Nikola Petković
(Croatia, 1962)   
Nikola Petković

Nikola Petković was born in Rijeka on 20 May 1962. He started his elementary education in a small coastal town of Bakar and continued in Rijeka. In 1987 he graduated with a degree in philosophy and comparative literature at the University of Zagreb. In 1996 he gained his PhD from the University of Texas at Austin with his thesis The Post in Postmodern and Postcolonial: The Case of Central Europe.

Between 1998 and 1990 he worked as an author and editor at the Institute of Lexicography Miroslav Krleža in Zagreb, and from 1990 to 2003 he taught literature at several universities in the USA. In 2003 Nikola Petković returned to his native Croatia, where he joined the University of Rijeka in its ‘heroic’ days of the launch of the Department of Cultural Studies, where he works as an associate professor.

Petković's fields of expertise include ethnic, national, racial, and class identities; cultures of Central Europe; and intercultural communication. Aside from teaching undergraduate and graduate classes in his department, he teaches Aesthetics in the Department of Philosophy. Together with the professors Carol Rovane and Akeel Bilgrami, based at the University of Columbia, he directs a spring course ‘Secularism, Liberalism and Identity’, at the Interuniversity Center for Postgraduate Studies in Dubrovnik.

Nikola Petković is a weekly columnist and poetry reviewer in the Rijeka-based daily paper Novi list. He writes and publishes his poetry, fiction, essays and scholarly books in Croatian and English.


The grand theme of exile in literature is as old as global culture. Ever since Sophocles’s Oedipus and Homer’s Ulysses, via Dante’s medieval times and the early Renaissance, and through Conrad’s modernity up to our contemporaries, Guillermo Cabrera Infante and Edward Said, exile has been conceived as a state “worse than death”. Exile is the condition of personal displacement and physical distance from one’s mother tongue and native culture, that is to say a state of mind of which Argentinean ex-pat Julio Cortázar said “only the writer who lives in his own land could experience the true dimension”.

In these poems, originally written in English during his stay in the US, Nikola Petković approaches exile in very immediate terms of physical dislocation. His lyrical voice runs around the inner and outer spaces of his exile in order to detect and transgress ever elusive boundaries that mark, and separate, and connect personal, subjective worlds with a global world that couldn’t be understood,  or even exist, without its very local core.

In Petković's poetry, various forms and aspects of exile are described, including self-exile and preventive exile, as well as the impossibility to leave and abandon oneself. His poems speak of nomadic people removed from their territory, in stark contrast to an individual existence determined and fulfilled by an earthing within one’s own space, described in one poem for example as “her ‘ethnic neighborhood’”. Through their multilayered stories intersected with fragments from his personal history, Nikola Petković aims to pinpoint the politics of longing on a very personal, local level, and the longing for politics on a collective, global level.

© Miloš Đurđević


Poetry in Croatian

Vile i vilenjaci
(Fairies), Quorum, Zagreb, 1984
Melodije Istre i Kvarnera
(Melodies of Istria and the Adriatic), ICR, Rijeka, 1989
Dan na bijelu hljebu (Day on a White Bread), Meandar, Zagreb, 2001
Odisejev pas
(Ulysses’s Dog), HDP/Durieux, Zagreb, 2007

Poetry in English

Las Regiones Perdidas, LaNana Creek Press, Nacogdoches, 2001

Novels in Croatian

Priče iz davnine (Stories From Ancient Times), Quorum, Zagreb, 1989
Uspavanka za mrtve (A Lullaby for the Dead), Profil Internacional, Zagreb, 2007
Kako svezati cipele (How to Tie Up Your Shoes), Algoritam, Zagreb, 2011

Essays and studies

Mozak od 2 marke (A 2 DM Brain), Adamić, Rijeka, 2001
Srednja Europa: mit, zbilja, utopija. A Central Europe of Our Own: Postmodernism, Postcolonialism, Postcommunism and The Absence of Authenticity, Adamić, Rijeka, 2003 (first edition; in English and Croatian)
A Central Europe of Our Own: Postmodernism, Postcolonialism, Postcommunism and The Absence of Authenticity, Frankfurt AM, Central European Library, Dibido Publishers, 2009  (second edition; in English)
Hrvatsko pjesništvo početka milenija (Croatian Poetry at the Beginning of the Millennium) HDP/Jesenski i Turk, 2009 (in Croatian)
Identitet i granica: hibridnost i jezik, kultura i građanstvo 21. stoljeća (Identity and Border: Hybridity and Language, Culture and Citizenship of the 21st Century), Naklada Jesenski i Turk, Zagreb, 2010 (in Croatian)


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