THE CHILDREN OF PATRAS

ZORAN FERIĆ

Biblioteka Premijera, Jutarnji List, 2005, 188 pages
• complete translation in German and Italian

The Children of Patras is one of the most beautiful novels on love that we have lately read. Although it is about the “forbidden love” between a professor and an ill student, moral watchdogs can remain calm because everything that happens between them is love, leaping over what is merely grounded in literature.

Jagna Pogačnik | Jutarnji List

Translation rights sold: Germany (Folio Verlag), Italy (Zandonai editore), Slovenia (V.B.Z.)

This novel, with a well-rounded and compact plot, deals with a provocative theme: the love between a forty year old highschool teacher and an ill seventeen year old schoolgirl. Although the theme is somewhat controversial and the relationship essentially comic, Feric writes about the true love; the kind of “funny” or strange love that transcends boundaries, questions moral laws, constantly mocking the tragic nature of death.

The story focuses on professor Stanislav Bernstein (named after the author’s maternal grandfather), a man going through midlife crisis and the breakdown of a marriage. In this “infantile state”, he finds himself falling in love with ill third grade high-school girl in the school in which he works. What makes this novel tragicomic is an immature forty year old man grasping after what could be the last flame of love, and an extremely mature young woman who sometimes acts like his mother. Illness has made her mature early and made her outlook on life realistic, whereas midlife crisis has turned him into an overaged teenager. During a graduation trip to Greece, they wander through the Agora, making love in a hotel in Omonia square and hiding their relationship from students and colleagues. Although Ferić’s theme is provocative and the relationship essentially comic, he is writing about true love, and not mere titillation; the kind of “funny” or strange love that transcends boundaries, questions moral laws, constantly mocking the tragic nature of death and history in the exact places where such history has been created. This love is not incestuous as in Frisher’s novel Homo Faber, even though it possesses something of true Greek tragedy.
The Children of Patras has been translated into German, Italian and Slovenian. In Croatia, it was published four times by Jutarnji List, Profil International and V.B.Z. The book was shortlisted for the Jutarnji List Award and the Kiklop Prize in the Novel of the Year category.