Shadows of Seeds: Neva Lukić

January 30, 2017



When a writer writes “A Manifesto that will never be translated into English”, or more precisely, “Manifest koji nikad neće biti preveden na Engleski”, the ZiN Daily editors can’t resist corrupting that nikad/never and doing what is unexpected.


We took Neva’s title as a challenge, translated her poem dedicated to Aldous Huxley, and sent her a message: “Look, it’s not never anymore!” Neva was glad that never didn’t stay never. “Baš mi je drago, doista me veseli prijevod”, she wrote.” “Ironično”, Neva said, “It is ironical”, alluding that English, “the language that penetrates everything”, just ate her poem.


Did we make a mistake? Did we just allow a shadow to thicken and abduct the verses into an unwanted lingua franca? An English, the English before whose geostrategic intrusion all linguistic and cultural differences retreat, the English of global simplification, economic and political abuse? 

Here we have a manifesto that was never supposed to be translated into this English of power. What if this is also a manifesto that won’t be translated into English because English doesn’t want to hear about its potential “English-ness”, or its original Croatian-ness?

Did we, as translators, accept the role the author is urging us not to take, but that the text itself invites? Should we have let the poem live outside of English? In a way, we did both. Or rather, all three. We kidnapped the poem into an unfriendly linguistic context, faced the politics of its translation, were provoked and are provoking back.


Literary translators do not translate into a lingua franca, they write and translate in an attempt to open what is closed, to make further communication possible. This is what ZiN Daily’s English is all about, as is its Croatian, Bosnian, Italian, any language that will knock at our door, a door that is always open. 


Therefore you will be reading “A Manifesto that will never be translated into English” translated into English, but at the same time: Neva was right; the translation is not into English. It is, of course, into a language of genuine pursuit of beauty and freedom.

Neva Lukić (b. 1982 in Zagreb) is a writer, art critic and a curator. She has published four books, the most recent one a collection of poetic short prose, More i zustavljene priče (Zagreb: HDP, 2016.) In her writing, Neva strongly explores the relation between literature and visual arts, a practice that has so far resulted in interdisciplinary projects of video art, literary performance, and visual poetry in collaboration with various artists. Neva lives between Croatia and Netherlands. You can find out more about her and her work at:


A Manifesto, along with other poems we have selected to translate, is from her collection Sjene sjemenki (Shadows of Seeds, Zagreb: HDP, 2015.)





Language is a crippled dancer 
Of ungainly movements
A drummer of soft percussions
In despair it dives with its oral cavity first
Outside of it attempting to create an invisible order,
To touch with a word those beloved fingers
Like a wind that touches balcony chimes
Sad that forever it has to stay inside,
A puppeteer in the eclipse of the universe



To Mr. Huxley: A Manifesto that will never be translated into English


Mister Huxley
The English language penetrates everything
All languages of the world corrode
Words rust shards of letters
Get tossed along the way


The words of other languages become
Bits of fruit pits
Half-gnawed animal bones
Some sort of a world on a road
Some sort of bulging world 
With malicious moles on its cheek
Stalks on a woman's chin
A vermiform appendix 
worming in all our intestines
Of all that is rudimentary
Whose meaning
we understand less and less
As if it is getting away from us
As if it rustles in our mouths
Creating (making) unnatural sounds
That are almost foreign to us
Something between human
And animal


We wish to hide these inadequacies 
We wish to hide them even in our graves
And English
English is a language of wide streets,
For streets,
Are always connected
English is a language of formed asphalt 
Of calculated freedom and art
It doesn’t bulge at all
Nor is there anything carved into it
Except maybe the footprints of conquered nations
But those are simultaneously
Last human breaths
And first human utterances in
This brave new world
Where even the trees
Are implanted horizontally


We really do walk through this world
Mister Huxley
Almost as if asleep
Some of us even very proudly
Because we feel a part of the world
And to those of us who still haven’t fallen asleep
All of this is hilarious 


For, what kind of a human race is this
That has lost its pride,
How to look up if 
From every side hard cement
Blocks our view,
Consumes our arms and legs,
What kind of a human race is this
That has turned global
In such a way that it has become
The very surface of our terrestrial sphere?


As good as dead,
Mister Huxley,
As good as dead


We’re left with only a hope
That soon your vocabulary, too
Influenced by our
Barbaric lingua franca
Will thin down completely
And that together with us, we will
Mister Huxley
Discreetly pull you into the abyss
Of the Tower of Babel,
Into the abyss of regression and the rudimentary 





Words are seeds
scattered before people
as if the air
is mowed with them


In a moment
we flock on them
on yellow seeds
sui semi rossi
sobre las semillas


as mute we swallow
holding hands
in a nimbus around the Earth


We think we have caught
the Word
but it is scattered,
never completely
full of holes and changes,
Big, endless,
its tail sticking out of
Universe’s closed Doors.


It is never one.

Words are apples
above the basket!


Always a plural
Or only a void. 


Today the skies are clear. 
Today is gray. 
The space for spreading
the seeds.  




Language system


Mother tongue is an organism of air,
an endless fence in front of the sky,
words aired with voids.
It is a bench to sit on,
the original plan that by its structure
stops all other plans,
thus shaping
the tridimensionality of the world.


In it a chair chairs,
and the letters of the handwriting are thin…
With no word to describe them,
except maybe for ‘hairs’. 


Foreign languages are beings of water…
They embrace me with their
swaying seas,
a whale carries me in its body
into a damp darkness of culture’s
forgotten depths…,
I cannot stop it.
Nowthestory narrates me
instead of me narrating it


Before me
hundreds of languages spawn,
these are nomads,
these are the same languages

we carry in our mouths
before they get
rooted and implanted
deep deep
into the oral cavity 
of the mother tongue. 


Here there is
Fear and Freedom
A vortex consumes us
and turns us 
into something else


Only the seagulls see clearly
the images we are cut into. 



Translated from Croatian by NGORwDAC



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ZiN Daily is published by ZVONA i NARI, Cultural Production Cooperative

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ISSN 2459-9379

Editors: Natalija Grgorinić, Ljubomir Grgorinić Rađen & Ognjen Rađen


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