IN WORLD WAR I
1916 – 1918
Ivan Merz with Father Mavro during World War I
Participation in World War I and his stay on the Italian battlefield meant a lot for Ivan and his spiritual development. Surrounded by the horrors of war, facing death on a daily basis, exposed to all kinds of suffering and self-sacrifice on the frontline, Ivan grew stronger, deepening his faith and living through a deep conversion to God. After the war, he began living a saintly life, “in the spirit of newly discovered Catholicism”, as he wrote in the Diary entry of 5 February 1918.
There were some who thought that Ivan, as they knew him during his work in Zagreb 1922 – 1928, was a product of Paris. This is not true. Ivan, as he was in the last six years of his life, was the product of a special grace of God on the frontline.
After having been drafted into the army, Ivan underwent basic military training at the beginning of March 1916 in Lebring near Graz. He spent about eight weeks there. From Lebring, he was transferred to Graz and Slovenska Bistrica for further military training. After that, he attended an officer course in Mürzzuschlag. He passed the officer exam in Graz. After that he was sent again to Lebring to the Second Bosnian-Herzegovinian Regiment. Due to hunger, he got a one-month leave which he spent in Banja Luka, Lebring, Vienna and Pecs. In November 1916, he was sent to Seewiesen to complete a course in skiing. Here he was promoted to ski leader. From January 1917, he held a rank of cadet trainee and spent most of his time skiing on the mountains around Bolzano and Arsier. When staying near Bolzano, he was living in Regensbürger hütte at an altitude of 2100 m. On this part of the frontline, Ivan’s task was to take companies to the battle position and back, or to transmit messages between different headquarters. Oftentimes, he would make 30 to 40 km daily on skis. When the snow melted, he was nominated postal officer because he spoke several languages. After that he was promoted to battalion adjutant, and remained in that position during the course of the offensive until the Austrian army was halted. As a lieutenant, he completed a course on battle gases in Vienna which lasted from the 3rd until 17th April 1918. Near Asiago he was assigned to reconnaissance duties. Apart from brief leaves – ten days every six months, Ivan spent the entire time, until the end of the war on the Italian battlefield.
Even during his time at the frontlines Ivan managed to find the time for reading, as is witnessed by his Diary which contains accounts on the books he read. He was reading very critically, observing his own judgments and the influence on his thinking and life in general by the works he read. A predominant thought in his mind at that time was that “life is more than art”. Religion and religious life substituted literature and art as the item of the highest value in his soul. He began to judge everything, especially himself from a Christocentric point of view. In his war Diary, he revealed the psyche of a Catholic warrior; a warrior who doesn’t kill, but always prays to God that he might not have to kill anybody; a warrior who, at the frontlines, suffered physically along with all the others, and underwent spiritual hunger as well. In continuous mortal danger, he kept his firm connection with God. There were various people in his company. Among the shallow and often immoral characters which surrounded him, his pleasure was to associate with prof. Ribarić. He was telling Ivan about the poet Vladimir Nazor, his works and life, and it was on Ribarić’s persuasion that Ivan began studying Nazor and developed a great enthusiasm for his work.
Leads an intensive spiritual life
Although life on the front was full of self-sacrifice, pain, blood, death and every other horror of war, Ivan was lifting up his spirit continuously to God. In the midst of bodily suffering, he devoted his time to prayer, fasting, subduing of the body, strengthening of the will and receiving Holy Communion whenever the opportunity arose. Indeed, his yearning for Holy Communion was sincere and deep. He read the Bible, The Imitation of Christ and lives of the saints. From his immediate superior Šime Cvitanović, he borrowed in January 1917, while staying on Dosso del Fine, the booklet Catholic in Practice (in Croatian). During his stay in Bolzano, Ivan often visited the Franciscan Fr. Vjenceslav Barta in whom he found a great support for his spiritual effort, and who instructed him in the “secrets of systematic meditation”, as Ivan once said. Ivan’s Catholicism was gradually losing the cultural, political, social, esthetic connotations, becoming more and more a Catholicism of Christ, Catholicism of the soul, Catholicism of religion, Catholicism of eternal values, encompassing the being and superseding everything else from the aspect of eternity.
Ivan’s war correspondence
During his time on the battlefield Ivan kept an abundant correspondence. In the first place with his parents whom he informed of his condition very often; almost every second and third day he used to send them postcards, which was the only option for a soldier, as letters closed in envelopes could not be sent. Several hundred of Ivan’s postcards to his parents during war time have been preserved. On the basis of this material we can reconstruct Ivan’s life on the battlefield. He also kept a lively correspondence with his former teacher Dr. Ljubomir Maraković. In total, Ivan sent him 37 postcards and letters. Dr. Maraković responded with 3 letters and 16 postcards. The topics of their correspondence are literature, art and religion. It is apparent from this abundant material that Dr. Maraković was his true spiritual guide not only in the sphere of literature and arts, but also in religious matters. Especially interesting is their correspondence about Vladimir Nazor. Ivan also often wrote to his friend, Nikola Bilogrivić who was ordained a priest at the end of 1916. Merz managed to get a short leave to attend his First Mass in Banja Luka. A Diary entry about this event is preserved.
From this copious correspondence, we singled out several of Ivan’s letters and included them into this edition of his Diary, placing them where they chronologically belong. These letters give us valuable data about Ivan’s spiritual life which complement what is lacking in the Diary itself, and give us a rounded picture of everything he was going through on the battlefield. The entire war correspondence with parents and friends will be published in one of the following volumes of his Collected Works.
Warrior from the White Mountains and New Age
In order to get the fullest possible picture of Ivan’s religious life on the battlefield, we complemented his war Diary with two very important texts, placing them where they chronologically belong. One is the text from Ivan’s colleague on the battlefield Šime Lukin-Cvitanović, in which he gives an excellent account of the situation on the Italian battlefield at the beginning of 1917 and, within this framework, a description of his meeting and friendship with his subordinate officer trainee Ivan Merz. In that period of time Ivan didn’t keep the Diary, and the above text fills this void. On the tenth anniversary of Ivan’s death, Cvitanović published this text as an article under the title Warrior from the White Mountains (in Croatian) in Hrvatska prosvjeta No. 7/8, 1938, pp. 331-337.
The other, even more important text is Ivan’s article New Age which was written at the beginning of 1917 on the battlefield in which Ivan summarizes all his spiritual experiences and efforts which he gained during the stay on the battlefield. He wrote about this in his letters to Dr. Maraković and his friend N. Bilogrivić. In the letter to Maraković, he stressed that this text was written “with his own blood”. After the end of the war, it was published in Luč Magazine in 1919, and this is Ivan’s first published text.
Thankful to God for the experience of war
By the end of the war Ivan wrote to Dr. Maraković and his father interesting observations in which he summarized his experiences and realizations to which he came passing through all the hardships of war:
From the letter to Dr. Maraković of 27 August 1918: “And so, I remained alive – moreover, healthy – due to the mercy of the all-embracing heavenly Father and prayers of many good friends. I really do not regret at having seen so much and having been through so many experiences because many new vistas opened for me, and I found out to a certain extent the meaning of life.”
From the letter to his father of 23 August 1917 he wrote: “I am thankful to God for having participated in war, because war taught me many things which otherwise I would never know. I yearn at being free again and to align my life with what I realize to be the correct way.”
D I A R Y
7 March 1916 – 28 December 1916
Graz, 7 March 1916 – (19 years and 3 months)1
First impressions from the military life and the new environment
I don’t have enough time to ponder on everything. I will only note the facts.
Lebring is one big city in which all the barracks are lined in a row. The water is yellow and there is mud all around. Terrible for the soldiers.
Otherwise, it is rather nice here. Physical exercise does me good. The people around me are interesting. Some thin tall guy with sharp facial features always speaks about his Spanish origins (Guzman de Olivares) and the people of Gil Blas, then a small stocky teacher who is clumsier than clumsiness itself. Otherwise, a world without deeper spiritual needs; liberals.
Graz is a city unto itself, with a rather intimate German character. Women are peculiar; with their innocent looks, lowered gaze, pale rose color they remind me of the age of chivalry in Germany, of the expressions of Kriemhilde and Elisabett (Tannhäuser). Real German types. There are a lot of retirees. They walk in the park, talk, stand, lean on a stick and walk again, feed the birds, etc.
Criticizes an operetta which glorifies Viennese frivolity
I saw Walzertraum in the theatre. A real Viennese work; expresses all the good and evil features of that frivolous city. As an operetta, it is pleasing; with many beautiful, passionate waltzes and melodies which fascinate. As a drama, it’s not worth much. A rather frivolous work. (…) It glorifies Viennese frivolity. Love, kissing, embracing… with many poetic traits.
Graz – Schlossberg. It was in this city that Ivan started his military training.
Graz, Friday, 18 March 1916 – (19 years and 3 months)
Describes the military life and environment in which he lives
I could write a lot. Most of all I could picture the milieu in which I live, without thinking about it. Not that I have forgotten anything; I simply haven’t got the time. I get up at six, from the apartment I rush into the barracks. Today the morning sky was beautiful, transparent and dotted with little white clouds which made me as joyful as the birds which kept on singing. To come back to the routine. Exercises: Schwarmlinie in various ways: gather, disperse, storm and the like. Exercises are not strenuous, and the officers have a good manner with the soldiers. Earlier, when we practiced parade exercises we were tormented by an unintelligent corporal. It was horrible. This man knows his military stuff, he shouts and yells at us as if we were children, and what is most worrying, threatens us with some extra marches and putting us on report. Idiot, as if this frightens us. Before him there was another stubborn Bosniak who wanted to look energetic and he shouted in German in a manner at which everyone laughed. Otherwise, he is a good man, and especially interesting is his postcard to Suljić where he greets us and in which the Bosnian style with some supposedly intelligent features is reflected, such as capital letters at the beginning of a line, semi-colons, etc.
My colleagues are varied. One is a baron and morphinist who always cries and gets nausea when he hears shooting. He is simply incapable of life. He should have a baby-sitter with him. He couldn’t take the exercises. I will return to the others on another occasion.
Foresees going to the front line and the possibility of death
One ought to think on one’s soul. There is so much exercising that one doesn’t have the time for any spiritual work. I will try to read something tomorrow and continue with the cultivation of my soul, and try to carry myself into that beautiful world of the night. This is what I need most of all at the moment.
There is high probability that I will go to the front line. Frankly speaking, I am not afraid of death, after all the real empire is up there. I just haven’t yet reconciled myself with the thought that I am really going there and I am not aware that I am leading a virtuous life. Since I have been in the army, I lost touch with the One and I stopped working on myself.
Ivan Merz in Graz – the first picture from the army.
Doubts about moral justifications of participation in war
I didn’t reflect on what I could correct in myself and I am not clear at all whether I am in the service of a good cause. Oftentimes I wanted pain and suffering, but when it came, I asked myself if it has a purpose. After all, I have this nagging thought whether I should have taken the vow, in other words, to solemnly promise that I will fight against those which the gentlemen in their comfortable offices determine. After all, I was always against war; I would much rather embrace all the people and make peace with everyone, and now I am killing them. Let’s assume – we are fighting against the tyrants; but now the question arises, are we here in this world to be the judges? My answer is: “No”. But, even against that there are the miracles of St. Joan of Arc and the wars of St. Louis which is a clear proof that Providence allowed us to physically fight against the suppressors of the soul.
Vacillations and reflections about war and peace, about the “holy“ war
The latter proof is stronger and I could console myself that the battle against the Italians is a kind of holy war from the Croatian point of view. Admittedly, Austria is, in the words of Kralik, ein politisches Kunstwerk2, where every nation is free (supposed to be!), and each sacrifices itself for the common idea. This would provide justification of our battles against other peoples from which we learned so much that is good and beautiful. The old story about the decline of the Roman Empire is playing itself out again… Again, the thought impresses itself on me that every state should sacrifice for the sake of peace something of its individuality, and not seek its own way at any cost. Peace should prevail, and in the Apocalypse it says that there will always be war. But, are we participating in that evil? I am still not clear about that; the key issue for me now is to engage myself within me because I know that I am so weak, that I will go to the front lines and fight valiantly, even if I am in principle against it.
Graz, 20 March 1916 – (19 years and 3 months)
Visit to the opera and listening to Troubadour
I could write a lot, but I know, it would all be disjointed, just as my thoughts are disordered now. Apart from that I am tired from the exercises. Yesterday I listened to the Troubadour. I didn’t understand almost anything of the content, and as regards the music, this is an opera full of beautiful, charming melodies, or it is only a background for words. Otherwise, nothing special; it lacks the dramatic action like in Verdi. Surely, a beginner’s work.
In the Baroque mystical church Maria Trost recommends himself to the Pure Mother
I was also in Maria Trost. A large Baroque church; inside everything is ornate, full of snakelike pillars, sunrays and broken lines. It contains something of the complicated thoughts and search; the complication which is so simple because it seeks the Indeterminate One. When I stepped inside and recommended myself to the Pure Mother and saw the people praying and standing up from their pews with tears in their eyes, I rediscovered that world which has been so far from me lately. And the whole mystique of the church, the twinkling of the eternal light and innumerable candles, it all envelops the spirit as a supernatural perfume. Description is unnecessary; everyone knows how the vicinity of the Eucharist heals. Nature is beautiful.
The Mariatrost church in Graz
Interior of the Mariatrost church in Graz where Ivan often prayed.
Review of military maltreatment caused by a man without religion
I am glad that now I have to endure something at least. It is still nothing in a broader perspective; a great bodily tiredness after which I am hungry and sleep like a log. Yes, I like to suffer; although I fear using this word, it might be too strong. My mother, my father and all those millions who would suffer everything for a piece of bread – they suffer. And I have all that.
But, looking objectively on people who are the cause of this strenuous work and the objective they want to achieve, a sorrowful smile covers my face. They want us to work incessantly so they torture us without end, without rest and respect, threatening us with punishment and rude yelling. Poor people, they don’t know that nothing is learned if you overdo it. An ordinary peasant knows this logic, but not an officer; I know these people well. I know that they strive to have some so-called principles: to be kind when the soldiers are doing fine, and enormously rude when they are not. A typical officer approach. Instead of working with love, to see what is possible and what not, he ought to have regard that we are not children, but people who are maybe worth more than him. If such a thing happened to him in the Cadet School, he would secretly protest and yell at his captain; call him various military names, being all the while the same himself. Yes, at times he is so helpful, and at other times he tortures us without reason. Only a man without religion can be like that. This I feel in every moment.
Review of Chateaubriand’s work Abencérage
I read Chateaubriand’s Abencérage. (…) The work can be listed in the first attempts at a French historical novel. Chateaubriand succeeded with relative ease because the monuments from the Moorish age were still alive and he only needed to find an intrigue which will resurrect this forgotten world to life. (…)
(Here follows a brief description of the content – unfortunate love of a Christian girl towards a Moor, the last descendant of the Abencérage tribe)
Ljubo wrote that he is going to Sarajevo. I feel sorry for him.
Graz, 23 March 1916 – (19 years and 3 months)
Struggle within himself, mastering the dependence on food, on the necessity to become a practicing Catholic
Now that I stabilized myself a little bit (both spiritual battles have begun!) I will soon have to move to Wildon. I am dissatisfied with myself; I see that in this short time in the army I deteriorated spiritually. This is the price of the new life in which I couldn’t orient myself very well. I could list small instances. I am always hungry and in order not to eat all the time, I eat to fullness three times a day. And it is odd. Here we have food with walnuts, biscuits and such things for spoiled children. And I always feel that it is a weakness of will to submit to such sensual pleasure. One shouldn’t think of food at all, but eat what is offered. This is what I did at home. But here, I am in a dilemma: there is not much food, and it isn’t nourishing. My organism seems like it is poisoned; I always feel the need to eat something sweet along with ordinary food. Maybe this is a habit like smoking, morphine and the like. I will try to correct this habit with time.
Judicaberis ex facta non ex scientia3, I think these are the words of Kempis. Maybe such a prosaic matter is not fit for a diary, but in my present life circumstances it plays a role. In my case the issue is not any more about theoretical Christianity; I already became a member of the society and must become a practicing Catholic, and this is best seen in such everyday trivialities.
Ivan during his first military training in Graz, upper row, second from the right, with tarboosh hat
Renewed doubts and dilemmas concerning war and warfare
But, the worst of all is surely the military. Christ factually said: render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s. Along with that, Mahnić4 speaks clearly that this is a war for justice and the homeland. I didn’t find my way in this dilemma. I reckon with the facts: to kill a man. When I think of that, I cannot recognize myself. I always dreamed of brotherhood and love. Franulić told me that Catholic morals demands obedience to the Emperor and that our ethical duty is to execute military duties. This is a big problem for me. If it were like that in history, maybe the whole history wouldn’t move forward an inch. What else created and destroyed empires, but disobedience? When a ruler orders something evil, I hold that the servant is obliged to disobey. I do not mean to say by that that I am serving an evil cause, quite the contrary I sense a great mission in this war, but it is not quite clear to me. And alongside that, I maintain that the war could have been avoided.
Graz, Monday, 27 March 1916 – (19 years and 3 months)
Self-reflection of his average state of mind and need to rise from the shallowness of the military environment
The name “Greta Teschner” sounds so odd. As if it contains the hidden meaning of my life, as if in its secret sounds lies the hidden “eternal-female” soul.
From day to day I descend lower and lower; in every moment, I observe myself as a weak man, and what is worst of all is that I seem to be the so-called Durchschnittsmensch.5 Every moment I feel that the shallowness of my environment permeates me; there is almost nothing that would elevate me above it and show me that I am an individual, spiritually independent of my environment. Even as I write the diary, I frequently express this superficiality. For instance, I say that this man has an erratic temper, the cause of which is that he is not pure on the sexual side (also spiritual!). Such a comment could be said by any little Catholic, and a disbeliever will only apply the same to his kind of people. Here, in judging people I look at the character traits all around me, not thinking about the purpose of a man, about the question of what is man in his essence, how is his soul tied to the body. In other words, I mustn’t plunge into the depths. I am too much of an egoist; tied to my body. I judge people as they treat me and if they torture me, I don’t like them. I ought to raise myself above my own pain and reflect on where they lead me and is this corporal who inflicts the pain behaving ethically.
Condemns his superficiality and desires the Eucharist
I am a hugely weak man. The “tiny strands” took me apart. I stepped into life just a little bit, and already I am disloyal to my principles. I think of food a lot and maybe at times I eat too much. Then, I am not precise in everything. I am superficial. But, the greatest pain is that I never got a chance to go to the Holy Mass. Nonsense. I should have sacrificed myself and I would have found the opportunity. Because, just now as I need spiritual strength, I must drink from the inexhaustible spring of Love, from that all-powerful essence of the Eucharist which enlightens the soul, which is brighter than the day, which turns the soul into a pure delight which is at peace feeling something unknown, immeasurable. I yearn with all my powers to drink again from this source.
Deus, adiuva me!6
Graz, sri., 29. III. 1916. – (19 g. i 3 mj.)
Impressed by the faith of simple soldiers which he admires and wishes to gain
Oh God, how great you are. I am full of joy and happiness. I saw a tiny little thing, but still as great as I have never seen in my entire life. I experienced a part of history; I clearly felt how Providence is its guide and how every war is in its essence a religious war; it is only here that the good and evil crystalize themselves. There is no middle ground. This is what I saw: the Annenstrasse was full of traffic. The shop windows were all lit, trams rushing in both directions, and people, mostly soldiers strolled along. Here, silently and dignified, stands the Baroque church of the Brothers of Mercy. The three great doors were closed. And what was in front of the doors? In front of the doors two soldiers were kneeling in prayer… Oh, what spiritual greatness in simple people. The deep religious enthusiasm, the deep Christian mysticism of the saints (great Pius X) still exists. And these soldiers, oblivious to the remaining unbelieving world which looked upon them with scorn, knelt down in the midst of a lively place in front of the church and prayed in the presence of the Eucharist. God, God, please hear the call of a weak man and give me that huge, sincere faith of these simple people.
When I salute on the road passing beside a church, I am rather embarrassed because of the others. And when I wanted to go into that same church to pay respect to the Eucharist, I didn’t have the slightest thought to kneel in front of the church. How much the corruption and human prejudices still live in me! I always and constantly strive to improve myself, and I am getting weaker and weaker. God, please give me strength! This small event was a thing of beauty which is a joy for ever.7 I was already desperate thinking of the corruption of the present generation and on the rampant venereal diseases. And all of a sudden, there was another, mystical sort of people who will have the strength to fight against it.
A look from on high upon the human smallness, one should go into the mountains
When I was on Schlossberg, I had the feeling that I am Gulliver. Looking from above, the three-story buildings seem like tiny little houses, and the trams glide like toys. People are strange ants. If I stepped with my foot on a house, I would smash it to pieces. How tiny these people are down there and looking from above it seems funny that they battle against each other, that they hold each other accountable, that they lift their noses up, etc. O tiny human species!
One ought to go into the mountains. There is the life, only there does one get rid of the mud of the valley.
Church of the Brothers of Mercy in Graz in front of which soldiers were kneeling in prayer.
This left a deep impression on Ivan.
Slovenska Bistrica, Thursday, 6 April 1916 – (19 years and 4 months)
Pain enables him to better understand Christ’s sacrifice
Here I cannot properly recollect myself. Around me there is only chatter and the learning of military stupidities. My spiritual mood is worse than in Graz. Sometimes I am overcome with anger – righteous anger – against human stupidity and I would like to destroy all. I would like to hold the Earth on one end and throw it into the abyss, let it burst into pieces.
Admittedly, I sometimes feel a kind of satisfaction, real joy for suffering unjustly; this brings me closer to Christ. Only in this mental anguish I can approximately picture the crucified Christ: for nothing, to give your life without any interest, to let yourself be crucified unjustly for the mankind! God – Christ!
Art must be learnt from nature
At times, when I am not too tired, I enjoy in nature. Oh, how beautiful it is! The cherries are blossoming; so beautiful and white. And the thought occurs to me that we ought to learn from them. After all, art shouldn’t be without practical value. The cherry tree gives us food, and in all its life phases it is so beautiful, magnificent. So should be the art. It must have its purpose – the enjoyment in beauty, harmony and the rest. Further on, it can be the servant of religion in a broad sense. The l’art pour l’art8 – nature tells us – is a stupidity. Is there anything in nature which is beautiful but without a purpose?! And the other way around?!
Criticism of the military environment in which he finds himself
It is difficult to objectively describe one’s life. We get up at 5 a.m. and in the morning we practice. At 2 p.m. again this tiresome exercise until 4 p.m. From 5 p.m. until 7 p.m. we have school; again, the same annoying routine like in the Academy. There is a beautiful world out there,9 and no free thinking or a deeper outlook on life. I am sometimes disgusted with my colleagues. In the morning, they haven’t woken up properly and already they have a cigarette in their mouth. This smoking seems to be a characteristic of our age. There must always be some sensual pleasure.
Slovenska Bistrica where Ivan spent four months in an officer course.
Slovenska Bistrica, 14 April 1916 – (19 years and 4 months)
Gets acquainted with the works of Vladimir Nazor thanks to Mr. Ribarić
Life is monotonous. Learning is an annoyance. I am glad to have come upon Mr. Josip Ribarić10, a senior and a good friend of Nazor. Of course, our entire conversation is circling around this great poet of ours. He tells me about his ascetic way of life and of the real foundation of his poems. Songs of Love have a factual foundation. Mrs. Brovet’s husband was in the army. She used to come to Kastav frequently to visit an old school teacher. She was an intelligent woman – interested in botany, and also pretty. Nazor used to glance furtively at her. “And what do you think, this ascetic once invited Mrs. Brovet and this other lady to lunch”, said Ribarić. They also used to go for walks, but never alone. And that was all. Then she went to Krk and they will never see each other again. (This love reminds me of Werther, even of Immensee). An unexperienced eye wouldn’t notice anything there; but Nazor experienced a lot. The fruit of this are his poems. One ought to analyze these poems; after all, we have Nazor in front of us. An especially beautiful poem is the one in which he tells her they will never meet again, but will think of one another.
Ribarić thinks that she experienced this love much deeper. An ordinary man would be happy; but it is the tragic fate of the poet who is above ordinary people and like Moïse11 he strives for ordinary human happiness, but in his greatness and solitude remains unhappy.
On the formal side of things, it was Ribarić’s persuasion which brought Nazor to the view that rhythm must correspond to the accents of the words. Such a poem is Intima. Maybe he accepted this suggestion so quickly because Pascoli in Italy is part of the same school; and Nazor loved him very much. After all, Nazor was writing in Italian before he did in Croatian.
The poem Crystal Forest is a fact. In 1913 in the vicinity of Kastav there was a strong northerly wind, all the water on the trees froze and the forest was like glass, transparent, crystal, shining in the colors of the rainbow.
Slovenska Bistrica, Sunday, 16 April 1916 – (19 years and 4 months)
After visiting a church he is full of light, enthusiasm and love
I was in church after a long time. Great. Thanks to that, today I am full of some light, full of enthusiasm and love. That mystical life came back to me for a moment.
Mater Dolorosa, mater amabilis – how good she is!
I spent a nice afternoon with Ribarić and lieutenant Kondić. We sat in a tavern in Gornja Bistrica. In one small room, there were the volunteers and they sang. Filia hospitalis, a piquant girl entertained them. They carried her around and made fun. We were reading Baudelaire. Ribarić particularly liked some comparisons. He was elated. But he mostly interpreted for us the Songs of Love, how they were written and their meaning. He was telling us about Nazor’s love of music. He knows Lohengrin, and on one occasion, just to hear Aida he travelled from Graz to Vienna. He also knows Tosca almost by heart. He said that a poet must be a simple office worker who must learn, think and chisel his poems like a sculptor. On another occasion, I will write more about the interpretations of the poems.
Slovenska Bistrica, Monday, 24 April 1916 – (19 years and 4 months)
He was in church on Easter, received Communion, fighting with his weaknesses
This is my second Easter in a foreign land. On Easter Sunday, yesterday, I received the Holy Communion and this gave me strength and poured into my soul an immeasurable wealth of joy. But several hours after that there was something like a terrible reaction. Although I never doubted anything, I still didn’t grasp the magnitude of this mystery and, in a word, the feeling of a terrible inner dissatisfaction came over me. It is probably because I am enormously weak; abstinentia vera pax invenitur12 – these are, I believe the words of Kempis, and in theory I agree with him. But what about the difference between theory and practice? I am a weak child; I always worry about food and I lose energy. I ought to think during the day even when I’m tired, hungry, whatever. And at night I ought to sleep. Whereas I sleep the whole day. Everything passes as if in a slumber, without energy, mechanically. I will try to strengthen my will, not to do as my instincts tell me, but as the will commands. Help me, God!
Review and analysis of Shakespeare’s Richard III
I read Shakespeare’s Richard III. At the first instance the work doesn’t leave the impression which engulfs you with its full impact only later. But I felt already in the beginning – and these were ancillary words – that one is dealing with great thoughts here. I don’t have the time to go into details now, but will only emphasize the basic thought.
Richard III is a character who lives in the society of all ages. Of course, here he is brought, as is characteristic of Shakespeare and literature in general (Molière), to the point of absurdity. He is a bodily cretin; humpbacked, lame, with one arm dead. A human beast. Everyone avoids him, everyone sees him as a symbol of evil. (…) There will always be such Richards. How many people even today are ignored by the society due to their appearance? We see often that these characters are truly mean and morose; they often try to harm the healthy people whom they envy. (…) Spiritually, Richard wins like in Coriolanus. His good ancient spirit – by means of pangs of conscience – claims victory. He is disadvantaged in a bodily way, but his acknowledgement of his evil shows that he is a much greater and deeper man than his environment which judges him by appearance.
(Here follows the presentation of the content of the drama, the analysis and critique of the characters, especially Richard, and a review on the composition of the drama along with many quotations in German).
Slovenska Bistrica, 10 May 1916 – (19 years and 5 months)
Criticizes immoral behavior of some members of the Domagoj Catholic organization
Terrible: not because I am a slave to the body, but I look how among our ranks filthiness rules. This Bogdan Babić is immoral, sensual and God knows what else. Alongside him the little Belančić in a public inn pinches a waitress. In the light of all that Babić is not ashamed to say that he is a member of Domagoj. Really terrible. Admittedly, although they are members of a Croatian Catholic organization by title, they are worse than the most liberal ones. Terrible and horrible. They should be kicked out of any organization; our dignity is at stake.
Fervent prayers answered – his mother converted
A lot has passed through my head in this last period of time. There is the battle against the body, the striving to lift myself with my mind above all this and to unite with nature, and consequently, with God. A difficult battle which goes on incessantly. Along with that, the parents were here and for several hours I felt like the old “me” who loves these people enormously and knows that they love me too. And I could see how Providence takes care of everything; how everything has its meaning, including my being in the army. If it wasn’t for that, I don’t believe that mother would return to God and she has done it now. My most fervent prayer is fulfilled. Father too, when he set his foot in the beautiful nature, he was overcome by a prayerful mood. He is still subject to the wrong modern logic, but that will pass. Everything is good.
Delighted with Nazor as a poet
With Ribarić I read Nazor and it is only now that I am becoming intimate with our poetry; I come more and more to the conviction that our language is beautiful, provided it is in the right hands. For instance, Nazor’s. If Nazor had given us only his language with its epithets he would have done a lot. But, alongside that he rose upon the Dream Mountain above any political partisanship and gave us in his poems his deep spiritual life. On another occasion, I will write a study about him.
Longing for unification with God
God, God, how much I love you, how much I thank you for filling my soul now with a strange, full delight. As my soul rises, flying toward you, it wants to break out of this chest with superhuman strength and to go up, to unite with you forever.13
Josip Ribarić acquainted Ivan with the works of Vladimir Nazor.
Slovenska Bistrica, 15 May 1916 – (19 years and 5 months)
Letter to Dr. Maraković on Nazor’s religiousness
These days when Merz read and studied Nazor he wrote an extensive and interesting letter to his teacher Dr. Maraković about Nazor. Here we quote a part from this letter relating to Nazor’s religiousness and the full letter shall be published in a separate volume of his Collected Works together with the rest of his correspondence.
(…) I am now preoccupied with the study of Nazor; knowing how highly you esteem him and that you will be interested in every detail from his life, I will tell you a little bit more about him. But, firstly I wish to tell you of the circumstances which drew my attention to him. Therefore, “ab ovo”!14 (…)
(Here follows an extensive review of the beginnings of Nazor’s works and his private life which he found out from Nazor’s friend Ribarić)
With this I end my brief account of Nazor; when I will have studied him fully, I will send you the fruits of my labor; but mainly I can say on the basis of his New Poems that he created much of what I myself have longed for.
Regarding his religion: here Nazor is similar to Hugo. A great optimist, a complete contrast to Kranjčević. In On the Top and New Poems Nazor explicates his religion. He is in favor of Christian ethics with his mind and body and he enormously admires the esthetic side of the cult of the Madonna which is such a beautiful trait among the Croatian folk. For this reason, he especially likes one Pascoli poem where the May devotions are described… Outside the bells toll “Ave Maria” and I greet you with warm and friendly regards – Hans.
Slovenska Bistrica, 24 May 1916 – (19 years and 5 months)
Continues the inner battle, studies people around him, longs for Banja Luka
Emptiness in the soul. I cannot find time to think and get deeper into myself. A lot is happening around me and it is as if my only work is to study people around me and strive to lift myself above this environment. It is hard at times, but I see that I am less dependent on money and other things.
I continue the study of Nazor. When I finish with him, I will describe one day the people here, their conversations and gestures. Various kinds of people can be found here and in them I see the future of entire nations and mankind itself. Suljić is going to Banja Luka and something is moving inside my soul. I don’t know why that is so. That milieu of the main street, the barbers shop, reading rooms, Anka Jovićeva and pious Croatian women full of prejudices, all of it pulls me strongly.
Slovenska Bistrica, Sunday, 4 June 1916 – (19 years and 6 months)
Admires the poet Nazor and his literary greatness
I cheered up a little today reading Nazor’s Istrian Stories. I didn’t know that among the Croats there are so modern and beautiful stories which can stand along those by Selma Lagerlöf. Factually, the Croats are blind; they do not see what a great cultural epoch they are going through, what a great poet they have in the person of Nazor. Only when he dies they will see that he was a giant.
He is not a poet who lives in the town isolated, who like Verlaine arrives at such deep feelings due to contrast with society. No, he reminds me of Pindar and others who are isolated from the society and live on the heights where they create their own world and observe from those heights the past and present of nations and pave the way for the future. That’s why we see that there is an epic note in his lyrics; that these are not descriptions of feelings of an individual who creates, lives and loves like other people, but this is a new Homer, Moses, the priest of the people who gives us in his poetry his impressions about nature, his philosophy of it, and the philosophy of his nation.
In the first story, there is a great influence of Lagerlöf, especially her Märchenroman15 and its technique where a real event is described like in a fable with those conventional colors and where real life is being observed through the naive eyes of a child, where the chivalrous notions of good and evil predominate, and not the nuances and the breakup of characters. There is also the historical background which Lagerlöf gives us in Gösta, the historical and cultural background of Wermlandy. Nazor gave us beautiful descriptions of Istria, with the historical age of Kastav knights and Cres noblemen who came with their marriage proposals on their galleys. In Nazor we also find magnificent descriptions of forests and the town of Kastav with its valleys and nightingales and a description of a “mountain emperor” who plays the double flute. The descriptions of the sea and moonlight, of a night à la Walpurgis is something we haven’t had in Croatian literature until now.
My soul is rotting. Sensuality torments me; those most brutal thoughts wish to seize upon me in every moment.
Slovenska Bistrica, Monday, 5 June 1916 – (19 years and 6 months)
Review, analysis and judgement of Nazor’s tale Facol Rakamani
Nazor’s novel? Short story? Facol Rakamani is not technically beyond reproach. It is plainly clear that this tale did not arise from a deeper spiritual need such as Gösta, but that the poet is such a great artist that he imitates the style of Selma Lagerlöf with ease, uses the colors of the Song of Songs, the mystique of Strindberg and the minerals and herbal scents of Wilde. In this novel, however, there are two rather inappropriately mixed elements which could have been written as two separate novels. (…)
(Here follows a summary of the tale, analysis and a comment on the content)
Description of a forest. This is something entirely different than the prosaic Kozarac in his Slavonian Forest. Here every blade of grass, every oak, literally everything smells and blooms. Then we have the sea with all its blue-greyish details at every single moment of the day, especially under the moonlight. This description is the best in Croatian literature. Along with that we have romantic details, although this is actually Walpurgisnacht16 brought into harmony with Croatian tradition. Those expressions of love, the yearning of a man for a woman, and the other way around, like in the Song of Songs is actually a magnificent imitation of this book by Solomon; only it seems to me that the transition is too direct and that the manner in which this expression of love has been pushed into the work is too clearly visible.
As I already said, this work derives a special magic from that naive observation of life as in a fable, that comparison of gems and other conventional, but characteristic expressions in the fable (lips like rubies and similar). The resurrection of cultural history, the period of the Kastav Captaincy, the Cres Prefect and shepherd Divljan in the fable manner, like in Selma, are all beautiful. One gets the desire that Nazor writes some Istriad, just like Gösta is a Wermlandiad, where in the form of these
Märchenerzählungen (fairy tales) all the sides of the Istrian life will be exhausted.
Slovenska Bistrica, Monday, 12 June 1916 – (19 years and 6 months)
A critical review of Nazor’s tales and poems continues
The old Fran is not realistically portrayed. As if Nazor cannot show us these people whom he meets every day, but only those created by his imagination. It could be that there is the same background to his political views: he doesn’t know that Serbian trait (the immense will) and the Jews (Chamberlain!), but makes them into a separate kind of people according to his wishes and assigns to them the same role as the Croats have. Maybe he is right, like a prophet who, observing from above the destiny of his people, gives them the guidepost into the future. (…) Nazor didn’t probe into the history and evolution of nations with the same intensity as he did into the course of nature, in its life, music and colors…
The battle between “light and darkness” in Nazor’s poems as a reflection of the human soul, evolution towards Christianity
Along with that, his Intima shows a beautiful evolution towards Christianity. From the Cyclops, a classical delight in the gaiety and love drive in nature, to the mysticism in Voice and many other poems (very strongly in New Poems) we perceive a possibly inadvertent passage towards Christian ethics. What Grgec said in Hrvatska Prosvjeta17 about the Fichtean Nazor is an overly superficial judgement. Even he knows that the human soul, even of the most Catholic person is not simple or primitive. In it, there is an everlasting battle of “light and darkness” (Songs of Love) and it is a much greater ordeal to defend and maintain the captured Christianity in one’s soul than it is to rise to that pinnacle. So, if a poet gets a momentary inspiration – it happens to us too – and he likes in Reklam’s History of Philosophy a text about Fichte which says that only we exist, the rest is only a shadow, specter, illusion – no wonder he immediately elaborates on that. Nazor’s poem My World isn’t really his view on life, because in that case he would be in complete contradiction with himself.
“When shall I, being strong and good be able
to descend among the people from this castle of mine?”
Why should he descend at all if he is the only thing that exists?!
Life is more than poetry which must lead toward general harmony
Enough of that. We ought to deal a little bit with real life, because life is more than poetry. I came to that conclusion reading Chamberlain’s
Grundlagen des XIX. Jahrhundert.18 Although this man is not thorough, he occasionally gets some idea which is extraordinary. He says that history consists of personalities who possessed the power to elevate themselves from their milieu and its prejudices and to create a greater ethics. This is an exaggeration, of course, but their heroic struggle against the body and the wrong ethics of the centuries and laws captured thousands of people, and gave an example to the centuries who also strived towards a great and arduous spiritual life which gives life its poetry. We don’t want formal poetry, the one which observes the beauties of colors and the entire harmony, but the one which must pass through the retort of the great life and who will be able to bring it all into harmony and lead us to the point of asking: “What?”, “Where from?”
Slovenska Bistrica, Tuesday, 13 June 1916 – (19 years and 6 months)
Reflections on life
I stop my thoughts when they start welling up… no harm in that, I see so much that is new that it might be a damage to enter into philosophical speculations and destroy the entire life for their sake. It is maybe best to describe something once it’s over; when a new or an old inner period begins anew. I feel weak and I am convinced that in this observation of life there is a lot of egoism; but now I will strive to make a judgement of all these impressions about life – this great and beautiful life.
Human love as a symbol of three Divine Persons and the Madonna
The problem of women is of greatest interest to me and it is as if I feel that in this respect I am getting closer and closer to the Truth. Earlier I thought of love in spiritual sense as a longing of the eternal-male for the eternal-female. As if it was some symbol of the relationship between the Madonna and God or as the Song of Songs compares: the relationship between the Lord and the chosen people. But here it seems that a large role is played by a third thing – the child Jesus. This is how I would interpret it (admittedly, I don’t know the ultimate cause!): The Creator, having created the entire world, including the male and the female for the sake of their spiritual relationship, extracted (it is a bad word) a part of his Grace and created the Madonna who, being Grace incarnated, only strives (the mystical rose of prayer!) towards the Source. And just like from the striving of the Truth towards Love, the Inspiration (Holy Spirit) emerged which is both Love and Truth, everything is in one, so from this relationship of the Creator and Madonna there emerged the yearning for the Third, the child. This seems a bit disjointed, but one thing is certain: this life is only a symbol of the other life. However, I am aware myself that this speculation is too perverse and that it is necessary to gather more ideas if we want to build a true metaphysical system.
Slovenska Bistrica, Wednesday, 14 June 1916 – (19 years and 6 months)
Analyses of love, marriage, the purpose of true love
With regard to love this is what I found out from Rosetti: when he ran away on his tricycle to Maribor and came to his girlfriend, he spent the whole day until 4 a.m. the next morning at her place. Rain was pouring outside and they were sitting on the floor of her room packing a suitcase. She, holding a large needle in her small hands, tried to pierce the cloth, but without success: he had to help her always. As he wasn’t feeling well, he would sometimes stretch on the floor and doze off: then he would get up again, and they looked at each other until she said: “I would like to have your eyes”. As he leaned over, an artistic reproduction of Kaulbach’s child fell from his pocket. And as both of them looked on this beautiful child, they both said inadvertently: “I would like to have a child with you.”
There was no thought of anything sensual, but an expression of a fully spiritual striving, an instinct which puts all the sensuality in marriage in a higher category. The result is this: the ideology of a woman strives toward maternity in an exclusively spiritual manner. This material part is only a symbol of the spiritual one. All the poets celebrate this love in verse, though each of them understood it differently; one, like Rodin (poet in the broader sense of the word) immortalized the striving of a man towards a woman and the other way around; the striving which is the foundation of this world. Of course, this striving is being reflected in intimacy, in movements and bodily forms. I hold that his Baiser19 is not bad, as Ljubo wrote to me, but here only the spiritual striving is represented, not animal egoism. Because really, the platonic love which shies away from every sensuality and from the unconscious instinct of the woman toward maternity must die. Only then will an ordinary woman want to discover herself when her husband perceives her as such.
One would arrive at this conclusion observing Babić’s and Rosetti’s fiancées. A lot is correct here; but I gather that Babić delved excessively into the world of the sensual. There is always smooching, embracing, kissing and pulling; he says he has the desire to unite with her fully – in body and soul. Surely, she feels the same way too! They can’t wait until marriage to achieve that. I asked him if he could endure alongside her a couple of months without touching her, trying only to penetrate into the depths of her soul, seeing how she – a woman – feels about it, how she experiences what is beautiful and judges the ethics of modern society. One should talk with women about arts because they have such a refined esthetic feeling that we could learn a lot about it from them.
Differentiating right from wrong love
I hold that the real love is one which takes into account the spiritual feature of maternity. Such a woman is an inspiration for the artist and the worker. She is like a mother of their works. In the sensual sense, she is only a symbol of the spiritual. Such love is possible only in very strong people – both of them! – who succeeded in subduing the body – and are striving only towards this. This is an ideal for us; because at moments when we are in female company, when we look into those strange eyes, our flesh wants to rebel. That’s why the Scripture says that friendship with bad man is better than one with a good-natured woman. The reason is not in the woman, but in us. This makes it understandable how great poets – Musset, Vigny, Baudelaire (even Nazor) came to the conclusion that a woman is a monster, etc. It is their fault, because they thought of love towards some “idol”, whereas this was a completely ordinary woman with female features who wanted to be understood, not venerated. And when they felt in her something contrary to this idol, they went to the extreme.
And what does Nagel say?! I analyze myself as I analyze him; I try to explain love, but when it happens to me, it would have to die because neither her not I will have the willpower to open ourselves to one another without any sensuality, kisses, etc. Ultimately, I refuse all this because it connects me too much with the animal and with mankind which so disgustingly and brutally exploits this striving for union, thus turning people into animals.
Observes and comments on a friend’s girlfriend
Babić’s “schön Clärchen” – as I call her – is a real girl à la Spitzweg, the hero of Eichendorff, intimate like Möricke, emotional like Gretl from Faust. A real German. Unrestrained, she flies, jumps, plays, wants to laugh even when angry, seemingly without logic, and along with all that a proud woman who loves without vivisection, a botanist; interested in all that is beautiful. When she is alone with someone, she gladly enters into deeper conversation. Worth a thousand times more than her future husband who doesn’t respect her pride and her goodness. Admittedly, when she is beside him, she ennobles him and I hold that she will unwittingly raise him from the spiritual mud into which he has fallen. He is hoping for that too.
A glimpse on everyday military life
In the army: great conflicts between the Czechs and the Germans. The first are ungenial, immoral, egoists, who do not give anything to anybody. But in the national sense, they impress me. After drinking Brüderschaft with Russian prisoners, they complain without any fear that their 28th Regiment had casualties, and a certain Horaček reported the captain for having said that he wounded himself. The captain was obliged to give him satisfaction, and on another occasion when this captain scolded another soldier, he stood defiantly in his defense, not fearing being sent to the front lines or anything. It is a strange and great national consciousness which is not afraid of the death itself.
Recognized himself in a Nazor’s poem
This poem by Nazor is as if it was written for me at this moment, and I dedicate it to “Lieb–Clärchen”.
That strong, fateful, no, it isn’t you
That will hurl my soul, like a stone from a slingshot,
Into the darkness or the burning sun:
You only filled me with sadness.
No, it isn’t you, whose shining symbol
Stands suspended on my sky, and all that I have
Slides toward the sign hanging above my head:
You were only the curl of the light that I’m waiting for.
You only filled me with sadness;
And this pain entered in my thinnest veins
Like a black tide of a fruitful force.
You were only a flicker of the light that I’m waiting for;
And this flicker wasn’t shining enough,
To shed light on an endless path of mine.
Slovenska Bistrica, 16 June 1916 – (19 years and 6 months)
Inner battles, Nazor and some of his works
The worst of all is that I remain on the same ethical level, and in many respects, I experience a decline. It is difficult to please society and God at the same time; these last few days I was mostly sleeping; actually, I didn’t look… yes, look. The battle is hard and we must invite it.
Ribarić visited Nazor. He told me Nazor wrote a romantic epos The Golden Duck which will be read instead of Kohan and Vlasta. Along with that, Snježana – I think a Märchenspiel20. But, he is mostly preoccupied with translation of Hell (Dante) in iambics and a dactyl at the end (something solemn for the choir!). He is considering launching a literary paper like Marconi in Florence which will gather all literary forces irrespective of their world view. I think this is good because Hrvatska prosvjeta21 and the esthetic part of Luč Magazine (in reality the same!) delve too much into partisan politics (followers of Starčević, nationalists) and accept only the contributions from Catholics, instead of accepting everything that is good – even from pantheists; because there is no person who, even unconsciously, doesn’t think in a Catholic way.
Slovenska Bistrica, 17 June 1916 – (19years and 6 months)
A description of wonderful nature which helps him to recollect
Only today I was able to see where I am. A Styrian village in a green valley. On the east and west, high mountains full of vineyards, and distant hills on the north. The entire nature is dotted with churches. Today for a few moments I went out into the fields during the Angelus. In nature, there was silence, only the cicadas were chirping, and occasionally frogs would howl from the mud like flutes. The stretched-out clouds were mostly grey, gaining a yellowish hue on the western side. On the north, from an opening in the sky there was a watery red color. German and Slovenian churches were standing facing each other; on the left through the greenery one could see the walls, and on the right a modern building could be clearly seen – Sparkasse and the court house. Further on in the same direction two towers of Joseph’s church were standing out.
As I was wandering here wanting to recollect in my soul, to understand this silence, these colors and the unknown, there was suddenly the sound of Angelus from the Slovenian side, followed by the other churches, and it jerked me. A few moments ago, I was looking for this spiritual world and everything seemed like a stage and only now I felt that all of it is reality and that this invisible world is real.
A village in Styria
Slovenska Bistrica, Tuesday, 27 June 1916 – (19 years and 6 months)
Critical review of Norwegian writers and their works; comparison with Croatian writers
(…). I studied the Songs of Love and gave my thoughts about them. I read Mass für Mass and Björnson’s Das neue System. I wish to say something about the latter. It can be claimed that a work of art is to a large extent the fruit of the environment in which it was created. In some works, this is more clearly seen, in international ones less (Corot!). But Taine’s theory cannot be denied. Norway couldn’t give birth to a Kumičić, neither could Croatia to a Björnson. Both are the sons of different nations who are living their different lives. In Croatia, the battle of political parties is on the agenda: the jerks of an enslaved nation. In Norway, the people are free, and here the battles are more “modern”. They also have political parties, but they are a kind of social-technical groups. Ibsen managed to become a poet of the entire cultured world; he is interested in general cultural problems. But this Norwegian color cannot be denied. Here various party leaders are something like couleur locale, etc. Ibsen’s dramas have a cultural value for the study of national struggles in certain years, his Norwegian characters are representing Europe; as a matter of fact, the psychopathological occurrences (Peer Gynt!) are present everywhere and at the same time they are Norwegian.
Björnson is a provincial compared to Ibsen. In Ibsen, tragedy is the eternal Europe, in Björnson the current phenomena and conflicts in Norwegian engineering circles. Both share the same shallowness. Björnson’s Das neue System is probably the work from his youth; Björnson himself does not partake of that deep social ethics like the Slavs do. A great feature of his, the greatest, which places him immensely above Ibsen, is his optimism, that specific Nordic trait. (…)
(Here follows a summary of the work Das neue System, a critical analysis and a presentation of the characters)
Slovenska Bistrica, 30 June 1916 – (19 years and 6 months)
Value of the book De imitatione Christi – The Imitation of Christ
De imitatione22 is the best book for one’s life:
“Give in to those who disagree with you for the sake of your and their peace. Keep this as a great wisdom if you lack your own wisdom. Where there is a ready obedience, there the conscience is joyful. Where there is humbleness, there is wisdom. Where there is peace and accord, there is God and all the good. Where there is discord and dispute, there is the devil and all evils.”
Slovenska Bistrica, Saturday, 1 July 1916 – (19 years and 7 months)
Critical review and analysis of the works L’Intrus and Les Aveugles by Maurice Maeterlinck
A peculiar way of writing, a real reaction to naturalism. He deals with the psyche by a technique which is not naturalistic, professional as in Dostoevsky, but just the contrary: here is the presentation of the indeterminate, the mysterious. A new Romanticism, new idealism, symbolism. Huysmans, Maeterlinck and Verlaine are in the same boat. Admittedly, I fear that this symbolism is only momentary; the poet is writing from the position of a blind man – one who looks only with the soul, the material world doesn’t exist for him, and he describes those dark moments of the soul, that mystery of death which we don’t know, but whose presence we feel in everything. He managed to present this mood of indetermination beautifully with his symbolic technique… In these dramas – as in a picture – we find classical silence, quietness and a unity of place. There are no great passions here, everything takes place quietly, mysteriously, just like the mystery of nature itself. Everything is portrayed in a visionary light, because the poet is not interested in this world which passes, but he lives only for the other one. He gives the impression of a blind man for whom time doesn’t play a role, and undistracted by outer events he can see what we, ordinary mortals don’t, but have only dark, vague notions. Maeterlinck is modern in L’Intrus because he elaborated the topic of all the centuries: the death of a woman. “Finally, the child which was always silent cries – the light goes out, and the moonlight enters the room. Leaves are falling outside. She is dead.” The symbolism is in the nature too. It is as if everything escorts this posthumous poem, this event of death is not a naked process as in the realists, but is followed by a thousand of secret voices outside of us and inside. (…)
(Here he quotes at length from the work, illustrating the advent of death and the reactions of those present).
Les Aveugles23 are similar to the first work. Here also the main role is played by non-materialists, people who don’t work, some actually cannot even hear. Full contrast to naturalism which relies only on the senses – seeing, hearing, imitating and the scientific approach. There is nothing of that here, but only instinct and the psyche, no senses. This work too is permeated by that classical peace – a drug for us modern rebels – and a classical simplicity. Here too, we have the presentation of spiritual development only, while the characters remain tied to their physical place.
Review and analysis of the work Le crime24 by Paul Bourget, praises his message
Turgenev had the greatest impact on this work. We see a guy with his company in the 1870s, a sceptic who seeks the truth and studies medicine only in order to arrive at something positive. This influence is seen also in the technique of the end: after many years, he meets his former friend with whom he spent so much time philosophizing, the monk Saint-Robert, etc… Bourget is among the first protagonists of a new epoch. Isn’t it unheard of that a child of the 19th century would dare to turn the characteristic word “I don’t know…” into “There” and show the way! Yes, he is the first novelist known to me who introduced the Erlösungs-idea25 into the novel and showed the way… We see, moreover, that Bourget himself doesn’t have that deep faith of his main protagonist, that although he is convinced of the truth of Catholicism it didn’t permeate him completely… The words of a modern reader in a dilemma come out of his mouth: “I never knew whether among the people of my time there was the one whom I felt mostly sorry for or whom I envied the most.”
This work elaborates the most modern theme which will maybe emerge in the centuries to come as the characteristic of the 19th century literature: the problem of the sceptic (Wilde, Hamsun, Turgenev, etc.), a man who seeks something positive. All the poets until Bourget left this question unanswered; Bourget was the first to find a way.
Slovenska Bistrica, 5 July 1916 – (19 years and 7 months)
Various states of mind, remembering Greta
I didn’t forget you, Gretchen. You are dead, but I still remember you. I couldn’t repeat your words any more, but I know what you are. Your soul has crystallized itself in me; you became my idol whom I love more than any other girl. Totes Gretchen, schlafe ruhig. Vielleicht auf Wiedersehen.26
Pain, pain, pain, a sharp and dark pain enveloped me…
I cannot think so much, heat, tiredness, nervousness, noise, it all kills me. I ought to learn more of these military things. Well, I’m not going to fill and spend the brain cells for these purposes. If it wasn’t for the parents whom I love so much, I would know how to master my situation.
Slovenska Bistrica, 6 July 1916 – (19 years and 7 months)
End of the review of Maeterlinck’s Les Aveugles
The work doesn’t have that deep value, neither the dramatic plot as in L’Intruse. In the first, we have in front of us a modern-antiquedrama which presents the symbolism of death, without delving into the problem itself. Here it is similar. Only, the plot is even more etheric: this is not a drama any more, but a dramatic picture. The favored motif of a blind man in whom the dark side of the soul is developed: instinct and the other which doesn’t know time. The beauty of the work consists in this uncertain, indeterminate action, in the symbolism of nature which, as in Romantics, is in harmony with the indetermination of the soul. I would gladly call Maeterlinck le grand indécis27. (…)
(Here follows a brief description of the content of the work, comparison with other writers, a final analysis of his characters and an evaluation of the work)
Greta’s tragic fate in a poem
The following poem has the original title Mädchen von Kola, du schläfst.28 This is one of the three poems Darthulas Grabgesang (1861) from the musical work of Johannes Brahms, op. 42,3 composed according to the text of Ossian from Scotland. Merz in this poem found a reflection of his mood in relation to Greta’s death, changed the title and entitled it An Gretchen29. The poem nicely fits Greta’s tragic fate. In the Diary, Merz copied the poem in German.
To the Little Greta !
GIRL FROM KOLA, YOU SLEEP!
Around you the green rivers of Selmas keep silent!
They mourn for you, the last branch
from Thurthil’s tree!
When will you appear again in all your beauty?
The most beautiful among the girls from Erin!
You dream your long dream in the grave
your dawn is far away!
Never, oh never again will the sun come
To wake you in your resting place: “Wake up!”
Wake up, Darthula!
The spring is here!
The breeze rustles,
On the green hills, you sweet girl,
the flowers are swaying!
In the forest the buds of leaves are sprouting!
Forever, forever, step aside, you Sun,
From the girl from Kola, she sleeps.
She will never appear in her beauty
You will never see her lovely walk again.
Slovenska Bistrica, Saturday, 15 July 1916 – (19 years and 7 months)
Philosophical reflections about good and evil, about the existence of God in the novel Le crime by Paul Bourget; comparison with other writers
We have an officer’s exam these days, therefore I always interrupt.
In Bourget’s Le crime (Crime) we see an enormous influence of Turgenev, and especially in the portraying of that guy from the French society of the 1870s. This is also the most interesting part of the work: this is only the framework (triptych). The main plot comes from the ordinary life of a large city proletariat. The work as such carries no tendencies, but still the moral thesis emerges: only life proves to the people the existence of God. (…) So, who is this modern guy who is so similar to us, who voices what we have experienced inside ourselves? A child of his age: a sceptic seeking security. (…) Yes, it was easy to philosophize in those times (the times of Renan and Taine) when France was great and powerful; but now after this defeat, philosophy pushes people into fatalism and despair. Everything is a consequence, and no help from any side. And again, in this poisoned youth we see a striving for work, the desire to save the people. (…)
Just as in the life of a nation one finds a conflict between philosophy and ordinary plebeian morale, so it is in the spiritual life of an individual. The young protagonist, physician Eugène Corbières, could have racked his brain about good and evil: is good really that which is good or is it merely a prejudice, upbringing, milieu, etc. He hasn’t seen life yet. But he already felt the contradiction within himself: he doubts about good and evil and all the while he feels the need to create something and help the people. He doesn’t know what good is, but feels the need to do it. And what happens when he feels in his soul that evil must be punished and the good rewarded? He sees that if there was no God, he couldn’t save the man who got hurt because of him, and still he feels that this is nonsense, that he must be able to save that man. “If there is a God, if human activities have some other horizon except the earthly one, I should then do something for the salvation of the soul of that wretched creature.”30
Slovenska Bistrica, Monday, 17 July 1916 – (19 years and 7 months)31
Continuation of the analysis of Bourget’s work Le crime. Elaborates a motif from social life, gives a brief summary of the work and describes the personalities of key protagonists.
Slovenska Bistrica, Wednesday, 19 July 1916 – (19 years and 7 months)
Analysis of the state of mind, feelings of imperfection, desire for the Eucharist
Dead silence… this is how silent I am now. I would like to pray long; to pray with a pain in my soul, to pray to the One above to tear from my heart everything that binds me to earthliness; all that brutal egoism which always thinks only of itself. Oh, poor are the people who cannot stand to be alone. In the maelstrom of life, the mud sticks to you and unwittingly you start living in that earthliness.
It is arduous to be rich; it is necessary to give everything to another, and not only that, but we must be happy giving something to someone, even if that person is rude…deberes te subicere omnibus.32 But when I give, in my depths there is still that egoism which harbors second thoughts, which is angry at the one who asked, etc. Really terrible. The whole spiritual building is collapsing, coming down in dust…Yes, life is more than art, literature; for us people it is the only greatness, the source of everything.
How happy I am when I manage to extricate myself from these everyday little crosses and enjoy thoughts about the grandiose order of the macrocosm and the microcosm. The Earth is as if suspended in the air, in enormous distances there are those proud worlds; everything lives and bubbles. Then there are those tiny people who work (right now they reap and tie the sheaves), and the cicadas are competing with each other in the fields.
Then, there is love; a young man turns after a girl, and she is pretending not to look. Everything moves, lives, thrives – life is everywhere; and I, in the midst of this summer nature full of fruits, get angry at those who ask for a crown or two in the manner of some old philistine.
Oh, God, dear God, tear out from me all of this and make me a man, not a frog which eternally slithers in the mud.
When I think that this life is only a shadow, a hypothesis and nothing more, this is where I wonder at myself the most. In the evening when I lie down and penetrate into that grey darkness, I have the feeling that there is nothing inside of me, and I plunge deeper and deeper and search everywhere. And I cannot find anything. Everything is uncertain, but without any preceding thought there is that intense desire for bread, for that little Host. I know nothing then, my reason sleeps, while my mouth and all my inner being would like that Host, to unite itself with it. Really, I cannot fathom the greatness of it all. It is an instinct.
As I am learning a lot now, I observe myself in all the phases. Soon I will have this exam33, but I am always aware how far from perfection I am. I always try to be a master of the situation around me; I wish to get to know the people and observe their acts, as if it doesn’t concern me, and occasionally I am overcome by some small fear, fear of the exam. What a weakness when I think of the generations that died without any remembrance; and still I fear.
Mud, dirty mud still hangs from me. It will take a great effort to wash it away. Why, why am I like that?! When I think that death will come and this body will rot away, and what I feel in my subconscious, that spiritual darkness which I barely feel will become huge and grand, full of light and perspective and fill the entire space.
Ivan (first to the right) with colleagues in the officer course in Slovenska Bistrica.
Slovenska Bistrica, Sunday, 23 July 1916 – (19 years and 7 months)
Criticizes the inhuman treatment of prisoners in “civilized” Europe
I have guard duty… Inside, in a small room one Russian prisoner with a large round face and small yellow moustache hangs with his arms tied to a stick. His eyes are blue. He tells me that there is no such punishment in Russia. My God, terrible. The “civilized” Europe is even less cultured than the previous centuries. And here we speak about the freedom of the spirit, about the individuality of a modern man, and at the same time this man is more limited than before.
Why do they reproach Catholicism for supposedly enslaving individuality, for imposing dogmas which must be believed? In the meantime, Catholicism respects the one who doesn’t do all that, understands the pains of a man who is spending his entire life seeking, while this modern Europe tyrannizes the spirit, subjugates it and commands. When this spirit rebels just a little bit, it is already hung on a stick, or as every line in the “rules of military service” says at the end, it “should be destroyed”. People suffer a lot. A man who knows how to look at the magnificence of the night sky, the universe, to understand the course of history, this good man is being tied for nothing, for wanting to be free. This cultured, modern world has fallen into terrible decline; as if the end is approaching.
Slovenska Bistrica, Sunday, 23 July 1916 – (19 years and 7 months)
Philosophical and religious criticism of Bourget’s work Le crime
I think that Le crime is not among Bourget’s best works. (…) But, there is another trait which shows that this work is not the pinnacle of art. Turgenev in his Home of the Gentry and Fathers and Children knew how to suggest all his feelings and his philosophical conclusion. Bourget was not quite brilliantly successful in that. He wasn’t capable of showing that grandness of the battle between philosophy and life, he wasn’t capable of crystallizing from the grandiose vortex of life that mild world of religion which is always the same, which is raised above everything and is the only one which resolves the Faustian problem of “Why, how?” and gives us the only thing which we, modern people, lack: satisfaction. Bourget correctly drew the logical conclusion; I say “drew”, whereas he should have presented it. Instead of narrating the conclusion to which the chief protagonist Corbière came, he should have shown all the spiritual crises due to the battle between philosophy and morality so that the conclusion crystallizes by itself. Admittedly, for those who have even a tiny speck of this religious life in themselves, the conclusion is natural; but I don’t know whether any modern reader who suffers from Corbière’s disease, comes to the correct result at the end of the work. I think that at the end of the plot his thinking comes to a halt and that human word “I don’t know” bursts from his mouth. It shouldn’t be like that; a bard , a poet who is looking upon the world in a special way, seeing what we ordinary mortals don’t , must find that tendency which lies inside life and in everything that exists to bring the smallest and the greatest always to the same Source. (…)
Now, that I read some things all over again, especially the crying of the mother and son when everything was uncovered, I see that I was a bit too severe. Bourget did paint rather strongly this inimitable power of life; at the end one comes to the conclusion that there must be a way out and Corbière found this way in religion. (…)
Surroundings of Slovenska Bistrica
Bourget’s closeness to the Croatian reader, psychological difference between the Croats and the Serbs
Along with all his weaknesses, Bourget is especially dear to us because he knows how to uncover our secret corners of poetry and he paints the circumstances which correspond to the current cultural level of the Croats. Is there anyone among us who wasn’t tormented by Eugèn’s thoughts, who didn’t feel inside himself that contradiction between reason and feelings? Bourget was able to show in a beautiful way those evenings of youthful enthusiasm when, by the moonlight or with the twinkling of the stars the discussion steers to God, the morality of a nation, pain and future, and one remains with all that long into the night, until both, drunk with feelings return to their homes. Do the Serbs have this metaphysical understanding of life? I think they don’t and herein lies the deepest difference in the psychology of the Croats and the Serbs! (…)
The poet – although a Catholic – still didn’t arrive at that complete childlike faith and speaks like a man still on the crossroads: “I never knew whether among the people of my time was the one whom I regretted the most or whom I envied the most.”
(Further on, there follow copious quotations from the work itself, the presentation of the content and a critical review of the key protagonists)
Slovenska Bistrica, Wednesday, 26 July 1916 – (19 years and 7 months)
Review, analysis and critique of Shakespeare’s comedy The Merry Wives of Windsor
Mürzzuschlag, 15 August 1916 – (19 years and 8 months)
Inner crises and turbulence, doubts, everything is under a question mark
Pain, pain, pain. Either I am ill or this is again a lack of company so I cannot laugh heartily. I would be more than happy if I could cry like a baby or be cheerful and enthusiastic about some youthful ideals. I am always tormented by the problem of life; I am disgusted with my life as it is now, and in spite of all my striving to continually enjoy religion, I am not succeeding. I got up early, went to Communion and tried to delve into that mystery. I have the feeling of having penetrated rather deeply inside myself and inside that world. No, I didn’t see everything, but it is as if I had felt, in a fog or something, those laws, that “something” which moves all, after that the Madonna with the Child, and along with that, I felt That which is even greater and is united with everything that I felt in the Host.
These are just moments, and the conviction that I could find complete satisfaction in some monastery didn’t materialize. After that I am constantly pursued by some restlessness; I simply feel there must be something which will satisfy me.
I realize my weakness, my dependence. I am wondering how some time ago I could have been enthusiastic about art and the like; was that a mere self-deception? Life is more than all that, and I don’t know how to live and do not find happiness in life. There, I am seeking satisfaction. Whenever I think of some work, on the creation of a work of art, any kind of art, a thought comes and says that it is nothing. Creation is an over-estimation of oneself; in reality man is terribly constrained, tied to society and what is worst of all, his genus.
I would gladly abandon myself to love knowing that it serves the procreation of mankind. At the same time, I made a decision not to look at girls for days, only to avoid that thought of fertilization, but still it pulls me, and I like to see a pretty face and to speak to her. And this is tormenting me terribly. I know that a woman will not give me the pleasure I am seeking, and still some volcanic power drives me towards her. What I detest in others, the addiction with regard to cigarettes, I see in myself. I abhor when I hear colleagues speaking sensually about women, yet at the bottom of my soul I am the same. I feel like Whitman that desire to unite with a girl. I am disgusted at myself, I know nothing, everything is a question mark. I could say much more with regard to my sincerity. I am a little bit unnatural, etc. I must find myself female company and maybe I will regain my enthusiasm for life and art, maybe those sensual thoughts will vanish.
Pain, pain, pain, a sharp and black pain has come over me.
Mountain view upon Mürzuschlag.
Mürzzuschlag, Saturday, 26 August 1916 – (19 years and 8 months)
Criticizes egoism and enslavement to bodily pleasures in colleague soldiers
An eternal battle, an eternal hunger is in me. I always seek the truth. I like it when I discover some new thought. Yes, it is a great joy. But it’s a pity I do not find them often.
By all means, the most interesting is the milieu in which I live. I would gladly call everyone a beggar in the worst possible sense. The whole day somebody asks something from another; the issue of cigarettes actually shows that huge weakness of the modern man (among which – mea culpa – I belong too). The humiliation and the feeling of weakness of the one who constantly begs are plainly visible. And then, let’s take Suljić for example, you can see on his face the instant of inner struggle when he suppresses a thought into the background and takes a cigarette from the box. Also with food you can see that huge egoism when everyone grabs irrespective of others. Even with those who are frequently hungry – Stibilj – I noticed how stingy they are when someone asks something from them. Then there are types like corporal Winkelbauer who in his childish arrogance stops his colleague lance corporal for not saluting. Admittedly, I am no better; if I had been in his shoes I don’t know what I would have done. I cannot utter my sins, although I feel in almost every moment that I am sinning.
I almost forgot to mention my acquaintance with Stipe Filipović. I find him extremely interesting, then the climb to 2000 meters on the Rax, in the beautiful mountains of nature where the winds battle each other, and the terrible ravines open up underneath. On the way, I met Jagić and Rešetar. These Slavists speak about the “personenzug” (passenger train) and use a multitude of foreign words. (…)
The most important now is the problem of death and the possibility that he might die on the front lines
But the most important question for me now is the problem of death. And this issue must be the focus of my interest now, because in two months’ time I could be far from this Earth. Actually, I now see that my life has no firm foundation. I created my ideology based on my future life, on future earthly happiness, and I cannot fathom that I could soon be dead. This thought prompts me to think of death longer and to be prepared for it at any moment of my life. And what is death? (The Italians are making such noise, I cannot concentrate!) This is how I imagine it: I go to the front line, I am hit by a bullet during an assault (oh, God, who am I going to assault, oh, the terrible power which pushes mankind into those pains) and I drop dead. And so, all the hopes, all the ideals cease to be, and the Earth and the stars keep rushing on. And the soul? I must stop writing, although in certain moments I see that wonderful passage from this terribly limited world into that vast expanse. More about it another time.
Severely criticizes Whitman’s immoral attitudes towards women and sexuality
Sexually I am still not completely at peace; but, it seems that I have outgrown Whitman34. He is a man like Rodin, who understood shallowly only this material world and its psyche. It is true that everything that exists is justified, but not everything is good. He enjoys the beautiful harmony in nature, in the beauty of fertilization and the birth of generations, in the beauty of the human body, etc. But, with that he forgets another completely different and much bigger world: the world of the human soul and everything that it encompasses. Yes, for Whitman nothing is immoral. But let him glance into the psyche of people who are suffering, who are ill due to a mental struggle because they lost their virginity and he will see that sexual drive is not the essence of human life and that nature is not like a sphynx who gives birth to itself, but that in its depths there is the Creator who gives life to the spirit of things (St. Augustine). Science, the arts, all of it is for him second-grade; for him the instinctive sexual life and giving birth is everything. Yes, I tried for a time to enjoy in a shapely girl, in the fullness of her health, and in myself I imagined all the phases from the kiss to the act of fertilization, and in that moment of unity, that great process of nature – as Whitman says – there was a feeling of inebriation. Yes, I admit, that is also a part of life, but what would it look like if I thought of the sexual act with every handsome woman I meet? Admittedly, it is easy to theorize about it. It would lead to a collapse not only of me, but of the whole state and morality in itself. What kind of state would it be if all the people would meet each other with such thoughts; this would be an insult to the inborn human dignity which resists the concept of an animal. As a matter of fact, this world which lies beyond the sensual is the real world, much bigger; this outer life is only a symbol of the spiritual one.
Lebring, 10 September 1916 – (19 years and 9 months)
Changeable moods, 500 soldiers under his command
In this military life, I jump from one milieu to another, and therefore the spiritual interests change. There, in Bistrica, I believe I lapsed into a healthy kind of pessimism: I became convinced that pain is the plough which ploughs mankind, and that life is the source of everything. Yes, the life of every individual, the will which subdues every cell in the body to bring it into harmony with the whole universe and that Spirit which moves all. In Mürzzuschlag, due to interest in the problems of life, and especially due to these sexual torments, I studied Whitman and St. Augustine. And now I feel stagnation in my soul because I am among the people so much that I roam between these barracks in the manner of an introverted philistine.
Writing these words along with the speech of Arnautović, I live rather strangely. I came among the people and I feel like Nezhdanov35. I now have the power to deal with 500 of them, so I might be in the position to “help the people”. I don’t know what to do with them: I don’t usually moralize, and it would not be fitting to hold a literacy course. There, I talk to them, they tell me their pains, I am teaching some of them how to write.
My spiritual life is torn apart; as I read Carlyle, I see that he is the prophet of the 19th century.
Ivan (first from the left) as a young officer with his soldiers.
A MONTH’S MILITARY LEAVE
By the end of September 1916, after six months in the army, Ivan got a one-month leave. As he mentions in his Diary of 22 October 1916, that he used it to spend a week in Lebring, Banja Luka, Vienna, Pecs and again in Banja Luka, respectively, until the end of October. Everywhere except in Vienna he tried to keep his diary.
Banja Luka, Wednesday, 20 September 1916 – (19 years and 9 months)
Complains of inner torment, family life doesn’t suit him
Time flies like crazy. My entire life is torn apart; there is nowhere a place where I can recollect. I cannot complete a single sentence, not to mention pondering thoroughly over some matter. The very fact that on Saturday I went to Confession and missed receiving Communion on Sunday shows the torment in my soul. Along with that, Hamsun’s novel Hunger with some excessively erotic passages came into my hands at the wrong time. I need something which will unite my soul to the One and raise it, not to tear it apart and force me to go and battle for the hundredth time against my sensuality.
Actually, this family life doesn’t suit me. It is a terrible tyranny. One rises late – against nature, one eats too much, and lives every day equally like a machine. On the other hand, when I am by myself, even if hungry, I feel that I am fighting something, that I am alive and coming closer to Perfection. There the soul lives and observes, whereas here I do not feel this clear difference between body and soul.
Reproaches himself for behaving as he did towards the girl Zora
I am disgusted with myself. When I think how I talked to Zora36, wanting to touch her palm to palm only that her electricity may pass through me, or to achieve the same by a look. Strange, I felt a female beside me, and it never occurred to me that she might have the same spiritual interests as I did, that she enjoys being free, that she would like to study, that she is interested in natural sciences, arts, etc. Oh, how much I offended her. Yes, life is more than all the books. Here I know how to analyze all kinds of love and its essence, but when I come into contact with women, I behave according to the prejudices of my lowly milieu as ordinary wantons do.
Review and critique of the novel Hunger by Knut Hamsun
As I already said, I read Hamsun’s37 Hunger, a modern story which excited my unfortunate blood too much. I understand that Hamsun portrays a modern man – himself – in all his weaknesses, and reveals something from the sexual life as a very important factor; anyhow, I conclude by the effects that this is not for us ordinary people. I will not be touched in the least by Titian’s beautiful nude, but, as I notice, I lose my cool even at the slightest description of these matters. And one should count with the fact that there are not many pure readers. Hamsun in his works always describes himself, a modern man, and so he does here too. (…)
So, the psyche of this disbeliever in moments of hunger and craziness is presented. (…) Hamsun showed that love is a force completely divorced from the milieu, outer appearance, etc. (…) I think that this love, as he describes it is too sensual; in real life, I would find it disgusting. And the woman is not here for the sake of love only; she is an animal religiosum too. One should only think of the spiritual greatness of nuns and their great work.
Banja Luka, 21 September 1916– (19 years and 9 months)
Final verdict on Hamsun’s novel Hunger
Hunger is a psychological, or better to say, a pathological novel because it presents the illness of the soul of a modern disbeliever in whose head everything teems with feelings, memories, reproaches of conscience, instinctive anger, senseless self-criticism. (…)
(Here follow the quotations from the novel and a critique of the main protagonist)
Pecs, 22 October 1916 – (19 years and 10 months)
Final decision on studying what he wants, a glance at the future and what he intends to do
They gave me four weeks’ leave. One week I was in Lebring, another in Banja Luka, yet another in Vienna and I am here now for the fourth week.38
In Vienna I took the lecture notes and started to learn Roman law; all of a sudden, Kranjc came and persuaded my old man that it is silly to force someone to study something. All right, it is possible to persuade the old man. With mother, it goes much harder; she is not willing to let go of her prejudices against philosophers. In her view these are people who walk stooped, with old dusty hats, yellow sticks and an eternal pelerine. But, the dilemmas are over; I will take Romance languages and literature and German studies; and, as a side-occupation – Croatian. I still feel terrible in my soul: that damned living as a machine – eat, sleep and wander about without aim or thought. A man has an inborn tendency to create, to be absorbed by some matter around which, like the core of a mineral, everything concentrates, and not like this. I close my eyes, think about the process of thinking and seek to plunge into that other world; I search for the passage, the difference between the two. Then I look into this marvel of the universe where everything hangs and rushes, moves in that emptiness; then I get the fear of hell; at once I feel that this life is nothing, only a passing phase into that permanent life, when everything that is boiling in us becomes free and passes into that other world – for the moment these perspectives seem rather dark, but immensely deep – only then the real life begins. Thinking of this transience I lose the desire for study, literature, girl, everything. Only an ascetic, monastic life and the adoration of the Eucharist might give me pleasure. Everything else, I think not. What pleasure would I derive from collecting the works of art and the like while so many people are terribly hungry? How could I dare desire to live by myself in my little room deceiving myself all the while, not going into the world, not seeing its pains and getting to know its psyche? Which right do I have to enjoy art when the battle for bread and life in all its peculiarity, with all its pains, defeats and victories is the source of all poetry, as a matter of fact an inescapable need if we want to comprehend this life as a preparation, as one tortuous job whose reward is the Great One.
I don’t know. I must get out of this dilemma. I think compromise will be the best; because surely our duty in this small piece of order which is called civilization, culture or else is to occupy ourselves with knowledge. Maybe the knowledge of good and evil, the striving for Eternity is the purpose of mankind and along with material worries every man has the task in his small branch (profession) to work for this knowledge. More in one profession, less in the other; but we think that in every profession pain must be the source of everything; where that is missing, I think the fruit is evil or at least lost in vain because it is not in harmony with the purpose of this life. And every effort must be in harmony with the idea of Everything.
In Vienna I saw Rheingold, Strindberg’s Friends and in Urania Wiener Volksmusik. The first work I barely understood, because I couldn’t read the text and even less prepare myself. (…)
(Here follows the review and critique of ethical attitudes and comment of Strindbarg’s drama Friends)
Compares the great names of history, as described by Thomas Carlyle, with Christian saints
I finally read Carlyle’s Heldenverehrung. I agree with his judgement of history all the way to Luther, and with his general thoughts almost always. (…)
In continuation Merz briefly names the great names of history and their features as Carlyle elaborates on them: Dante, Shakespeare, Muhammed, Luther, Knox, Cromwell and others.
They are all great men. I admit it, but I hold that St. Francis of Assisi and those few missionaries who converted millions are much greater heroes. Social reform carried out by St. Francis, and the life of the founders of the other orders and martyrs – they are all much greater heroes as real people, not mere external personalities. Carlyle is like a butler who recognizes a king only by his cloak, not by his nature. Their ascetic life is greater heroism than all the victories of Napoleon. And after all, why didn’t he describe Jan Hus? (…) How about Christ? He keeps silent over him because surely, he feels he is not up to the task to speak about him.
I ought to treasure this book and peek into it more often. It has brilliant thoughts; at least everything is systematic and with a good layout, everywhere an inner connection can be seen.
Impressions about visit to Pecs and its sights
Tomorrow I am going home again. People are hungry everywhere, only here there is abundance. A lot of altered mosques. The Székesegyház church is very beautiful on the inside. A Romanesque style, four towers. Three naves, with an altar in the middle, so the people stand around it. A lot of marble, paintings all over. Golden and blue color, matt. Works of art comme il faut.39 All the paintings, all the interiors, the organ and mass itself are in beautiful harmony. All arts are interwoven like in a musical accord.
There are some old statues: Adam and epic stories, Adam and Eve, etc. executed in a Medieval manner. The head takes a third of the body, legs are parallel, imperfect nudes. An interesting illustration for the naive perception of the world in middle Ages is how the Three Wise Men sleep in one bed, one head on top of the other – of course they sleep with their crowns on – one above the other. We should marvel at the middle Ages; there were so many imperfect works of art – products of Christianity – and the people believed so deeply, while us, modern people who look every day at almost perfect products of religion, these striking confirmations of its truthfulness, we hardly even believe. Newspapers, railway, cities, they are all to blame. We are far removed from nature; we do not observe nor understand this “open miracle”, as Carlyle calls it.
The well-known church Székesegyház in Pecs
Banja Luka, 31 October 1916 – (19 years and 10 months)
Visits a Madrasah with a young Muslim priest
Life is strange; I now spend the whole day reading Balsac’s Le Cabinet des Intignes with the intention of mastering French. I also read Nazor’s Gold-winged Duck, an unsuccessful romantic-idyllic epos. I will say something about his mistakes another time.
I went with Jusuf into the Madrasah. A young Muslim priest speaks Arabic well, with a multitude of books. But, with all his religiosity and naive goodness he cannot be like our clerics. He smokes a lot, and then takes leave to see some Muslim girls. With him there was an Arab with beautiful black eyes, an elderly man. He was sitting on the ground making tea in his contraption. His Croatian is bad, so I didn’t understand him well. By the looks he is a philosopher of some kind, because he always comes back to death and thoughts about the secrets of life.
Little Greta, where are you?…
Lebring, 11 November 1916 – (19 years and 11 months)
Remembers Greta again and mourns for her
I could weep out of love. Bitterly, bitterly; Oh, little Greta, if I could only see you, if we could be together to cry together long, long, long. Where are you? Come, let me see you, show yourself to me! I don’t know what I am seeking of You. I am already a foreigner to every sensuality and I know what love is for, but still my soul seeks you, needs you; dives into darkness, longs for You and cries along the way. Where are you, little Greta? To be together and to cry – long, long, long.
Last night I dreamt of her; we were together, she was telling me in her dining room the cause of death. – Oh, what have you done, my God! She tells me she didn’t have the opportunity here to unite with God… Poor little Greta; that cold stone with the inscription “Greta Teschner” – a terrible name; the stone where hardly a flower buds, is this all that remained of You?… May God be with You!
Now we ought to go again into that grey air, on the wet field and torture the poor people; father and son together. Terrible; what have the people done out of life! Generation after generation dies like that.
Ivan (second from the right) with his Banja Luka colleagues in Seewiesen
Seewiesen, 23 November 1916 – (19 years and 11 months)
The Emperor has died, thoughts about the connection between suffering and ethics, criticizes Nietzsche
The day before yesterday the Emperor died. R. I. P.40
Life is the source of everything; pain, the most necessary essence of life, deeply ploughs through the soul and documents the existence of ethics. Where there is no pain and where everything is fed, it is there that ethical delusions are most clearly seen. Nietzsche and the like; it is easy to theorize about the strength of an individual to whom the weaker ones must submit, when there is no danger threatening him. But, let him go into an uncultured country where his life is hanging on a thin thread, he will instinctively strive for an ethical organization where, along with the strong individuals, there will be the weaker ones who will, with joint effort, each to his capacity, care about detailing this ethical organization.
Moral corruption of the modern man
I went astray; namely, I want to retell as soon as I can the narrative of a modern man, N. Steiger, a praised lyricist, etc., acquaintance of Jörgensen and other great men, agitator for peace (he was not on the front line!), social democrat (writes in Catholic papers), a man who finds the cause of war only in some individuals, etc. Yesterday as we were lying in our beds he started to tell the history of his loves and in connection with that, the origins of his art works. I mustn’t repeat his words; I need only remind myself of the various sexual perversions of ancient Rome. (…) I don’t know whether it is allowed at all to describe these perversions; I believe that even Noldin41 doesn’t know them. (…) He claims that it takes him three days at the most to “open the eyes” of a woman. (…) He then told us who he has been with and in what way. I realized that 98% of modern society is in that circle; that married ladies yearn for such “love”. (…) Enough about that; my words are rather pale, I didn’t want it all to come to life, it could cause damage to myself and others.
How can a man fall so deeply, to become a beast?!
Yes, when I listened to these descriptions of “love”, his dealings with women, it came into my consciousness that he is describing his, mine and everybody’s mother, sister, etc. I was terrified. My God, how can a man fall so low… to become a beast, an animal and nothing more? Not only him; the whole of modern society is such. Nobody talks about motherhood; there is only talk about the so-called “optimistic outlook on life”, the “understanding” of life, the “beauty” of life and, on top of everything, the “outpourings of love”. From this narrative I got a compact, strong image of our society starting from ordinary simple town misses with lowered gaze to aristocratic “well versed” small ladies which are not blinded by “positive religion, which is a stupidity”, but who have “opened their eyes” and “understood” the meaning of life. Everything around me is like that. (…) Yes, that is the soul of a modern man who wants to reform society!
“There is silence among the stars above and the graves below”42 (Goethe, Symbolum)
Don’t they know that there exists a universe so great and magnificent, and that the One who conceived all that is even greater… Yes, yes, he will die, perish with all his loves. (…)
Seewiesen, 26 November 1916 – (19 years and 11 months)
All the history is written by blood, cultural values are the product of pain
Yesterday a man folded over and remained dead. Today I received Communion and came to the conclusion that all history is written in blood; that all the cultural values are the product of pain. Religion came into being and is necessary because of pain; pain saved man from dullness; it always instilled fear of an unknown and even greater pain.
Whoever wants to understand culture should suffer; not only in the soul but bodily as well. Terrible, horrible. The technicians sitting in their warm rooms may mock everything and deny God; but let them step into the fabric of life and let them suffer in body and soul, and I wonder if they will still say that is it stupid to stand in a cold church and look at the “silly motions” of a silent mass. And again, people stand here patiently, realizing that pain is necessary and that it is really nothing compared to Christ who showed us that, compared to eternity, this is nothing.
Seewiesen, Saturday, 9 December 1916 – (20 years)
Battle against excessive dependence on food, should admire the magnificence of all creation
I walk to and fro in my little room and eat chocolate. Walking I contemplate what kind of creatures we humans are – slaves of the flesh. Always and again I undertake some kind of ascetic life, to eat only three times a day and not think of food the rest of the time; and always, as soon as I sense something in my suitcase – I take and eat. Of course, I always find an excuse.
We people are truly terrible; everything in our lives is turning around the flesh instead of doing it mechanically and always thinking or at least feeling the magnificence of the Creation and looking with open eyes at the forces which move life onwards. I keep telling myself that, but I know that tomorrow I will sin again.
Again, we are riding on skis.
In the continuation, Merz writes without commenting the words of a poem by Hans Steiger Sangen Geigen übern See (The violins were singing on the lake) for which music was written in 1913 by the young Czech-Jewish musician Erwin Schulhoff (born 1894, died in a Nazi camp in 1942). This song is played in concerts even today, and was popular already in Merz’s time. It seems that the words of this poem found reflection in his soul which was under the impression of the beauty and mystery of Alpine nature in which he was staying at that time and which pushed his love feelings into the background. It seems that the author of the poem is the same H. Steiger about whom Merz writes in his Diary two weeks prior, on 23 November 1916, in whose company he was in Slovenska Bistrica for a time. Merz also wrote about the works of this colleague of his to Dr. Maraković in his letters from the battlefield. 43
Seewiesen, 17 December 1916 – (20 years)
Through pain one sees everything differently
I am convinced that everything has a purpose; this work and the little sufferings of mine. Through pain one sees everything differently and understands the bitter word “life”. Kempis confirms this idea of mine: “Here, in the cross everything is contained and everything rests in dying.” (The Imitation of Christ, II, Chapter 12, verse 15); in addition, this is confirmed in many places by the Gospel, e.g. “Then, speaking to all, he said, ‘If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross every day and follow me” (Lk 9, 23); and those immensely touching words: “Jesus answered, ‘Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head.” (Lk 9, 58).44 These words remind me so much of these times of war where people suffer like Christ did, and it shouldn’t be so. This is all due to bad people who are denying shelter, who prolong the war. The mystery of this life consists in perennial pain and suffering. Yes, it is easy for me to say so in a warm room full of money and loaded with food, while life means also the invisible, spiritual, devoid of anything transient. And Jesus told them: “Take nothing for the journey: neither staff, nor haversack, nor bread, nor money; and do not have a spare tunic” (Lk 9, 3).
Continuing reflection on suffering which leads to religion
Yes, pain is the essence45 of life, it rules all, it is the beginning of all religions. Where there is no pain, we can be sure that there is no real life. Pain, this word so ordinary, means also not to have bread, be ill, be in constant mortal danger, carry a heavy load, be unjustly disregarded or punished; all of that is pain, all of that creates history and after various spiritual convulsions brings a part of humanity onto the right way.
The majority of mankind suffers: some more, some less, but suffering is always there. If it wasn’t for suffering, we simply couldn’t understand people going into temples, those cold and dark places, to pray. Yes, life, suffering brings them here with force and tells them that the body is nothing and that the grave is everyone’s future. With that they feel that with death the reward comes too. And precisely the people who suffered will know the best what pain, suffering is. It is a terrible thing. They are afraid of these bodily pains in this world, let alone the thoughts of suffering in purgatory or even hell. Yes, to someone who has not felt this long-lasting pain, pain which doesn’t leave him even in sleep and persecutes him like fate, these words will sound odd. Yes, a man who would want, like Prometheus, to renounce the respect of that higher power, is mercilessly thrown back at religion by this suffering and a living awareness of the after-life which is potentiated through pain.
Ivan with colleagues (first from the right) in Seewiesen on a skiing course, 23 July 1917
New people and a new age emerging from the horrors of war and leading a deeper life
And that’s why I love this present generation because it suffered and saw that life is a serious matter, not a toy and that to live means to make war. Yes, I love our warriors because they have seen what love is. This is a new, deep generation! Life is not so instinctive anymore; art and science are getting deep food. The universe is not any more a machine that turns without any purpose, and man the product of chance, because everything has its purpose; everything is ordered and precisely calculated. A man trots through nature, through this “open miracle” in the words of Carlyle, and wonders at everything that surrounds him and a holy fear envelops him in front of these great and wonderful works and he falls on his knees and prays obligingly. This humbleness, the mystical flower, is the fruit of this war; the man, aware of his weakness, knows that he can be killed any moment, and awaits his destiny like a fearful child.
This is a new age46 with new people who live the great life. Yes, life is the source of everything; compared to “savoir vivre“47 art, science and all other products of the human mind are secondary; life is their source and their food; great persons are an inexhaustible source of poetry and they are the carriers of history. And the number of such great persons is relatively big, they created the cultural heritage which we use. Therefore, I place a memento to me and everybody: let us experience the deep and great life and let us be aware in every moment that we really exist and let us not oppose this harmony which reigns in the universe. This bodily affair is not life really; life is that dark invisible matter, full of depth and perspective which in chosen moments extends even more in order for us to feel that other great world, those irresistible forces which act and move all of this. Precisely in order to be able to plunge into that immeasurable universe and observe the outer life which surrounds us much more objectively, we must kill in us every passion and strive for an ascetic life. Whoever tried to go toward that aim at least a little bit will see, with great effort, life around him in a completely different light; he will feel much better the secret threads of sin that weave through the fabric of modern society and play the game of cat and mouse with it. I tell you, this is a great truth and the more ascetic our life is, the more these secret voices instruct us in the mystery of existence.
“Ah! I’ve done Philosophy,
I’ve finished Law and Medicine
and sadly, even Theology,
taken fierce pains from end to end…”48
Dear Faust, you could have studied more and by that route you will never arrive at the seed which holds everything.
“That I may understand whatever,
binds the world’s innermost core together,
see all its workings and its seeds,
deal no more in words’ empty reeds”49
Faust’s work is only the work of the brain which must finally come to the realization of the Divine, but this is more of a “grey theory”. Goethe should have sent Faust to the front lines and he would have returned with a much deeper notion of life. It is easy to die with the help of a poison from an ancient vial; but to suffer bodily torture and see that war and pain is the basic color of history and progress, that pain raised millions of people to their feet and toppled the thrones, that the pain of Christ’s manhood showed the basic meaning of life and gave birth to the Divine Comedy, this is something that the wise Faust ought to realize.
Once again, when this war that makes great men passes (I will say something about the evil consequences later on), we shouldn’t hold up in our warm rooms and tell stories of chivalry over a glass of wine. We must always be aware of the shortness of life and that this is only a minimal phase within eternity; so let us sweeten this short period with an ascetic life; let us make a vow like Trappists that we will always work on the perfection of ourselves and let us be sure that we shall create great works.
It is easy to write, but difficult to perform.
Beendet am Tage von Gretchens Geburtstage 1916.50
Seewiesen, 18 December 1916 – (20 years)
Sorrowful remembrances of Greta and description of new understanding after having experienced love
Today You are twenty! My God, how beautiful and healthy you are! You ought to get married. Maybe you already found a husband and I come like that hero in Immensee to visit you and on feeble hands I read to you that you still love me. Whom else would you love?! I remember how you told your mother – after the noisy officer company – that you prefer me among all the others, me, a 16-year old lad who wasn’t thinking of love, but surrendered himself instinctively (maybe even too much) to that unknown force. If I were to meet You now, little Greta, I shouldn’t kiss You as passionately, maybe I would sit at Your feet, place my head in Your lap and slowly weep. Time has made a completely different man out of me; this life is not any more the source of all pleasure, but rather a valley of tears. Yes, little Greta, you would weep too and realize that life is one great secret, ending with that dark grave.
Oh, yes, You already lie in there, maybe you have decayed entirely, everything has passed, as if it didn’t exist. Oh, God, have mercy, how terrible it is. Why does it all perish, disappear, why are we being killed and new generations come after us? And again, the same game, and again death. Yes, my God, I understand you, life is – as you say – a brief severe temptation and only those who get over it step into a life full of splendor and colors.
Liebes Gretchen, bete für mich!51
In the evening deep and God-fearing thoughts come, and with the light of the day that mystical life vanishes and one loses almost completely that mysterious connection with the higher purpose and lives instinctively, instead of being aware in every moment of one’s dependence with the harmony of the universe.
Seewiesen, Tuesday, 19 December 1916 – (20 years)
Review and critique of Tolstoy’s The Power of Darkness
Tolstoy succeeded pretty well to dramatize this undramatic subject-matter, to introduce the chief protagonist into it, although he couldn’t create a unity of action. (…) The chief protagonist is sin, or as the title says The Power of Darkness. Sin grows like a mountain stream which feeds on the snow from the mountain. It gets stronger and stronger until it carries everything on its path. (…)
Tolstoy has put on stage an open, brutal life and let it develop. There is no place here for moralizing. Life is the greatest teacher, theory is worthless, life shows with merciless inconsideration and by its consequences what is good, and what is evil. Everything is permeated by naive peasant logic. (…)
An interesting and successful issue here is the psychological problem of Confession.52 A man who is full of remorse, who is being killed by secret crimes is regenerated by openly confessing them. The end of the work can be seen as an apology of Confession.
(In the brackets marked by dots Merz presents a brief content of the work and a critique of the key characters and the manner in which Tolstoy elaborated the entire work)
Seewiesen, 28 December 1916 – (20 years)
Path to perfection leads through suffering
In Österreichische Rundschau I found an article by Dr. Z. Hadina War and German Mysticism. Here I found very characteristic sentences by Meister Eckhart, the greatest German mystic (around 1300):
“Remember all of you who think: the fastest horse who will lead you to perfection is suffering. Nothing is as bitter as suffering and nothing is as sweet as the moment after a man has suffered. The safest foundation on which perfection can rest is humbleness. Only the one whose bodily man was humiliated to the lowest level will rise with his spirit to the greatest of divine heights.” This is only a fitting addition for the Mysterium crucis (Mystery of the cross). And it truly is a Mystery!
Brief leave in Banja Luka, First Mass of his friend Bilogrivić, meeting with Zora and analysis of an awakened love feeling
I am still under the impression of my journey: the leave was beautiful, and went by so fast, I couldn’t recollect all my impressions. And there were a whole lot of them: The First Mass by Bilogrivić53, the Communion with the Trappists and conversation with them and finally, what really left a deep trace in me, some feeling toward Zora which led me to a kiss.
The old wounds are being opened! As I was walking to and fro in the dark alley, I was overcome by an impulse to grab her and kiss her all over. I was entirely beside myself, and so was she. I felt she too was just waiting for me to do it, although it all came all of a sudden. A female is always passive.
I realized that a woman starts to kiss when you give her the motive. She was telling me about her solitude and incessant yearning for love, for someone who could guide her. She had no one who could do that, not even the right mother. She told me how she had been withdrawn into herself from childhood, how at a certain period she sought solace in religion, but now has built a wall of resignation and cold-heartedness.
I would be prepared to introduce her into our movement where she might find amusement and enthusiasm for work. But I myself am a theoretician and wouldn’t satisfy her for sure. She was amazed by my stories about life and the mystery of pain and on my almost forgotten plans about a solemn Croatian drama. Yes, a woman is always overpowered when she is convinced that a husband is competent in what he is doing and that he could guide her. On the other hand, I am glad at seeing someone who understands me and listens with belief.
I don’t know if this is love, but I think that without sensuality everything would fall through. I think I would never have loved Greta so much if we hadn’t kissed with such volcanic force. So, everything was leading to this kiss just for me to show – although I am not in the clear about it – that will not coldly oppose that feeling. Is this love, this is a big question. I fear it might have been mere sensuality. In any case I hold that love could be born out of this; it depends only on her.
A man really harbors that yearning for a woman so I am not going to deny that feeling. It is only strange that this is the same feeling I was cherishing towards Greta, and it is now transferred to Zora. This shows that love needs something living, bodily. I am still not sure which side I will choose; to remain faithful to Greta and continue my spiritual relationship with her. For the moment, I will not undertake anything, I will let the events unfold as they please; the key thing is to maintain a moral independence. 54
Ivan (fourth from the right, smiling) with fellow soldiers during military training in Graz.
1 Here begins the 7th notebook of Ivan Merz’s Diary covering a period from 7 March 1916 until 15 July 1916.
2 German: political work of art
3 Latin: You will be judged by your deeds, not by your knowledge.
4 The bishop of Krk Antun MAHNIĆ (1850–1920), initiator of the Croatian Catholic Movement where Merz was a member.
5 German: an average man.
6 Latin: God, help me.
7 From the poet John Keats. Merz particularly liked this verse and he quotes it several times in the Diary.
8 French: art for the purpose of art
9 He thinks of the blossoming nature which is not in harmony with his current situation in the army.
10 Josip RIBARIĆ, linguist (1880–1954). Born in Vodice (Istria), completed his education at Sušak, and the study of Slavistics in Vienna. As a language teacher, he worked in Kastav, Buje and Poreč. He was drafted into the army in World War I where he met Ivan Merz and a friendship ensued. In the literary field, he cooperated with Vladimir Nazor. He wrote a study About the Istrian Dialects (in Croatian) After World War I, as an expert for Istria he was part of the delegation of the SHS state on the peace conference in Paris in 1919. He continued work on the cultural and literary field. After World War II the communist government denied him the pension. In 1948, he accepted the invitation of Fr. Božo Milanović to lecture Croatian at the Seminary High School in Pazin. In 1950 he came to Zagreb where he participated in several projects of the Language Institute of the Yugoslav Academy of Arts and Sciences among other in compiling the Academy’s Dictionary. He died in Zagreb in 1954.
11 Here Merz does not refer to the historical Moses, but a literary character of Moses (Moïse) as the poet Vigny portrayed him in his work Moïse. Merz wrote about this work and the character of Moses at the beginning of his diary on 13 March 1914, and here he makes a link with this topic.
12 Latin: real peace comes with abstinence
13 On the same day twelve years later, on 10 May 1928, Ivan Merz completed his earthly life. What he had anticipated and predicted came to fulfilment: a union with God in eternity.
14 Latin: To start from the beginning
15 German: fairy tale novel
16 WALPURGISNACHT is the night between 30th April and 1st May which is a celebration of the arrival of spring and warmer weather. It is filled with gaiety, amusement, music and song. It is particularly celebrated in Germany, but also in the neighboring countries.
17 A Croatian literary magazine
18 German: The foundations of the 19th century.
19 Rodin’s sculpture Kis
20 Fairy tale
21 Croatian literary magazine
22 The quotation which follows from the book The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis (1 book, Chapter 9, appendix Considerationes) Merz quoted in the Diary in Latin. This is a translation. From the 13th century when the booklet The Imitation of Christ was written, it was the most widely read spiritual book after the Bible all the way to the 20th century.
23French: Blind men
24 French: Crime
25 German: The idea of redemption
26 The dead little Greta, sleep quietly. Maybe we shall meet soon.
27 French: the great undecided one
28 German: Girl from Kola, you sleep
29 German: to the little Greta
30 This is the end of the 7th notebook of Ivan Merz’s Diary which covers the period from 7 March 1916 until 15 July 1916.
31 This is the beginning of the 8th notebook of Ivan Merz’s Diary which covers a period from 17 July until 28 December 1916.
32 Latin: a thought from The Imitation of Christ: you must subjugate yourself to everyone.
33 Here he thinks of the final exam at the moment of death.
34 Walter “Walt” WHITMAN (1819–1892), an American poet, essayist and journalist. As a humanist he was the witness of the passage from transcendentalism into realism, both of which he integrated into his works. Whitman belongs among America’s most influential poets, often labelled as the father of free verse. His work was highly controversial in his time, especially his poetry in the collection Leaves of Grass, which has been described as obscene due to excessive sexuality which is the topic of his poems.
35 Nezhdanov is a literary character in Turgenev’s novel Virgin Soil. He harbors revolutionary ideas of a rebellion, guided by the idea: “It is better to perish in the work for the people, then achieve the greatest success on the literary field“. Merz extensively analyzed his character in his first study about Turgenev which he wrote in 1915.
36 As is visible from Ivan’s Diary, he cultivated a close and friendly contact with the teacher Zora Habdija from Banja Luka and was contemplating a more serious relationship, which, however, did not transpire. They were writing to each other and in his archive, several of their letters are preserved which show how Ivan tried to bring her to a deeper religious life which she had neglected.
37 Knut HAMSUN (1859–1952), Norwegian writer
38 Ivan’s father was temporarily posted in Pecs and Ivan came to visit him.
39 French. Comme il faut – as it should be
40 Latin: R. I. P. – Requiescat in pace – Rest in peace
41 Hieronymus NOLDIN (1838–1922), a renowned professor of moral theology in Innsbruck (Austria), author of Summa theologiae moralis (1904), authority in moral issues.
42 In original, Merz quoted this Goethe’s verse in German: Still ruhen oben die Sterne und unten die Gräber (Goethe, Symbolum).
43 Original words of Hansa Steiger’s poem Sangen Geigen übern See with music by Erwin Schulhoff:
Sangen Geigen übern See… Halbvergessnes Liebesweh. –
Weiß nicht, wie der Klang verging. Lange ich in Träumen hing
lange Irgendwo ein Käuzlein rief. –Nacht und Wald und See so tief…
Alles wunderstill und sacht! Meine Seele trank die Nacht.
44 In the original of his Diary Merz quotes the Gospel and The Imitation of Christ in Latin.
45 The original word in the Diary is sucus (Latin)
46Already by the end of the first year of his stay in the army, Merz arrived at a certain understanding which will, after the end of the war, influence the change of his life. He described these changes in this part of the Diary in the entry of 17 December 1916. Later, he expanded this topic and prepared it as an article under the title New Age which was published after the war in the Luč magazine, No. 9-10, 1919, pp. 210-214. This was his first published work. In this entry, he mentions for the first time the expression “New Age” which will later become the title of the article. In Merz’s Archive in Zagreb the original handwritten text of this article is kept. The article was published in its entirety in the 2nd volume of the Collected Works of Ivan Merz, pp. 17-22. In the following pages, we bring an extensive review of the creation of this article.
47 French: to know how to live.
48 W. Goethe, Faust, 1st part, verse 354, ff. (beginning, Faust in his room). In the original Diary Merz quotes these words in German:
“Habe nun, ach, die Philosophie, Juristerei und Medizin und leider auch Theologie, durchaus studiert mit heissem Bemühen…”
49 W. Goethe, Faust, 1st part, verse 382, ff. (beginning, Faust in his room). In the original Diary Merz quotes these words in German:
“Dass ich erkenne wass die Welt im Innersten zusammenhält,
Schau alle Wirkenskraft und Saamen, und zu nicht mehr in Worten kramen.“
50 German: Completed on Greta’s birthday 1916.
51 German: Dear little Greta, pray for me.
52 This is not Christian confession, but a public acknowledgement of his crimes in front of the whole village, which occurred after the perpetrator couldn’t any more stand the pangs of conscience because the evil which he started was getting bigger and bigger. This was the beginning of his inner regeneration.
53 The priest Nikola Bilogrivić later became the parish priest of Banja Luka. After the Communists came to power he was shot in Banja Luka together with Feliks Niedzelski, an apostle of youth, in 1947.
54 This is the end of the 8th notebook of Ivan Merz’s Diary covering a period from 17 July until 28 December 1916.