the meaning of art. Schiller says that a poet mustn’t give the image of nature (outer), but must penetrate into its depths in order to comprehend its invisible laws and with the help of that create another nature – the work of art. This is what Corot is like. All his paintings are one mood; actually, the nymphs, people or other living beings in his paintings are like symbols of this mood. This is how they dance, lie, this is how they are enchanted and complement this mood. This may be some kind of Romanticism. If one takes pleasure in the mood of nature more or less appropriate figures emerge in the imagination; a morning, the lifting of mists, a lake, there must be a fisherman preparing on his boat, dusk, some nymphs. He works with the masses; he cares first and foremost about the mood. He is an impressionist in the best sense of the word; sometimes we can’t tell whether he is giving us a stone or an ox; but everything contributes to the impression. He paints as he sees, not as he knows. Along with this impressionism, we find classical harmony. Trees, the masses are arranged in such a harmonious way, but this is so discreet, as if it simply has to be that way.
Banja Luka, Sunday, 12 December 1915 – (19 years)
Continues to comment on Corot’s paintings
One could write about Corot looking at his paintings. Admittedly, when we say “Corot” we always think of his landscapes, but he is great in portraits and various other compositions too. I remember that painting of a woman (she lowered her head and crossed her arms) where, using fine shadows he gives a soft, fine mood. Along with that, he gives an illustration of the character of the person. A painting similar to this one, full of mood and the typical Corot’s tout flotte73 is A Girl Reading. Characteristic for him is the painting Toilette. It represents that classical motif after a bath: a beautiful nude. But, in addition to that we are in the midst of Corot’s nature, and at the back “like a nymph” a girl from Paris leans against a tree, immersed in reading. In other words, a certain impressionism full of that classical silence and harmony; full of impression. After all, he was several times in Rome and studied the old painters (the Barbizones would never do such a thing in order not to lose their individuality). He also has religious paintings, but I don’t know them. He was very popular; this lover and friend of nature was the so-called pioneer74 in painting. Rousseau painted nature exactly so that species of trees can be recognized; Corot painted only what he saw and felt, not what he had known from before… Mrs. Viardot inspired some of his paintings (Orpheus, Eurydice, etc.). It would be interesting to study the life of this woman.
He decorated many walls; here also his principle was to paint in a way that the landscapes seem real, as if seen through the window. His atelier was simple, devoid of luxury which other painters had.
This statue of the Bl. Virgin Mary was in the parish church in Banja Luka and Ivan often prayed in front of it (The statue was destroyed in the Homeland War 1991-1995) Ivan took the vow of chastity until marriage in front of the Bl. Virgin Mary in Banja
Remembering Greta, doesn’t intend to fall in love again, vow of chastity to the Blessed Virgin
It is a strange day. I dreamed of Ante – sad dreams, and now I saw Greta’s picture again, maybe the second time after her death. O God, my God, terrible. Greta, my dear Greta. When I saw those eyes, dear and mild, the lowered head, the hair, ah, how many times I caressed it, I remember that I ought to remain faithful to her forever; through my whole life she should be an idol to whom I will compose my poems. Every person ought to find such an idol. This seems like a discovery to me: maybe I am forever at peace with nature. The female element has played out its role in my life which it had to play. I will have no more dealings with women. I will not fall in love; this could turn into sensuality. Other women can play the roles of men in my life, especially a fine male friend. But it is terrible when I think I will always have to move in a society full of sensuality. The other day I made a vow of chastity to the Blessed Virgin until marriage; maybe it will last for my entire life.75 – Good night little Greta! Vergiss mein nicht!76
Dream and phantasy, hidden desires, an imaginary Gothic castle
I had a dream.77 My God, if it only was so in reality. This is what I would like. Some dark Byronic tower on a cliff. Black, Gothic, with many small towers and four bigger ones on the corners. Around it there is a crenel78, Gothic. Of the landscape, I imagine fields and a river underneath. In this tower, I desire darkness. From afar, dark-red light can be seen coming from the mansard. Here is my great library: the Faustian room (precisely). Here are the old copper engravings, wood engravings, books in all languages. One wardrobe contains only old things, no matter what; maybe some old preacher’s letters. In the other, there are the artistic novelties in all languages. Here is the place where I love to be. Another room is dedicated to astronomy, accessible through a small corridor. Here, in the dark, I imagine a telescope, and there is no roof, in order for the starlit sky and the riding moon to be plainly visible. Here, beside me, is my astronomer who tells me of the situation of the stars that I observe, their purpose, movement, speed. We conclude and define ideas. We admire all that; we think about the universe and empty space, and we feel the Rector and Genitor79. Then there are the halls. One is chemical, where we study the laws of nature, while in the small hall we produce various compounds and we admire them. There are other halls too. Especially one anatomical and one botanical. The castle contains a church with a large organ. It has no windows; only the eternal red light smolders. It is Gothic, spiritual.
A solemn mass is never celebrated here. When a mass is celebrated, it is only a mass for the dead. The organ plays very deep, and when there is singing, only songs like Miserere or Dies Irae are performed. Communion is offered every day. In this castle, there are many people like me, who strive to arrive at the ultimate cause, and we all gather in the church when the tower bell tolls twelve times. Following a prayer to the Spirit of Light, one of us stands on the pulpit and speaks for the sake of everyone about what he has found out today. When the ceremony is over, everyone must bow down to the altar and sing sadly: Miserere Domine, quod ambulemus in tenebris.80 In this whole castle there is a girl who is sworn to chastity. She has her hair down, black, a pale face, and her black eyes are like two charcoals. She is always in sorrow and from time to time everyone is allowed to see her from afar, all in white. No one is allowed to speak to her.
Banja Luka, Tuesday, 14 December 1915 – (19 years)
Impressions after reading texts about poets and painters
My work consists in reading Verlaine. At the moment, I am learning the words, and later I will try to immerse myself in his poetry. I also read a treatise about Troyon. I don’t like him even a bit like I do Corot. He is a good animalist, he loves animals, the contrasts of light and darkness (strong influence of Rembrandt) are beautiful; nature and everything else shows a great artist; but in his paintings, there is no poetry as we find in Corot; the lyric of the setting sun, the dance of the nymphs, etc. He was like Corot, a Parisian; he is more of a realist. Unquestionably the greatest painter of animals in the 19th century.
I leafed through an old copy of Savremenik magazine. Here I found one beautiful poem by Domjanić; full of Verlaine’s lightness, full of fine images. I will copy it down. I read it fast, and it is so impressionistic that I couldn’t remember its content in detail. I only remember that the sun sets and that the silhouette of the cross and its shadow grow longer and longer. His eyes are blind, etc.
Banja Luka, 15 December 1915 – (19 years)
Recognizes himself in the verses of Verlaine’s poem Streets
My work consists in practicing the piano and learning French. One of the most beautiful of Verlaine’s poems and one which suits me is Streets (Aquarelles)
(In the rest of this passage Merz quotes this poem in the original, in French. It starts with the following words: Dansons la gigue! J’aimais surtout ses jolis yeux, plus clairs que l’etoile des cieux …. The content of the poem relates to the poet’s memory of a former love. Apparently, Merz recognized himself in this poem which reminds him of his youthful love for Greta).
Banja Luka, 18 December 1915 – (19 years)
Reading his last year’s diary perceives changes in himself
How a man changes… I read some pages from the last year’s diary and I can nicely judge a spiritual progress in some areas. But, in others I still lag behind. When I read those thoughts about literature, about realism, I wonder that I thought like that at all. I’ve forgotten a lot of things and I directly feel that at that time literature meant everything to me, whereas now I am only a dilettante. I should immerse myself in it again. Detractio mater scepsae et superficiality est.81 This is what we modern people are.
Greta would have been 19 today. A girl…
Banja Luka, Monday, 27 December 1915– (19 years)
With the theology student Bilogrivić discusses the work of Satan in the world
I spent my time mostly idling. I am not capable of a systematic, deeper work. I will try to do something before going to the army. During the Christmas vacations I was mostly in the company of Bilogrivić.82 We spoke a lot about theological matters. Especially interesting is Satanism. He told me the story of a missionary. He was holding a sermon in a French church when two elegantly dressed gentlemen left the church and started saying to everyone that he is bedazzling the people. They invited him for discussion into a house. He accepted, taking his missionary crucifix with him. A lot of elegant gentlemen gathered. The main color of the hall in which they met was black. There was the throne, covered in black cloth. From the right people in black semi-masks started to come in, and at once a big and strong man came – all in a black mask, terrible to describe! A terrible tense atmosphere hung in the air. In a moment, the missionary took his crucifix, held it forward with his right hand towards the strong one and said: “In the name of the living God get out!” With a terrible noise the black one vanished. It was the devil himself.
I am not too versed in all that, it could be superstition, but for the moment I choose to believe in it firmly. Just like God manifests himself in all possible ways, so the devil has a terrible power in the world. As a matter of fact, his greatest pleasure is when people bow to him. These men have actually done so. These men know what God is, but hate him. This is beyond reason, hugely mysterious, how such a small original sin causes such a catastrophe in the entire humankind. And Satan is evil, something terrible, strong. But yes, we can distance ourselves from him! Weak people!
Special feelings after receiving the Holy Communion
If I were to meet an atheist, I wouldn’t be able to tell him what the Eucharist is, I wouldn’t be able to tell him what I feel. Indeed, sometimes when I find myself in light, sunny nature and think of my feelings at the Communion I feel strange, as if it was a dream, a mysterious, strange, beautiful dream, some feeling, some atmosphere which I do not have now, but when I am enveloped in that feeling I forget all, there is something that pulls me, pulls me irresistibly, one prayer leads to another, a desire, a yearning, a constant striving, so that I must use force to stop myself from striving there. The whole life is one beautiful and great secret!
Review of the book Gösta Berling by Selma Lagerlöf
I read the first book about Gösta Berling. Lagerlöf is no genius. A woman of warm feelings, a refined noble woman, a real ideal woman. Gösta Berling is a book for people who desire warmth and feelings. Who are seeking a novel in a Bruntière’s sense, let them go to Balsac. Gösta is a Märchenroman83, a very particular literary style which until now I have not read.
(Here follows a brief content of the novel and its analysis)
Banja Luka, Saturday night, 31 December 1915 / 1 January 1916 – (19 years)
To start with:84
Offer me your hand that I can lift
This stooped body and the ill spirit.
Full of humble prayer, until a great pain
Obscures the hope that your voice declares
And trembling I yearn. Verlaine, Sagesse
Dr. Maraković and his unrealized love
My life is odd. I work and I don’t work. As you look at it! I took upon myself more than I can complete, so I completed nothing. Even with the best of intentions I couldn’t do all that – going here, there, occupying myself with this and that. We are human and are too much attached to the environment.
I spent the evening with Ljubo. We were at Nada’s, and then we went to Šlarafija. All boring. But, in the coffee room Ljubo read aloud his novel. I quite liked some things, but I will come back to it later when I get the manuscript into my hands. Along with that he confided to me the history of his love. A true romantic love, stuff that novels full of true poetry are made of. Only a religious person could have experienced something like that. And there he is! He dreams of winter nights. He saw her at a concert once and never more. Three years have passed, and he somehow came upon her, found out her name, even visited her in her apartment. They exchanged letters. Her mother was in accord; but she was still reserved (in an upper-class manner!) and her father sent her to university. As far as I can see she is studying in Vienna. This is the structure of the story, but the details are full of flowers and various other elegant gestures.
Banja Luka, Monday, 3 January 1916 – (19 years and 1 month)
Review of the drama about Prince Marko by Ante Benešić
Benešić’s Prince Marko left no impression on me at all. It is obvious that he wanted to create a dramatic character, so we find him in battle with a rather strong antagonist: Vuk Branković. This is convenient; a severe fight ensues, where the main protagonist shows all his ethical strength, as well as his guilt. (…)
(Here follows a presentation of this drama, its contents and numerous quotations which illustrate Marko’s character)
Meeting with painter Bocarić and his works
Today I was with Gustika in Bocarić’s atelier. He works with a peculiar technique, as if with threads. When I asked him which of the great painters works in a similar way, he said Segantini. True, but there are not so many tones in Segantini. He must work really hard. He tells us that he closes his eyes and passes with a brush until he gets what he wanted. Yes, from close up his works are just some lines, but they give a different impression when seen from a distance. However, I think he is exaggerating in this, because there ought to be at least some contours. It is obvious that he is very ambitious. He studies the lines of the scarves, and the like. He possesses various female folk costumes and works according to them. He drew our attention to the beauties of folk weaving and to some things that the Indians wear even today. It is interesting! I told him to illustrate history, to reproduce in color some old motifs which could not have been produced before. Violet color does not exist in Bosnia at all. It is difficult, I know, nothing is preserved, but one ought to try.
Banja Luka, Tuesday, 4 January 1916 – (19 years and 1 month)
Review and a critical comment on Selma Lagerlöf’s novel Gösta Berling
It is a new species: an evolution from the fable toward the novel, relying heavily on the epos. (…) When I read the work, I got a hugely great epic impression. The work should have been called Wermlandy. The ambition of the poet was first of all to portray her people with all its virtues and vices. Everything takes place in a village, the persons we meet are mostly peasants, although the chief heroes are the noblemen. The story takes place around 1820. Gösta Berling is a historic village novel which in its extensiveness represents a modern glorification of the people, and in its technique and evolution it was created from the fable. (…)
(Here follows an extensive presentation of the content of the work, critical analysis of the characters and their messages, etc.)
Salutation to the stars and the universe
Little stars, my dear little stars, scattered so beautifully in the sky, I almost forgot that you exist; you, worlds, abysses, the immeasurable! How quickly one forgets the eternity! Night is a real day: only then can one search for Him.
Banja Luka, Thursday, 6 January 1916 – (19 years and 1 month)
He attended a party
I came from a party given by the white Sisters of Mercy85. Miss Oberhofer has something of Mona Lisa in her face.
Banja Luka, Friday, 7 January 1916 – (19 years and 1 month)
Dilemmas about love, sensuality, human nature, asks himself what is “good”
I know very well that love is a law of nature strongly connected to refined sensuality, but still I keep looking for female company. I hold delicate conversations with Miss Vlašić (I remind her of yesterday’s dance, I tell her to get married and the palpitations will stop and other things), I look at Miss Oberhofer, I almost flirt with her (it is terrible when I pronounce that word, it is followed by a thought that I perceive her as something different than myself, I almost take her as an animal because certainly there is nothing spiritual in it, and the relationship between a husband and a wife should be spiritual!). Oh, misfortunate nature! I mock myself when I think I might fall in love; indeed, this is a weakness – to seek female company. But then, what is nature? This is necessary for the preservation of the human species. I would almost say “ouch” when I think that I am an animal. But still, a great Design reigns everywhere in nature. So, it must be good. Ah, who would know what is good! There is a fear of falling into intellectual shallowness, into sensuality, and then it is a terrible weakness to seek a woman. Why doesn’t she seek me? Indeed, maybe she does, but covertly! This is how it is. But anyhow, I will try as much as I can – I know that I will fail – to wrestle my way from this impulse: love. Shall I be unfaithful to myself? I believed that the female element has played out its role in my life and I thought that the eternal in me will crystallize, and I am seeking a new, living female ideal?!
The image of the Sistine Madonna is always in front of me.86
Banja Luka, Sunday, 9 January 1916 – (19 years and 1 month)
Remembering Greta and battle with sensuality
I glanced at Greta’s picture again. I feel terrible. I think that, if she was alive, I would leave the entire world for her. Strange thing – life. On the one hand, I yearn for love, and again I know that I love her more than anyone else and that I will never be able to love again in such a sincere, childish manner. I am already torn by the ideas of the centuries which criticize every act and every hint. Always there is this great fear that I might become sensual. Unwittingly, a man always feels his weakness; whatever one is speaking about, no matter how elevated, with a girl, without thinking the sensuality creeps in. It is terrible. I shouldn’t even approach a girl out of fear that unwillingly a bit of this bodily instinct appears. This humiliates her and myself as well. When will I be so strong to be naive and sincere like a child?!
Enthusiastic about Verlaine’s verses about love
Love as in Verlaine is real love. These are the most beautiful dreams, pure, un-sensual, love dreams: the eternal-female draws us to herself. Well done, Verlaine! You hit my soul!
(Here Merz quotes in French the verses about love of the poet Verlaine from his poems Wish, Isn’t it so and My familiar dream. In these verses, he found himself and they resounded in his inner world)
From the poem “Wish”
O for a woman in love, tender and mild,
Sweet, pensive, dark, and always astonished,
Who now and then kisses your brow like a child.
From the poem “Isn’t it so?”
Is it not so? We’ll go, gaily, slowly, on the modest
Road that reveals to us Hope smiling,
Whether we’re seen or ignored, ever careless.
The poem “My familiar dream”
I often have this dream, strange, penetrating,
Of a woman, unknown, whom I love, who loves me,
And who’s never, each time, the same exactly,
Nor, exactly, different: and knows me, is loving.
Oh how she knows me, and my heart, growing
Clear for her alone, is no longer a problem,
For her alone: she alone understands, then,
How to cool the sweat of my brow with her weeping.
Is she dark, blonde, or auburn? – I’ve no idea.
Her name? I remember it’s vibrant and dear,
As those of the loved that life has exiled.
Her eyes are the same as a statue’s eyes,
And in her voice, distant, serious, mild,
The tone of dear voices, those that have died.
Banja Luka, Wednesday, 12 January 1916 – (19 years and 1 month)
Critical review and analysis of the novel Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
I read the Croatian translation. When I started reading the work, a question arose in me whether it is allowed to present these things. I read therefore with a reserve. But when I noticed that Flaubert is historically objective, even more so than Balsac, I realized that he had to present all this in order to describe the soul of a female type such as Mrs. Bovary. Those love scenes presented by a certain impressionism could, of course, have a negative influence on an uneducated reader; actually, such things shouldn’t be presented with a classical precision because they could become disgusting. We know, after all, that we are people made of disgusting meat! But, honor is due to Flaubert: he was resolving an artistic problem and he resolved it brilliantly. The technique of the work itself is excellent and it should by all means be studied. The outer form of the work is the life of Charles Bovary. Or, better to say, he is a background on which Madame Bovary is painted. (…)
In order to technically evaluate a literary work, it is important to focus on the end. Does it satisfy us ethically? It does, completely. There could have been no other kind of end. Mrs. Bovary became an adulterer and she pushed her husband into utter poverty. Therefore, she could have repented. Her husband would have forgiven her for sure. But, it would be an absurdity to go on living with an adulterer. (…) Her nature was not religious in any deeper sense. She had to depart from this world. She killed herself. The poet pushed her into insanity, desperation, and in a moment of abnormality she poisoned herself. And then the holy Mysteries reconciled her with us. On her face a kind of remorse was visible, a gladness that she is getting rid of this passing dust; actually, she looked at her husband with completely different eyes. She saw his love. Therefore, Madame Bovary is a technical masterpiece of the healthy realism. Objectivity is historical, but it is not photographic. (…)
(Here follows a very extensive presentation of the content and a critical analysis of the work and its characters from the literary-artistic point of view and a comparison with the writers Maupassant, Goncourt and Turgenev)
Banja Luka, Friday, 14 January 1916 – (19 years and 1 month)
A description of Strindberg’s bad character
In Westermans Monatshefte I read an article on Strindberg.87 He seems to be a kind of futurist – here I remember my conversation with Uzelac – who wants to fully develop his individuality, even in an artificial way by means of alcohol. For him morals don’t exist, only instinct. He has a rough temper, but of course, his character is completely decadent, ill, which all manifests itself in intellectual convulsions, leading him all the way to insanity. (…) It was a terrible thing for him to feel the mercy of others. He hated such persons merely to avoid being dependent on them. I think Strindberg emerged from a Nietzschean milieu. This is the fruit of an extreme egoism which refuses to humble itself before anything, even nature. (…)
Happiness of family life; anticipates its short duration
I feel well at home. To express myself better: almost never has there been so much satisfaction, such harmony and contentment as there is now. Mom is always smiling and caressing me. Dad reads seriously, but after the newspapers or Dorian whom he is reading now, he always says something nice. The financial situation is good. I can freely say, it is almost an ideal picture of family life. I fear it will not last long. Something comes and everything passes, everyone goes his own way. Death comes or something else.
Nagging thoughts about the essence of life and the world
As a matter of fact, I am a little bit bored here. After all, I am not a machine. I play and read; there is no goal in front of me. Not a day passes, as a matter of fact not an hour, without those nagging thoughts about the essence of life and the world and similar things. Factually I believe firmly, though rather theoretically, but still I wonder at everything. Here, outside of my window there is the sunlit alley, and a universe behind it, and I live, and think – all in that manner. The Earth is turning, there is a war, history and this is not mere imagination, it all exists, it is real. And I always ask myself what is real. The reason knows; but the heart is always surprised. And when the heart enters into the mystical realm, it feels the magical thirst which is becoming stronger the closer it is to the Source, or rather, an intimation of the Source, and when one walks, one wonders at it all. Life is a mystery.
Combatting arrogance, desire to be humble
In addition to all that, there is that arrogance, the devilish arrogance in human nature. I am ready to confess my sins to myself, but when others mention them to me, I get angry instead of being thankful. That striving for the religious reform of the world is more a striving to be even more arrogant. I can be proud because I know what the truth is. But here there is always the thought of a triumph, and how I am going to be right in the end; whereas, I should step upon myself and bow down and admit that nothing of it is my own achievement, I am merely obeying the Truth which has triumphed. I ought to humble myself often, and only then I will be in my rightful place. In such cases the opinions of people should be despised.
Banja Luka, Saturday, 15 January 1916 – (19 years and 1 month)
Review and critique of Goncourt’s story La courtisane
Faguet says: the Goncourt brothers must have been realists, because they could count on and present exclusively what they saw. He goes on to say that their taste sought the bizarre. In this little story that I read I saw that they are very much immersed in the decadent spirit. It is a good cultural-historical image of the 18th century. A rococo river in which a woman and gallantry played a role for itself. Everything takes place in that light and gallant rococo tone without a deeper meaning; even today this is the preferred reading of the baronesses and other easy-going aristocracy. (…)
(Here follows the presentation of the content of this story and critical review)
Banja Luka, Monday, 17 January 1916 – (19 years and 1 month)
Review and critique of Valreas’s novel Maman Simone
This is a novelette which is all about solving one social problem. It reminds me strongly of Heyse (The Prodigal Son). The only interesting thing in this novel is the content. It emerges from the period of naturalism and we can say that the content itself is naturalistic. This is a piece of writing without artistic value; the content would be appropriate for an Ibsen-type tragedy which would be a homily to the fathers.
(Here follows the presentation of the content and a critical analysis of the novel)
Montenegro loses its freedom for the first time
My soul is cheerful. Montenegro has capitulated. She did the right thing. Why should so many people die in vain? Nikita saw that Entente deceived him. Montenegrins are a heroic nation, full of moral strength. Never until now did they lose their freedom. This is the first time. This peace is a true finger of God which wants a nation still healthy in itself to be preserved. Laudetur Dominus.
Banja Luka, Tuesday, 18 January 1916 – (19 years and 1 month)
Review and critique of the novel Mademoiselle de Camargo by Theodor de Banville
A rather romantic novel; can be classified into the literature from the 1700s where they describe love in a subjective novel. By all means, not a great work. (…)
(Here follows a brief content and critique of the work)
Banja Luka, Wednesday, 19 January 1916 – (19 years and 1 month)
Review and critique of the story La vie et mort d’une danseuse by Catulle Mendes
A short story from the theatre life. Not some great work. A twelve-year old dancer danced, went through all kinds of adventures in her life, in many cities, in order to finally grow old and end up begging and dancing to an accordion. She died poor, and her escort after her funeral was arrested due to theft. (…)
(Here follows the review of the content and critique of the story)
Walk and conversation with a girl named Vikta, analysis of love feelings
I had a walk with Vikta. We lead strange conversations as if we were on the road of falling in love. I didn’t want to work and I went to see her, without acknowledging that I was seeking her. It’s a torment for me; it seems stupid to lead such conversations which make no sense. One could try to penetrate the soul and investigate the strange female psyche. But, how does one begin? When I am beside her, I am as if obsessed by something, as if under a suggestion, and I speak in the same tone; no matter how hard I try for something more serious, I cannot think of it. And then that devilish desire for kisses… I don’t understand it at all; this is sensuality. All right, let us assume that I love her spiritually, but I am not aware of this spiritual element in her in the least. She is honest, but she got this more from her upbringing, than from philosophical conviction. And she is good and diligent. But so are the others. Maybe I am not thinking of her because there was no one else toward whom I could feel the same. The first feeling toward Greta must have been the same; only at that time I was untouched by culture and simply drew the consequences of that love. I cannot do the same here. She is dear to me, but maybe this is only a feeling based on a veiled sensual foundation. If there had been someone else toward whom I could be so free, maybe I would have felt the same. As for the kisses, I am already far away from them; in general, I would never admit to myself that I love. This will not be able to evolve to the point of love because I analyze too much and shy away from everything carnal; therefore, love must die.
Banja Luka, Thursday, 20 January 1916 – (19 years and 1 month)
Comparison of the old and new novels with respect to the inner life of characters
A modern novel is greatly different from the old one. The old one (Zola, Maupassant) presents ordinary people who live mostly by instinct, without inner struggles, still untouched by new philosophical ideas. The new novel starts with Turgenev (Fathers and children), continuing with Dostoevsky, Hamsun, Strindberg, partly Wilde and Sienkiewicz. Here people are presented who do not live instinctively any more, but are permeated with ideas of their age, analyze, search in a Faustian manner and do not go through any feeling instinctively. Fathers and children are the most classical example. Compared to the realism of this work even Maupassant seems a romantic; in him love is instinctive, there is no inner struggle, and this is not real any in a modern sense.
Banja Luka, Sunday, 23 January 1916 – (19 years and 1 month)
A critical analysis of his inner life, desire for humility
I would love to be humble! Very humble! To destroy all this inborn arrogance and strive for truth in a humble way for the sake of truth itself, not thinking of what the people did or read and to be modern in that way. I seek a deep, thorough education, and not a magnitude of read books. Still, I am very dissatisfied and sad. I know it shouldn’t be like that.
I even received Communion today; for those few moments in the church I was more than happy, and even more so when I found myself able to delve to an extent into this mystery. But, soon after that a mood of dissatisfaction flooded over me; maybe it is because I am going through some strange fight which I am not fully aware of. I am slowly renouncing the self-assurance which was present in me, and with a huge effort I am getting closer and closer to Christian notions. As I do so I perceive many things which were wrong in me. Actually, I still lack basic philosophical (ethical) principles. Bilogrivić88 warned me of many things, and when I argue with him, I see already in advance that he is right; not because he is more gifted by nature, but because he thinks in terms of premises which were pondered over by the centuries. I see that I am wrong in many things; if one wants to introduce everything into the grandiose Catholic logical system, everything (both generally and specifically my interpretation of the Song of Songs from the Bible) could be understood differently than what the Holy Fathers say. The Church is absolute in that; it prevents every individuality. It is right in doing so because cells must be subjected to a higher unit; but these various interpretations are not so clear to my heart (they are to the mind, though) and their consequences still seem a bit sophisticated to me. But, I gather that I will be able to delve more into this matter later.
Doubts and vacillations in faith, self-analysis and self-criticism, ineptness in conversation, life is a riddle to him
When I think of how I handle myself in a conversation, I seem so strange and terribly childish. If others were speaking like I do, I would think of them as being naive children. But, I must speak, and if I wanted to express my deeper convictions, I would have to remain silent. All of life is such a riddle, the greatest sphynx, so that I am not able to confirm affirmatively, even from the deepest levels of my mind, or from the theoretical point of view the simplest axioms of life (at the same time I am a practicing Catholic in body and soul). But maybe it is different (the heart says this, not the reason), maybe everything else is a prejudice according to which people think and judge. There has been such a multitude of thought which people have spelled out from Christ to Nietzsche, Arsibashev, so contradictory that one unwittingly doubts in one’s mind, although one knows that Christ is the Truth. Like Kranjčević, I feel as if the entire mankind converged into the cerebellum. I admire people who are convinced of their principles – even if they are wrong; still, I seem childish to myself, although in a conversation I act as if I were beyond doubt, as if I were some semi-god unwaveringly convinced in the power of my thoughts, as if I could destroy and knock down everything with a single word.
It is best to keep silent, because one could scandalize the souls which believe firmly. God be with them.
I still don’t know myself. I know that by some philosophical speculation I could arrive at immoral conclusions and theories of life; at the same time, I would never be immoral myself, actually I despise and shrink from immoral people.
Banja Luka, Tuesday, 25 January 1916 – (19 years and 1 month)
Criticizes immoral contents in Maupassant’s work Une vie
Spiritual fights are not over yet. The extremes of my intellectual life are characterized by the works I read: First Epistle to Thessalonians by St. Paul and Maupassant’s Une vie.
The latter work is very characteristic of naturalism. But, I still cannot form an objective attitude towards it; if I could, my problem of love, sensuality, nudes and the like would be solved. However, I felt that the impact of this novel on us, ordinary, weak people, and especially young people is evil. We know what is going on inside a marriage and an immensely moral man (my Zarathustra to whom I bow!) can read the most detailed descriptions of various marital acts without feeling any excitement. But, such people are few in number and I hold that Maupassant himself – although in this work he is photographically objective – wouldn’t feel much different from us. The question is therefore – is one allowed to describe these acts? I say, no! (Goethe himself would grow silent if it came to that). But, in this work what was said was unavoidable for the character of the work. I ask myself again, is this art or a simple photography of life? As far as I am concerned, I would separate the two or classify the latter into scientific literature. Here I would also place Zola, and many others (Dostoevsky, etc.). I will not draw all the conclusions until I have read the work to the end.
I’m in a friendly contact with Vikta; we can discuss various, even discreet issues. I am still not over my conversations with her. We mostly speak about love, about the female ideal, desire for kisses, about love which for various reasons must either awaken or die.
Banja Luka, Friday, 28 January 1916 – (19 years and 1 month)
Criticizes his weakness, feels the need for a spiritual and moral perfecting, the first draft of spiritual decisions
I am somehow calm in my soul; but still I see that I am at a great distance from any form of perfection. I am thinking now of relative perfection – to be better than one’s environment. This causes a great pain in me. I fancy myself being a good example, but I see that I am a Christian only in my words, not in deeds. Christianity has not yet entered my bloodstream. There is nothing harder than to be a good Christian. (It was easy for the stoics and others). Gusti reproaches me – with justification – that I am arrogant, ruthless. I indeed am like that and I will try to become as gentle, as humble as I possibly can. Oh God, I just don’t know how to achieve that. In addition to the above, I eat a lot at my home, I get up late, I don’t do physical exercise. This entire life is contrary to my wishes. Weakness, weakness and eternal weakness.
I should pray longer in order not to lose that mystical connection with God, to feel him in every thought, in every glance and in my work. As it is now, I say my prayers in the morning and in the evening, in fact my thoughts mechanically repeat the sacred words. I should read the Gospel at least half an hour daily, reflect on those words, then at noon and during the Hail Mary89 to visualize some transcendental content and so the whole day long, to spend the entire life in that mystical light, making a masterpiece of my soul and seeking the Truth – Purpose.90
My eyes are weak, I cannot read so much and I would gladly delve into natural sciences. I lost my connection with nature too. I almost said “damned books”.
I found nice verses by Prudhomme.91 One ought to study him on account of his philosophy:
Caressing is only a restless fervor
A fruitless attempt of poor love
which strives to achieve the impossible unity of souls through the bodies.
You, poor people, you are separated and alone like corpses
tormented by the kiss.
From the collection Les Solitudes, Poem Les caresses
Banja Luka, Sunday, 30 January 1916 – (19 years and 1 month)
Feels exhausted and a victim of other people’s opinions, looks forward to a time of renewed enthusiasm, work and ideals
Where is my youth? I feel so old, so worn out. When could I fall in love?! When could I get excited over something, without meticulous analyzing?!Oh, we modern people, we are terrible. We grow old before our time. If I could only shake off all the books, all these foreign, poisoned opinions and live naturally and good as God has created us.
I think that once again the time of enthusiasm will open itself to me, the time of work, socializing, full of ideals and friendships. If only this unfortunate war was over and our entire cultural life started again.
Banja Luka, Saturday, 5 February 1916 – (19 years and 2 months)
Compares Maupassant with writers who describe love and corporeality
It will be rather hard for me to give an objective account of Une vie. The reason lies in the fact that for the first time I found a description of sensual acts and on the other hand Maynial’s monograph about Maupassant is hugely biased. Here the development of his illness is described in detail and not a word is said about his sexual life which could explain a lot of things in his works. And then, in this monograph, he is not placed where he rightly belongs in the evolution of literature. (…)
(In the continuation Merz names several of the most important French writers, giving his judgements on them from the point of view of description of love scenes in their works.)
Maupassant’s description of loCve and corporeality are irreconcilable with real art
Does this Maupassant’s work, Une vie, make a positive impact? No, the descriptions of those sensual acts do not fall within the range of the artistic. Art should raise us into a higher world, fill us with enthusiasm. We should enjoy in it. But, let’s say that a poet says that here is a social problem which he had to paint in this manner. Here we have a sentimental girl, full of flowery hopes. She yearns for love. Good! A young man comes along and they kiss. It is objectively described and we don’t know in advance whether this is a real, sincere, unselfish love between the two. They get married. The poet leads us into their bedroom… Here we feel for the first time that on his part this is only sensual love and that she has felt it instinctively at this moment. This is a fact. We have a presentiment that this marriage will not be a happy one. No, Maupassant shouldn’t have brought this image in front of our eyes. Those kisses in Corsica and their conversations which reveal nothing deep on his side are enough…We see that this description wasn’t necessary. But the question is why shouldn’t it be described? After all, they were married and their acts were not sinful; this is the daily bread of marriage. Precisely because this is the daily bread it shouldn’t be the subject matter of art. Everybody would be shocked if a poet wrote poems to a cake, beans or other food; one would immediately say that this is not poetry, that it doesn’t touch upon the inner life, that this is merely for the purpose of the survival of our bodies. There is a poem dedicated to wine. This is the limit. But, wine is not glorified because it pleases our palate, but because it acts upon the soul, takes us into some new psychic world, making us cheerful, enthusiastic. It can be lethal, and this lethal action of wine, the glorification of drinking and its consequences we find only in decadent poems (folk poems from Srem!). For the same reason for which a cake and beans are not the subject matter of poetry, the marital acts do not fall within the scope of art. They are completely bodily, serve the procreation of mankind and satisfy bodily pleasures, without anything spiritual. This is not a matter for art, and social problems should be beautifully resolved without it.
Art shouldn’t photograph ordinary life
And what happens with a kiss? This is something like wine to me. It is a yearning for the unity of souls; it can excite and can be borrowed as such for artistic purposes (the first kiss in Hernani!). But here too, one should be extremely careful. Goethe himself puts the kiss into verse, but when it comes to the marital act (Brautnacht), he, being sensual, closes his eyes. And Maupassant here gave an entire codex of sensual life. Here we have passionate kisses, acts, malthusianisms. It is completely wrong to think that an entire life is kunstfähig92. This would destroy the entire meaning of art. It is an axiom that only the beautiful is the subject matter of art and this shouldn’t be touched. Morals must also be respected. Art mustn’t photograph things as Maupassant does. Because if it were so, people wouldn’t need to read novels; let them go out into the world and look at novels with their own eyes… Many scenes from his works should be left out and only then could we read this great romantic writer with pleasure. (…)
Maupassant strived to describe the life of a woman as it truly is. Along with that, the psychology of a misfortunate female soul, her dreams, failed expectations, death of the husband, upbringing of a son and return. We can almost say that Une vie is an apotheosis of pain. This motif is as old as the beginnings of French realism: a woman who is unhappy in marriage. Presumably, this motif was elaborated already in the 18th century in a decadent, refined culture such as the French… The work is a naturalistic novel which portrays the entire life with poetry and prose, with sensuality and brutality. (…)
(Here follows an extensive account of the contents and a comment on this work, psychological analysis of its characters, comparison with other French writers who deal with similar topics in their literary artistic works)
Banja Luka, Saturday, 10 February 1916 – (19 years and 2 months)
Thoughts and comments after reading Lord of the World by Robert Hugh Benson (Merz firstly gives his extensive literary comment about various kinds of literary works, going back into history, with an emphasis on epic poems and novels and, comparing their development, mentions earlier and contemporary writers. Then he briefly summarizes the content of the work)
(…) We praised Benson, but we ought to say sincerely that he has a number of drawbacks. We are fascinated by that great epoch which he very logically and philosophically interpreted, but many of the characters do not satisfy us. Mabel for instance. He should have presented that huge inner struggle in stronger terms, the struggle between doubt and faith, which people have been going through from Cain to this day, and which at this particular moment is most decisive. He should have presented (at least impressionistically) the colossal amount of freemasonic arguments which burden a Christian (scientific and other), in order to understand his great spiritual struggle in which his faith is preserved in spite of everything. Only with this can we understand the psychology of that great Christian heroism. Those martyrdoms for the Crucified Christ are admirable, but we would be even more satisfied to meet at least one person of this character who is fully modern, who knows all the attacks of the freemasons on Christianity and who accepted the sacrifice.
Banja Luka, 13 February 1916 – (19 years and 2 months)
Continuation of the review and analysis of The Lord of the World and its characters (Here he gives an account about the creation of a literary work which cannot be fixated by laws because it is the fruit of the writer’s individuality, environment and epoch in which it was created. After comparison with the French, Merz speaks about the approach to English literary works)
(…) Therefore, when we analyze an English literary work, we usually pay more attention to the issue of ideas, to the moralizing point. The same is true for Benson. We already stressed the impressionistic, cinematographic technique. The structure of this novel seems at first to be divided into two parts. We have here a Catholic representative and his exchange with the freemasons. This, the formal side of the work, is rather bad. It seems, namely, that Oliver (the freemason) and Percy (Catholic) are some kind of key protagonists. In effect, neither of them is a key protagonist, both of them are only means by which the writer leads us into the spiritual milieu of both worlds. (…) Here we come upon Percy’s religious life; prayers, mystical ecstasies are particularly beautifully presented. Benson could have described Percy’s religious life, because he himself is religious. (…) In my opinion, Benson left out one important factor of sinfulness: sensuality. It is precisely this factor which is important for man – the outlaw, and freemasons here do not sin against sensuality (at least we don’t know that). A man from the age of the Antichrist will be excessively sensual which he will try to justify philosophically too.
Ivan with his father during holidays in Banja Luka 1915.
Events before the end of the world in Benson’s novel
Now we ought to come to the key feature of the work: the philosophical one. It is its foremost feature; everything else is merely a means to emphasize this philosophical issue. The writer keeps to Paul’s Epistle to the Thessalonians where he says that the man of sin will come only when the great apostasy occurs. This is a historical fact, only it must be applied to the future. Along with that there are a couple of thoughts more from the Scriptures and several prophecies. The rest of the spiritual milieu Benson had to construct taking into account modern circumstances. This is freemasonry which rejects every transcendental religion, adores the human mind, and its practical tool is humanism as a consequence of reason. This is the basic idea and it is completely true. Having reached a high level due to science, man imagines himself to be able to resolve the ultimate questions of life. By crossbreeding the generations, a superman should have developed who unifies in himself all the features of scientific mankind. This is Antichrist. We see him only in certain moments; we don’t know his past, at first glance he is beyond mistakes. A diplomat who reconciles the East with the West and becomes the Lord of the whole world. As an ideal representative of mankind, he is given divine honor. Oliver is a diplomat, a freemason. He is married to Mabel. The Pope Angelicus founded the Order of the Crucified Christ on the advice of Percy Franklin. Percy becomes a Pope in Nazareth. Catholicism is sentenced to death. The last abode of the Pope is found due to treachery and at the moment when aircraft are circling over Nazareth, the end of the world comes.
Banja Luka, Thursday, 24 February 1916 – (19 years and 2 months)
Relativity of enjoyment in art which is a great egoist
The bad mood is over. I cannot say that I am completely happy and contented, but there are no more desperate thoughts and feelings. As far as I can remember, I was desperate due to my own human limitations. I fancied that I am more valuable than the rest of my environment, dream about my role in life, but objectively speaking, my own death or the death of a maid in Normandy is just the same. Along with that, I suffered from my immense one-sidedness. All right, I am pretty knowledgeable in literature. But, what is literature? It doesn’t even satisfy me. Isn’t this art also a kind of self-deception? There are so many natural sciences, social sciences and others, and who can persuade me that each one of them is less valuable than the science of the arts?! Maybe they are even more valuable. Art is a great egoist; it delights only the person involved in it, while other sciences can offer direct help. Maybe I am wrong: these thoughts could be the consequence of the fact that I have been reading a lot of non-artistic stuff lately. In these books, there was no poetry of Chateaubriand, Hugo or Brentan and Eichendorf. The division of poetry from non-poetry in Maupassant and others like him was a hugely painful task. It is undoubtedly a great mission of a literary historian to recommend good books and distinguish the good from the evil.
Loves silence, peace, prayer, adores the Eucharist
I would like to prepare myself properly for confession. This might be my last.93 Of course, I do not live in such an environment where my mistakes would become apparent due to struggle, but still I have a presentiment of a number of things. And then, I am still in disagreement with Thomas à Kempis. He always says: turbam declinare (avoid the human multitude) and de solitudine (about solitude), etc. He demands that we stay away from the world. I love silence very much, I love peace where I can think, think of the mystery of the Eucharist, to fall into motionless admiration, I can pray for a long time. But all of that is strain, spiritual work, and one needs rest. This rest is found in society, if one cannot go into nature.
Let us take then a social worker. His duty is to approach all classes, the good and evil, and study life. Sincerely speaking, I am glad when, in the company of some friend, I can escape lustful glances of immature girls and when I don’t have to look at pretty ladies who march modestly, and passing by a good-looking man they tremble with passion. They are visible through and through. I prefer to eschew this company, not to look at the poisoned flirtation by the officers and other… it is more beautiful in solitude, it is more beautiful to retire into a dark chapel and, with the glimmering of the eternal light silently pray the rosary and admire, eternally admire the Eucharist, the glow, the greatness, the unspeakable Love…
Social sensitivity for the poor
Still, one ought to see it all, one ought to crawl into the most despicable houses and study those miserable people who need help the most, more than all the materially poor. How is one to help them – a difficult question – possibly by self-education? I noticed, namely, that there are some secret fibers – mysteries! – which, in accordance with the moral power of a man, act on his environment, even when he keeps completely silent. A classic example is St. Francis who folded his arms inside his sleeves and humbly, just walking, preached. This comes first, everything else is secondary.94
Review and critique of the poems Flowers of Evil by Charles Baudelaire
I read Baudelaire: Flowers of Evil. A choice of poems. He has a lot of brutality inside himself. He takes pleasure in delving into such things. I cannot say that I found something immoral in him, but his taste is terribly ill, decadent.
He is the last powerful representative of decadency in lyrics; after him, regeneration according to Verlaine comes. (…)
(Here follows a detailed analysis and critique of Baudelaire’s poems)
Along with all the ill instinct which makes Baudelaire great, here is his unhappy soul. His grievances resound in us, his reflections on nature, his sad loves. This is the modern soul, unreligious and therefore unhappy. A true representative of our materialistic age which took away all poetry, the time of Hamlet, Nagal and Baudelaire. Yes, a modern man is full of modern ideas, full of knowledge which gathered in his small head, and he is unhappy. That’s why he says: “I have more memories than if I had been living for a thousand years.” His brilliant verses from Spleen characterize in the best way this consequent, packed, modern soul which lives without anything supernatural and therefore must be bored with life and must be scared in the face of anything unknown.
(Here follow the quotations from Spleen LXXVI and LXXVIII and comparisons with other poets and contents of their works)
Banja Luka, Friday, 25 February 1916 – (19 years and 2 months)
Compares Baudelaire with Verlaine and Musset
Baudelaire is a romantic by content, a Parnassian by form. Along with that, he represents a huge leap towards symbolism. It is seen clearly that he doesn’t think in verses, but a thought comes into his mind, and then he starts to elaborate on it. A poem very characteristic of him is Le recueilelment. Here one sees that there is no real spontaneous lyric inspiration as in Musset, but some symbolic vagueness in which the poet himself doesn’t know what is happening to him. True, the feelings are vague. But if we think of Verlaine’s symbolism, from that vagueness we derive the same feeling, while in Baudelaire this suggestive music is missing. (…)
(Here follow the chosen verses from the above poem)
Banja Luka, Saturday, 26 February 1916 – (19 years and 2 months)
Pessimism – characteristic of lyrics of Baudelaire’s age
I can freely state that after Hugo the main characteristic of lyrics is pessimism. It is a real expression of this age of materialism and lack of religion. We love these people, all their torn soul is full of poetry. There is no cheerfulness and light which twinkles and plays. No, everything is sad, the rain is pouring down, it is autumn or winter; a rainy, muddy winter.
Not all of the poems are so immensely desperate; there are some which are full of human feelings. This too is a step into the French literature. The romantics mostly chose romantic motifs of unsatisfied love, full of exaggerated subjectivism. (…) There is a poem by Baudelaire which expresses the unconscious striving of a modern non-religious man for faith. This is Les aveugles. They walk in eternal darkness and look for the sky. He compares himself to them and asks himself: “I say: what are they looking for in the sky, all these blind men?” (…)
Banja Luka, Monday, 28 February 1916 – (19 years and 2 months)
Wants to create a masterpiece of his soul, but is still far from that goal
I intend to write a word or two before going into the army. Namely, with this I am completing this diary with which I wanted to cultivate my interior and make my soul into a masterpiece. I feel I am still enormously far from that goal, that I am still like a child who doesn’t know what life is, this secret of indeterminate struggle; the struggle which seeks its bread and as soon as it reaches this goal it becomes even fiercer because, by thinking, man comes into conflict with the prejudices of centuries, with contradictions in his own nature and the evil spirit who is laughing ironically in this whole process, who suppresses all poetry, every feeling and destroys everything.
The Holy Communion brings him great joy
I received Communion yesterday and I am so happy and contented that it seems I will never ever be sad, in spite of difficulties. Sadness poisons the heart, invoking that spirit of despair when I ask myself why live at all, why go on further, why was I conceived at all. These lethal thoughts must depart from my head, I must perceive my weakness which says that I should not explore everything with my own head. The task of life is not to despair, but to seek harmony in it and be cheerful over the magnificence of the order. Yes, this should be an axiom: everything is for the best. And whatever misfortune may come upon us, whatever misery, keep up that thought, even without understanding “why”! People are here merely travelers, their real determination is not here on this earth; they are chosen for something higher. Indeed, when I hole up in solitude, in darkness, everything, the entire real world, all the comrades, friends, all the magnificent nature seem like a dream. It is then that I feel that it is unreal, and that thought is the real reality, that the spiritual world, the world of the night and prayer is more real than everything that visibly exists. One ought to strive only toward this life, towards this reality. Yes, I am still weak. I enjoy the Eucharist and this spiritual life, but I see that this is still nothing, that I should dive deeper and further into this vast world. Only now I understand the great Pope Pius X who expressed the desire for a frequent, as a matter of fact, daily receiving of the Lord. Only thus can one enter into that world deeper and deeper, get closer to the Lord and converse with him. I know, many intellectual tensions will come. Maybe I will even fall very low, but I trust that I will remain on the right way. Life is strange. With this I conclude my diary and sing full of joy Gaudeamus igitur…
Review and critique of the novel Woman Power by Gustav Geijerstam
Geijerstam’s novel is a nice thing. (…) He has a refined, detailed perception of life. The end of the novel says that pain lifts up the human soul and the author advocates the thoughts of purity and religious life. (…)
Here follows a review of the content of the novel, its analysis and critique)
Banja Luka, evening, 28 February 1916 – (19 years and 2 months)
Impressions and thoughts after parting with friends before going into the army
I still carry that noise in my head; the laughter of girls, Vikta’s advice and Ljubo’s giggling. I ask myself: am I sorry for all these people? Yes, I noticed that many of them have grown to love me. Maybe some of the womenfolk are a bit angry at me because I am kind and gentle towards them, and then I push them away from me with an icy hand. I can say that I have grown to love Vikta really nicely; we chatted a lot even about the serious issues of life, and she actually confided in me. And there it is, she is dear to me like a sister. Tender, full of beautiful female feelings, although not highly educated. Then there is Vera. With her too, there was a lot of noise, laughter and senseless words so that I felt like a child. Just like that, when I realize that I never think about these things when I am alone. There, she is dear to me, too. But, when I think of what will remain of all this. It will pass; I will forget. The ideal of an unknown girl, unknown but still so well-known hovers in front of my eyes. Along with that, the thought of Gretchen is so much alive that I cannot even think of love.
Chastity and eternal chastity should be my motto!
Who I feel most sorry about here is Dr. Rebac. We didn’t speak a lot, but everything was full of living energy, full of love and some strange, actually mystical chastity. What an effect this man has on others! I feel that even the most intelligent person couldn’t make such a strong impression on me as a chaste one. This is factual, and this confirms the truth of Christian moral principles. Chastity and eternal chastity should be my motto!
So, I lose my older friend who already did a lot and is bound to have a good impact on his people – I feel clearly that this man is governed by Providence. It’s a pity for Ljubo, too; but I must be sincere in saying that I feel much more moral strength in Rebac, although I admit that Ljuba’s soul is much more developed and cultivated than Rebac’s. God, give us good health and everything else will follow. I only ought to find some good works for the study of the Scriptures.
“Grüs Gott, Gretchen! Vielleicht auf baldiges Wiedersehen.”95
Trappist monastery “Marija Zvijezda” in Banja Luka where Ivan often went as a young man. Here he used to come to confession. Also, here he participated in the First Mass of his priest friend Nikola Bilogrivić at Christmas 1916. At that time, he was already in the army, but he got a short leave, as he mentions in the Diary of 28 December 1916. The Communist regime devastated the monastery in 1945, confiscating property and expelling numerous monks. Today, the monastery is gradually being renovated.
1 Although he does not expressly state it, by the proximity of dates it is apparent that he took the vow of chastity on the feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, on the 8th December 1915. He was then 19. The motivation to take this vow probably originated from the practice of the Marian Congregation whose member Ivan was during high school.
2 Diary, 28 February 1916
3 Latin: Cogito ergo sum. A famous saying by the philosopher René Descartes.
4 A saying by the English romantic poet John Keats (1795–1821).
5 Here Merz does not refer to the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican, but Raphael’s painting of the Sixtine Madonna which got its name by St. Sixtus’ monastery in Piacenza for which it was painted. Merz also mentions it in his diary on 7 January 1916. This painting gave him a special inspiration in the struggle for moral purity.
6 In Vienna Ivan rented a room near the University, in the 8th district, Löwenburggasse 2, 2nd floor, apt. 20.
7 German: Extrausgabe
8 German: Grosse Erfolge in der Bukovina
9 German: Merken sie sich, meine Herren!
10 Members of the Croatian Catholic Student Society in Vienna
11 French: En plein air : “in the open“; used to describe the art of painting in open space
12 German: Das Ewig-weibliche zieht uns hinan.
13 Latin: Omnes unum in Christo.
14 Here Merz gives no details about this court hearing. However, we know about it from other sources. Some of Merz’s colleagues, as he himself mentions at the beginning of his Diary, while still in high school (Diary, 1 May 1914) were involved in secret organizations for the overthrowing of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy and for the freedom of Bosnia and the establishment of the Yugoslav state. After the assassination in Sarajevo, Austro-Hungarian authorities found out about this and arrested some of his colleagues, about which Merz writes in his diary. He was not member of these organizations, but knew of many of his colleagues who were. Judicial proceedings were initiated and Merz was invited to give testimony in court against his colleagues. Naturally, he didn’t do it. Two of his accused colleagues, one Muslim and one Serb later gave written testimonies of Merz’s behavior at court.
Ahmet Kulenović (Jajce): “Merz was an ideal of integrity and honesty, which he especially showed in the Technical high school pupils’ trial of 1915. I myself was one of the accused due to disturbance of public law and order. With his testimony at the court in Banja Luka and Travnik, where we were finally sentenced, he acted as a man whom even a nation of a hundred million people could be proud of. We, the accused, got the impression that the public prosecutor expected Merz to simply confirm the indictment against us from the beginning to the end, but when Merz gave his testimony, the poor prosecutor didn’t know what to do, because Merz spoke conscientiously, truly and honestly before the court” (cf. B. Nagy, Warrior from the White Mountains, Zagreb, 1971, p. 51, in Croatian)
Milan Janković (Banja Luka). “Among the witnesses there was a graduate student Hans Merz. But he refused to be a puppet of the public prosecutor Weinert. He was a good colleague and friend of our “triumvirate”. His testimony at the main hearing where he could (according to Weinert’s expectation) make life really hard for us was in fact our defense. Hans’s soul couldn’t accuse anybody. He was a good Christian – an idealist. He said: “They were my good comrades and were always in good relations with me. I know nothing of anything illegal that they did or spoke”. Weinert, disappointed, said that Merz was a religious fanatic, too religious and spoilt when he speaks so mildly about such “criminals”. (cf. M. Janković, Freedom and Yugoslavia – a pre-War Secret Pupils’ Societies, the Banja Luka Process 1914 – 1915, Banja Luka 1939, p. 53, in Croatian. Also, B. Nagy, Warrior from the White Mountains, Zagreb, 1971, p. 51, in Croatian)
15 Artists who created their art works under the influence of the German Benedictine monastery Beuron
16 French: Que les triomphes et les defaites du dehors traduisent les qualités et les insufficances du dedans.
17 Auguste Rodin (1840–1917), French sculptor
18 Latin: ab ovo (literal: from the egg).
19 Stephen Sinding (1846–1922), a Norwegian and Danish sculptor
20 Micika, the daughter of Merz’s landlady
21 German: Mann muss nicht so engherzig sein.
22 Rudolf ECKERT (Travnik, 1889 – Rijeka, 1915), a young Catholic intellectual with a doctorate, lived a saintly life. He specialized journalism in Munich and Louvain. Edited Riječke novine. Drafted in the Austro-Hungarian army at the beginning of World War I, fell ill and died with a reputation of holiness. His biography was written by Petar Grgec (published in 1995)
23 Fr Kazimir Ivić, OFM, subsequently director of the Franciscan Classical High School in Visoko
24 Russian story by Maxim Gorky
25 This is the end of the 2nd notebook of I. Merz’s Diary which covers a period from 7 December 1914 until 16 March 1915.
26 This is the beginning of the 3rd notebook of Ivan Merz’s Diary covering a period from 17 March 1915 until 24 June 1915.
27 Ode to Joy – poem written by the German poet Friedrich Schiller in 1785 glorifying the ideals of brotherhood and a united mankind. Ludwig van Beethoven incorporated it into the final movement of his 9th Symphony. Today this is the Anthem of the European Union.
28 This article – study about Turgenev was supposed to be the first published work of Ivan Merz. Unfortunately, as he himself predicted in his Diary, the article was not published in the Luč Magazine because it was too long. However, the original hand-written copy made by his colleague, soldier Mujagić, has been preserved in the Archive. Merz himself mentions this in his Diary of 15 April 1915. This article is an additional valuable document about Merz’s great literary talent. One ought to bear in mind that it was written by a man who was only 18 at the time of writing. This work was finally published in the first volume of his Collected Works (Zagreb, 2011.), pp. 27–54.
29 German.: Die versunkene Glocke
30 I. S. Bazarov is a character from Turgenev’s novel Fathers and Children published in 1862. The main theme of with work is nihilism in the Russian Empire, embodied in the character of Yevgeny Vasilich Bazarov,a young scientist and nihilist, critical of traditional values, a man who spends his time reading natural science books and carrying out experiments.
31 A pyramidal tombstone for Mary Christine the Austrian (1798–1805) in the Augustinian Church in Vienna. Made by the Italian sculptor Antonio Canova
32 Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3.
33 Miroslav VANINO, Croatian Jesuit (1879–1965), historian. By his intervention, Ivan Merz was able to study for two years in Paris, from 1920 until 1922.
34 Diable boiteux (Devil in a Bottle), a novel by D’Alain-René Lesage, published in 1707.
35 Latin: Either Catholic or nothing.
36 German: Urmensch
37 Tannhäuser, the fifth opera by Richard Wagner, written in 1842.
38 Gaudeamus… A students’ anthem in some countries (Let us rejoice while we are young…)
39 Ivan Merz’s father was from Pilsen by birth. He had two more brothers there who had families and whom Ivan visited on this occasion.
40 Picaresque novel (romanzo picaresco from Spanish picaro – a nincompoop) is an illusionary autobiography, written in the first person in which a fictitious person narrates his adventures from childhood until mature age.
41 Croatian Catholic Movement was founded in 1903 the bishop of Krk A. Mahnić and Merz was a member.
42 Full title: Matijaš grabancijaš dijak, Croatian comedy from 1804
43 German: das Ewig-weibliche zieht uns hinan
44 This is the end of the 3rd notebook of Ivan Merz’s Diary, covering a period from 17 March 1915 until 24 June 1915.
45 This is the beginning of the 4th notebook of Ivan Merz’s Diary, covering a period from 26 June 1915 until 28 October 1915.
46Ivan’s first biographer, Dr. D. Kniewald, who knew him well personally, wrote that from the psychological point of view Merz was a mixture of a choleric and a melancholic. In this text the melancholic trait of his character comes to the surface, triggered by weather, a rainy day. On other occasions, he left us completely different, much more cheerful descriptions of his state of mind.
47 Dulka, a Polish girl who was this year spending her vacation with her family (Polish immigrants to Bosnia)
48 Petrićevac, the suburbs of Banja Luka where on 22nd June 2003 the Pope John Paul II came and declared Ivan Merz a Blessed of the Catholic Church.
49 Fr Kazimir IVIĆ, a Franciscan, Ivan’s colleague from the studies in Vienna, later director of the Franciscan high school in Visoko.
50 Merz quotes these Lamartine’s verses in French: „Ne pourrons nous jamais dans l’ocean des ages jeter l’ancre un seul jour?“ This is Lamartine’s famous poem Lac (Lake) from the collection Méditations poétiques published in 1820 which raised him into the front lines of romantic poets. The poem, written in memory of his former love, speaks about the transience of everything temporal.
51 An artistic sculpture in the arcades near the Vienna City Hall.
52 Second largest city in Lithuania.
53 Monism – a philosophical system which reduces all the phenomena to a single spiritual or material principle according to which the world is absolutely understandable by itself and explainable by itself. It is a religion of scientific materialism, founded by Ernst Haeckel.
54 Characters from Turgenev’s work Home for the Gentry
55 Petrićevac – suburbs of Banja Luka on a hill where Pope John Paul II on 22nd June 2003 declared Ivan Merz blessed.
56 French: in the manner of the French painter Corot
57 As Merz often in his environment didn’t find people who could fully understand his inner feelings and the crises he was passing through, he frequently confided to his Diary with whom he shared what was bothering him; in such a way, he left us valuable descriptions of his inner life and spirituality which developed and ripened.
58 Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ. After the Holy Scripture it was the most frequently read spiritual book in the past centuries. Merz will read it often during studies and in the war and quote it in his Diary.
59Latin: Resurrectio: Resurrection
60 A congregation devoted to Mary, with the purpose of promoting spiritual life
61 Maraković’s Diary is preserved. It was inherited by his relatives, the family of Dr. Branko Richter in Zagreb.
62 Merz took the Latin exam in Sarajevo on 21st October 1915. On that occasion, he was staying in a Jesuit monastery which was situated within the Sarajevo seminary. He had to pass the Latin exam because he didn’t learn Latin in high school, and this was a precondition for continuation of the studies of law and philosophy at the Vienna University.
63 Roman TIECK (Korčula 1891 – 1915) is a pseudonym for a young poet Kuzma Petković. He published in magazines Luč and Naše Kolo. He aligned himself to Lj. Maraković and the new Catholic Romantism.
64 This is the end of the 4th notebook of Bl. Ivan Merz’s Diary which covers a period from 26 June 1915 until 28 October 1915.
65 This is the beginning of the 5th notebook of Ivan Merz’s Diary covering a period from 12 November 1915 until 9 December 1915.
66 Choir or actors in a drama
67 Croats were the only nation within the Catholic Church who, alongside Latin, had a privilege for more than a thousand years to use their national language in liturgy long before the II Vatican Council gave this right to all nations. This was the heritage of SS. Cyril and Methodius. For the folk language in liturgy Croats used a special script called Glagolitic which was invented by the Slavic apostles SS. Cyril and Methodius when they Christianized the Slavs. There is a theory that SS. Cyril and Methodius actually adopted this script from the Croats. In any case, this script is still today one of the symbols of the national cultural and religious identity of the Croatian people. By referring to “struggle” Merz implies the struggle of the Croatian priests and folk from the Middle Ages to hold liturgy in their native language.
68 Here ends the 5th notebook of Ivan Merz’s Diary, covering a period from 12 November 1915 until 9 December 1915.
69 Here starts the 6th notebook of Ivan Merz’s Diary covering a period from 9 December 1915 until 28 February 2016
70 The road leading to Petrićevac, a suburbia of Banja Luka, with a large Franciscan church, where the Pope John Paul II on 22nd June 2003 declared Ivan Merz a Blessed of the Catholic Church!
71 Jean-Baptiste Camille COROT (1796–1875), French painter and graphic artist
72 In the continuation Merz gives the same thought in German: Die Bilder haben die hochste Wahrheit aber keine Spur von Wirklichkeit.
73 French: everything floats
74 In the original: Bahnbrecher
75 He made this vow of chastity on the feast day of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, on the 8th December 1915.
76 German: Forget me not!
77 It is not fully clear whether this was really his dream or only a reverie uncovering his hidden desires and strivings. Probably it was a dream which he embellished with his reveries. In any case this description reveals his inner world and his striving for truth and the purpose of everything that exists.
78 Crenel – the upper edge of the defensive wall in medieval fortresses (similar to a cornice).
79 Latin: Rector and Genitor – director and parent (words relate to God in relation to the universe).
80 Latin: Have mercy on us, Lord, for we walked in darkness.
81 Latin: Disctraction is the mother of scepticism and superficiality.
82 Msgr. Dr. Nikola Bilogrivić, born 1893 in Tuzla. Ordained as priest in 1916. Served as parish priest in Banja Luka. After theological studies, he occupied himself with history. As a Catholic priest and a Croatian patriot, the communists sentenced him to death at a show trial and he was shot in 1947 in Banja Luka together with Feliks Niedzielski. He was a close friend of Ivan Merz whom he often mentions in his Diary. Their correspondence has been preserved ans is in the possession of the Ivan Merz Archive.
83 A fairytale novel
84 At the beginning of this part of the Diary – in the night from 1915 to 1916 – Merz takes as his motto a verse in French, from Verlaine’s collection Sagesse (Wisdom). Apparently, the poem found reflection in his soul and the feelings which he had at that time.
85 The Sisters of Mercy had a high school in Banja Luka and from time to time they organized entertainment for their female pupils. Miss Oberhofer was a girl whom Merz especially noticed at that party but he also mentions her elsewhere in his Diary.
86 Here Merz does not refer to the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican, but to Raphael’s painting of the Sistine Madonna, which got her name after the monastery of St. Sixtus in Piacenza which had ordered it. Merz already wrote about it in his Diary entry of 18 January 1915. This image was a special inspiration for him in his strivings for moral purity.
87 Johan August STRINDBERG (1849–1912), Swedish writer, painter and photographer. One of the best known Swedish authors with almost seventy volumes of collected works. He is thought to be one of the creators of modern theatre.
88 Merz’s friend in Banja Luka, student of theology Nikola Bilogrivić. See biography in footnote of 27 March 1915
89 Evening prayer, The Angelus
90 This is the first draft of the program of spiritual life which Merz compiled for his moral perfection. However, everything is still on the level of wishful thinking and in the conditional: “I ought to”. He feels seriously what he should do in the area of his spirituality. This program will assume more serious contours on 5 February 1918 when, during his time in the battle lines, Merz will put together serious decisions for his spiritual life. Later in Paris, and then in Zagreb these decisions will be perfected more and more, becoming concrete and more demanding. Already here the presence of God’s grace is visible in his soul, the grace which motivated him from the inside to such a serious spiritual and ascetic life.
91 French poet René-François SULLY PRUDHOMME, 1839–1907.
92 German: fit to be a work of art
93 In four days Ivan is going into the army, and then to the battlefield. From this sentence, we conclude that he takes the prospect of being killed very seriously. Some of his colleagues and acquaintances have already lost their lives.
94 Numerous witnesses testified, even in writing, that Merz, especially when he returned form the studies in Paris, appeared spiritual, emanating sanctity; some said that in his presence they felt a real presence of God (Cardinal Franjo Šeper, Servant of God Marica Stanković and others).
95 German: Good bye, little Greta, maybe we shall meet soon! This is the ending sentence of the 6th notebook of Ivan Merz’s Diary covering a period from 9 December 1915 until 28 February 1916.