Borders and Crossings

Broj 2 - Godina 10 - 04/2020


Borders and Crossings

This special issue contains selected papers presented during the Borders and Crossings International and Multidisciplinary Conference on Travel Writing in Pula and on the Brijuni Islands in September 2018 ( The event, organized by the Juraj Dobrila University of Pula, marked a special occasion: the 20th anniversary of the “Borders and Crossings” conference was celebrated, and the conference itself was an opportunity for all scholars interested in the issues of travel, travel writing, and tourism to meet in the unique historical environment of Pula and the Brijuni Islands National Park. The 120 papers presented at the conference by scholars and researchers from universities, institutes, research centers, and libraries from around the globe included a wide variety of topics related to transnational mobility, literature, culture, and literary translation in a historical and global perspective.

The conference panels covered a broad range of topics: narratives of journeys, border crossings, cultural encounters and exchanges, the construction of (trans)national identities, migratory movements and diaspora identities, and cultural and literary tourism. As a reflection of the thematic, disciplinary, and geographical diversity of the research presented at this conference, nine papers dealt with transnational and transcontinental linguistic and cultural contacts, issues related to literary and cultural translation and the travel-writing genre in general. Most of the papers here addressed the relationship between cities and literature: in her paper “Tourist Writing: Facing and Embracing the Otherness of Space and Narrative,” Tijana Parezanović deals with representations of tourists in fictional cities, resorts, and Other spaces, focusing on a specific body of fictional narratives featuring tourists as protagonists, such as Elizabeth Bowen's novel The Hotel (1927) and Tennessee Williams's The Roman Spring of Mrs Stone (1957), showing how the protagonists of both novels, Sydney Warren and Karen Stone, embody Dean MacCannell's and Zygmunt Bauman's views of tourists as modern pilgrims, searching for self-discovery through an interaction with otherness.

In his paper “Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities: A Fake Tourist Report and a True Literary Testimony,” Igor Grbić analyzes Calvino's renowned novel as the realization of Mallarmé's ideal Book, into which the entire world would collapse, and primarily, as linguistic artefact. Once appreciated as such, this (anti)novel reveals itself as language upon language, and as literature upon literature, which, according to the author of the article, is the novel's primary concern. Its self-referentiality is presented so densely and thoroughly (despite the book’s modest size) that a new reader will have made a journey through the fifty-five cities, woven together (precisely as a textus!) by the narrator's voice and the conversations between a fictional Marco Polo and an equally fictional Kublai Khan: the reader will have a sense that both language and its most perfect expression (i.e., literature) have been covered in all their crucial aspects.

Dealing with English translations of The White Guard, an urban novel based on the author’s personal experiences in Kiev during the tumultuous years of the Revolution and Civil War, Petra Žagar-Šoštarić and Natalia Kaloh Vid ponder the following: “Is Apocalyptic Kiev Still Apocalyptic Kiev In English Translations of Mikhail Bulgakov's Novel The White Guard?” The authors focus on the translation strategies used when rendering apocalyptic allusions employed by the author to describe the City and assess the translator’s choices. They analyze the extent to which the translators recognized and adequately transferred its original allusions and the ambivalent, apocalyptic, and complex world of Bulgakov’s City. There have been three translations of this novel: by Michael Glenny (1971), Marian Schwartz (2008), and Roger Cockrell (2012). This unique material offers thorough insight into translation shifts, not only from a synchronic, but also from a diachronic perspective.

In her paper “A City as the Key to Interpreting a Novel by Alessandro Baricco,” Diana Njegovan elaborates the term ‘city’ both as a constructive element and a key to interpreting the novel of the same name. The focus in this paper is on the etymology of this term and its contemporary definitions, and interpretations of this novel within a postmodern framework. According to the author, Baricco’s most complex postmodern novel reflects what a city in literature might be, and what an ideal city and an ideal text might be. She concludes that Barrico's City is full of different meanings that are products of language games. In order to understand them it is crucial to consider what the city may represent. The interpretation game is also possible if we take into consideration the intertextuality and intermediality which require a dedicated reader who is able to understand and enjoy all the segments that construct this complex novel.

Representations of Croatian identity in contemporary Croatian film through their links with the theme of travel, as well as practices of displacement as a specific element of travel writing in particular are the main topic of Mirna Šolić's paper “Travelling Through and Travelling Within: Cinematic Constructions of Imaginative Geography of Croatia in the Films of the 2000s.” The author argues that following the emergence of physical borders after the break-up of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, Croatianness can be defined through encounters with different types of travelers within the complex and pervasive spectrum of human experience. She explores this issue by looking at selected Croatian films from the first two decades of the 2000s and divides them roughly into films featuring cinematic representations of external border crossings and those featuring allegorical travels within the country. What they have in common is engagement with the exploration of the country’s newly created identity, its position within the wider identity of Europe, and the country’s relationship with its own past.

The effects of contact between Europe and Asia in the early modern period, especially in regard to the exchange of linguistic data and ideas, are the focus of Violeta Moretti’s paper “Broadening the World of Knowledge: The Effects of Travel on the Transfer of Linguistic Data Between Asia and Europe.” The author’s main idea is that the contact induced by transcontinental travel - with various motives, including missionary work and increasing colonial expansion - added fuel to the intellectual study of language. Both Europe and Asia gained access to new languages and new approaches to language, which enabled an exchange of linguistic data and methodologies that proved to be one of the origins of the development of modern linguistics. Although basically referring to the history of linguistics (by analyzing Latin treatises, such as De antiquitate et affinitate linguae Zendicae, Samscrdamicae et Germanicae dissertatio and De Latini sermonis origine et cum orientalibus linguis connexione dissertatio, this article provides insight into the transfer of ideas and concepts between the cultures and peoples of these macro-regions of human civilization.

In her paper “Transcontinental Contacts: The Marainis' Journey from Italy to Japan,” Ellen Patat analyzes the act of crossing physical and figurative borders as a source of reflection in terms of cultural, social, and language exchange. The Sicilian Princess Topazia Alliata di Salaparuta’s voyage and stay in Japan (1938–1941) with her husband, Fosco Maraini, and her three daughters, are described in a diary. It was then passed on to her eldest daughter, Dacia Maraini, a renowned Italian writer. The author explores female-voiced factual texts through two sets of eyes and two experiences, as well as transcontinental contacts from several perspectives; from the physical voyage on board the Italian ocean liner Conte Verde, to their very first days and daily life in Japan – first in Hokkaido and then in Kyoto, before the family’s deportation to a concentration camp in Nagoya.

The travel experiences of female mountaineers from two different cultural backgrounds are the focus of the paper “Cultural Baggage: Memoirs by Wanda Rutkiewicz and Arlene Blum” by Agnieszka Kaczmarek. Her article aims to compare and contrast two autobiographical stories, Wanda Rutkiewicz's Na jednej linie (On One Rope, 1986), co-authored with Ewa Matuszewska, and Arlene Blum's Breaking Trail, published in 2005. The vantage point for analysis is how their mutual encounters are narrated by Blum, an American climbing icon, and by Rutkiewicz, the first Polish high-altitude mountaineer to scale Mount Everest. The article also examines these memoirs by applying Edward Hall's division into high-context and low-context cultures and Geert Hofstede's cultural individualism-collectivism dimension to the analysis of the text.

The reception of contemporary travel literature is a key theme in the paper “’Collateral Damage in the War on Travel Writing’: Recovering Reader Responses to Contemporary Travel Writing,” written by the British researcher and travel writer Tim Hannigan. The author examines how and why contemporary readers engage with the popular genre of travel writing, presenting the results of his original empirical research – a survey of online reviews of Paul Theroux’s The Happy Isles of Oceania (1992) combined with a group discussion with six regular readers of travel writing. Snapshots from this discussion reveal the desire of readers to avoid the influence of various discourses bound into travel books, which precede travel to the places they describe. Particular focus is on the way readers respond to the possible inclusion of fictional elements in notionally non-fictional travel books, with the discussion revealing a broad conservatism on this point, and a general rejection of fictionalization as a travel writing practice. This finding is placed into contrast with ideas voiced in the author’s interviews with the notable travel writing practitioners Rory MacLean, Phillip Marsden and Sara Wheeler, revealing a significant tension between the production and reception of travel writing.

All the papers submitted were peer reviewed by experts in the field to which our gratitude is extended. The guest editor would like to express much appreciation for all the authors who contributed to the success of the Brijuni conference as well as to the [sic] journal for this initiative. We all hope that our fruitful cooperation will continue in joint creative projects and future networking.

Nataša Urošević