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In memoriam: Ivo Brešan

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One of the most significant contemporary Croatian dramatists, novelists and screenwriters Ivo Brešan (Vodice, May 27, 1936 – Zagreb, January 3, 2017) died in Zagreb at the age of 80.

His texts had world premieres on the stage of the Croatian National Theatre in Zagreb on two occasions; The Sunken Bells in 1994 directed by Kosta Spaić and  The Nihilist from Vela Mlaka in 1998, directed by Joško Juvančić.

Ivo Brešan was born on May 27, 1936 in Vodice. He completed his primary and secondary education in Šibenik and graduated from the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences in Zagreb in 1960. For years he had been working as a professor of the Croatian language and literature at a grammar school in Šibenik. After that, he was the artistic director of the theatre and the International Children’s Festival in Šibenik. He retired from the post of the director of the Cultural Centre in Šibenik. He has been writing since 1955, but his first drama text Four Underground Waters was published in 1970 in Split’s magazine Vidik and since then his drama texts and novels have been published regularly.

The drama that made him famous was Hamlet in the Village Mrduša Donja that he wrote in 1966, but it was first performed five years later at the Zagreb Theatre ITD in the direction of Božidar Violić. It became an anthological performance that achieved a sensational success and stayed on the repertoire for years. The grotesque tragedy Hamlet in the Village Mrduša Donja is one of the most successful Croatian dramas that was written in the second half of the 20th century and which has been staged on many stages of the former country and even on international stages, while in the satirical theatre Kerempuh the performance is still on the repertoire. This drama which movie director Krsto Papić translated to the film screen with the assistance of the author himself, achieved a rarely convincing universality with its mocking of the totalitarian communist society and the hard rural traditionalism with the help of Shakespeare’s characters. It was exceptionally well accepted on all Croatian stages and in many theatres in the former country as well as in Poland, Austria, Germany, Russia, Bulgaria, Sweden, etc.

Many theatres in the country and abroad have produced other works of this drama author. He wrote scripts for several very successful movies that were directed by Krsto Papić, Veljko Bulajić and his son Vinko Brešan. His first published novel Heavenly Birds was transformed into a screenplay for a TV series recorded in 1989, while the series Executor was recorded in 1991 after his script.

He was granted the Vladimir Nazor Life-Achievement Award in 2001 and the Ksaver Šandor Gjalski Award for his novel Cathedral in 2008.