Thank you to Ivan Miletić for translating this interview into English.
AMERICAN WRITER AND JOURNALIST KRISTIN VUKOVIĆ IS WRITING A BOOK ABOUT PAG, P.S. FROM PAG: ADVENTURES WITH CHEESE AND SHEEP IN CROATIA.
“For some time I wanted to write a book about Croatia, not a guide, but a book which would be a window into a unique corner of the world, a reflection of a way of life which is both known and foreign to us.”
Interview by Valentina Mlađen
Kristin Vuković, American writer and journalist of Croatian descent, visited Kolan on the island of Pag in the middle of June. At the media conference held in Zadar, she announced the great news that she had arrived in Croatia in order to to write a book about the island of Pag, its islanders, cheese, sheep and everything that makes this island special and unique.
Kristin came to Kolan at the invitation of Simon Kerr, head of marketing and export for the Gligora Cheese Dairy, who told her about the island and its inhabitants. After a long search for a topic on which to write and which would include Croatia, the land of her ancestors, the young writer knew that this was a perfect opportunity to realize her dream and that’s how the story started ”P.S. s Paga: Avanture sa sirom i ovcama u Hrvatskoj,” (P.S. From Pag: Adventures With Cheese and Sheep in Croatia) and we will find out the rest of the action after the book is completed. At the same time, Kristin will be writing the text for the “coffee table” book sponsored by the Gligora Cheese Dairy about the restaurants on the island of Pag.
A Unique Journey
After a two week stay in Kolan on the island of Pag, how much material have you gathered for the book?
This visit was primarily concentrated on the book about the Gligora Cheese Dairy, which is based on the story about the island restaurants, and I visited twenty restaurants in twelve days. I also gathered material for an article in Cheese Culture Magazine about cheese making on the island of Pag, from the two largest producers of cheese, the Pag Dairy and the Gligora Cheese Dairy, to the small family producers which make their own cheese and sell it on the island. I gathered some interesting details for the book through conversations with the islanders about their life and customs.
At what moment have you realized that you wanted to write the book about cheese and sheep on the island of Pag?
I would not say that my decision to write about Pag, cheese and sheep came instantly, it was more of a journey. For some time I wanted to write a book about Croatia, not a guide, but a book which would be a window into a unique corner of the world, a reflexion of a way of life which is both known and foreign to us. Production of cheese and sheep are an important part and integral part of the life of the islanders, it is almost impossible to write a book about the island of Pag and not write about Pag’s cheese and sheep.
A Creative Documentary
You said that you would gather material for the book at local restaurants and from the cheese producers. Have you imagined the book as fiction or a documentary study?
I want to emphasize that there are two books in the works: One is my book P.S. From Pag: Adventures with Cheese and Sheep in Croatia (www.psfrompag.com) and the other one is Gligora’s Cheese Dairy book about the restaurants on the island of Pag for which I am writing the text. My book will focus on the life on the island, history of the island, on the shepherds and cheese producers from the largest producers, Pag Cheese Dairy and Gligora Dairy, to the smaller local producers and local inhabitants who produce cheese at home and sell it on the roadside. The project of the Gligora Cheese Dairy is the ”coffee table” book with color photographs from twenty island restaurants.
My book will be a creative documentary which means that it will be based on actual events and facts but will be read as fiction with characters, dialogues and events. Style will be similar to the writing of the American best-selling author Susan Orlean, writer and editor of the magazine New Yorker, more exactly to her book The Orchid Thief in which Orlean spends her time in the eccentric world of orchid collectors in Florida, among the subculture of aristocrats, fanatics and smugglers whose obsession with the plants is devouring. I will spend time on the island of Pag which is quite different from other Croatian islands in environment and culture. There are three different dialects on Pag and the island itself is divided between Ličko-Senjska County which includes the northern side of the island and the Zadar County which includes the south side of the island. There are so many different people and particularities on the island and I am certain I will not be left without material to write about.
My Ancestors Were Very Brave
You came to Croatia for the first time in 2002 with your father in search for your family roots. What have you learned about yourself from that trip?
On that journey to Karlovac I learned how brave my ancestors were leaving everything known to them for a foreign land where they had never been before, where a foreign language was spoken and the people were of different culture and mentality. Croatia is a beautiful country and I am sure their decision to leave and separate themselves from their roots was very hard for them. At the same time I was very proud since the had courage to start an adventure in the new world where they would create new life in America. I wonder what they would have thought about my return to their homeland, and writing a book about that experience?
What is the biggest difference between Americans and Croatians?
It is hard for me to generalize about Americans and Croatians. Every individual is unique. I can say, even if my Croatian is not perfect, that I am culturally connected to Croatia. I also feel connected to America where I was born. I like living in New York where people from the entire world live, and the real blending of cultures takes place.
Action in Rab and Zadar
Beside gathering information on the island of Pag, you also announced that you will gather material for your book in other places. Where will you still go?
Considering that the island of Rab and Zadar share history with the island of Pag, I intend to include these two places in the book. I am interested in finding out how people perceive the island of Pag: do the people from Rab consider themselves completely separated and different from the people who live on the northern side of Pag, in Lun and Novalja, even if they belong to the same county? What the people of Zadar think about the people from Pag? Do they think they have a different mentality from the inhabitants of the southern side of Pag?
During this trip I was able to visit Zadar two times and I also visited Zadar last October when I followed ”Days of Croatian Cheese” for Croatian Chronicle Network (www.croatianchronicle.com). Unfortunately, I was not able to visit Rab during this trip, but I will be able to visit the island during my visit in September and October when I will have a month for further research for my book.
Can you give us a brief insight into your book? What will we read about?
The book will be about my travels through Pag, knowledge of its inhabitants and history, focusing on meetings and adventures with local inhabitants. One of the scenes which I am most looking forward to writing is the climb to Gradac, which is at the border with Lun where I went with the local historian Ivan Oštarić, starting the climb at 5:00 AM.
Unique Pag Cheese and Pag Lace
When will your book be done and do you have plans to return to the island again to do further research?
Writing such an investigative and research study consists of two phases: gathering of materials and organizational phases and at least two years of work is needed. I plan to return to Pag in September where I will spend one month, from the middle of September to the middle of October, and again during the season of Bura wind through February and March, and in the summer of 2013. It is important for me to experience the life on the island in the different time periods and and yearly seasons, including the crowds during the tourist season as well as the winter hibernation period of the island.
Gligora Cheese Dairy book on the restaurants of the island of Pag will be published and on sale in April of 2013.
The book market in the USA is huge. Can something relatively small in comparison to that market such as Pag cheese or Pag lace become a recognizable brand?
I believe that every handicraft product has its market regardless of its size. There are many people and individuals who are interested in small unique and special products which cannot be found anywhere else in the world. Pag cheese and Pag lace are unique craft products, that is, they are products made by hand and whose quantities are limited. I believe that with proper marketing, which should include the story and history of these cultural treasures, people in the USA and elsewhere will be enticed to purchase these products of limited editions. Indeed Pag cheese has already been successfully exported to the United States.
Tuesday, July 24, 2012 Zadarski List p. 31: Kristin intervju