Venko Markovski

Goli Otok, island of death : a diary in letters

Social science monographs - East European monographs, 163

(Colorado), 1984
bibliothèque insulaire


Goli Otok, island of death : a diary in letters / Venko Markovski ; introduction by Matthew Mestrovic. - Boulder (Colorado) : Social science monographs, 1984. - XXII-229 p. : ill. ; 23 cm. - (East European monographs, 163).
ISBN 0-88033-055-4

Originaire de Skopje, le poète Venko Markovski (1915-1988) a été l'un des plus actifs promoteurs du renouveau culturel en Macédoine.

Son engagement contre le régime de Tito et, plus généralement, contre le nationalisme serbe lui valut de passer cinq ans au pénitencier de Goli Otok, l'île chauve 1.
1. Ou, selon certains, l'île nue : l'île située au large des côtes croates, entre Krk et Rab, devrait ce nom à l'implantation, entre les deux guerres, d'un camp de nudistes … Pendant la 1ère guerre mondiale l'île, alors sous souveraineté austro-hongroise, avait reçu des prisonniers russes ; elle devient un camp d'internement pour prisonniers politiques opposants du régime titiste de 1949 à 1989. Depuis, un projet de reconversion en pôle touristique n'a pas vu le jour.
NOTE DE L'ÉDITEUR : Goli Otok : The Island of Death is a remarkable and controversial work — remarkable because much of it was « written » without paper or pencil, in the author's mind, during his five-year incarceration ; controversial because it presents a highly emotionally-charged and partisan view of its historic period, that of the mid-century schism in the ranks of international communism. It is published by the East European Monographs because it is a poweful and moving account, by a sensitive and gifted poet of courage in adversity, of the triumph of the human spirit under the most brutalizing conditions. It is published for its universality, not for its particularism.

       You ask where I am. I am on Goli Otok. Until 1948 no one even knew that such a place existed. It is an island in the Adriatic, an island that is subject to strange and changeable weather. If there is a storm brewing, even in the heat of summer, it is as cold as winter here. But if it is sunny, even in the midst of a severe winter, it is like the hottest of summers. The island is nothing but rocks, rocks that are enveloped in a spectral silence during our blood-red sunsets. The sinister squawking of the seagulls tears the silence like a knife. The mute sea suddenly falls calm, and for a moment one feels lost in the most terrifying corner of the world's most awful dungeon. One feels as if one has entered the anteroom of a terrestrial hell …

       Is it possible for such an inhuman jail to be hidden from human eyes in the middle of the twentieth century ? Can this have occurred in a country whose leaders fought for a brighter future, for the happiness of their people, for equality among all those people ?

       What in fact is Goli Otok ? What is its history ? Did Satan himself come to earth to create it ? Is man such a hellish creature that he can create this diabolical inferno ?

       Shadows — not real human beings — dwell on Goli Otok ; shadows of our former freedom fighters. On Goli Otok human beings are reduced to things, to numbers ; they are treated as mere quantities ; they livre in rags and tatters. From dawn to dusk a sorrowful train of people moves back and forth across the desert that is Goli Otok. Their eyes are sunken ; their hands have been broken in inhuman toiling. Their legs drag as if bound by heavy chains. Their heads are bent low. They don't talk, they don't even look around. Each of these shadows is a loose page torn from a shattered life.

p. 30
  • Dragoslav Mihailovic, « Goli Otok », Belgrade : Politika, 1990
  • Branko Hofman, « La nuit jusqu'au matin », Paris : Phébus, 1998
  • Ligio Zanini, « Martin Muma », Rijeka : Edit, 1999
  • David Grossman, « La vie joue avec moi », Paris : Seuil, 2020

mise-à-jour : 6 novembre 2020
Venko Markovski : Goli Otok, island of death
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Hathi Trust digital library.