Predrag Matvejević

Predrag Matvejević was born in 1932 in Mostar. He earned his degree in French Language and Literature in Zagreb. In 1967 he defended his doctoral degree at the Sorbonne in Paris. He taught French Literature at the Faculty of Philosophy at Zagreb University until 1991 when he left Croatia. From 1991 to 1994 he taught Slavic literatures at the Nouvelle Sorbonne (Paris III), while from 1994 to 2007 he taught the Serbian and Croatian language and Serbian and Croatian literature at Sapienza University in Rome. He is author of numerous essays and books, including several with a bearing on the question of civil courage, such as “Open Letter - Moral Exercises.” The titles which have been most widely translated are Mediteranski brevijar (English translation: Mediterranean: A Cultural Landscape), Druga Venecija (English translation: The Other Venice: Secrets of the City), and Jugoslavenstvo danas (English translation: Yugoslav Identity Today).

He has held a number of significant positions abroad and has been honored with several titles such as honorary life-long Vice-President of the International Pen Club in London.

His decorations include, in France, the Légion d'honneur, in Croatia the Red Danice hrvatske (Order of Danica), and honors in Slovenia and Italy.

The Duško Kondor Award for Civil Courage is being given to Predrag Matvejević of Zagreb because, although fully cognizant of the risk he was undertaking, he demonstrated civil courage by the following:

  • During the Yugoslav period he spoke out for human rights, particularly the right to free speech, and championed those convicted of political crimes.
  • In 1998 he was a co-founder of the Association for Yugoslav Democratic Initiative, the first independent political association at that time in Yugoslavia, the goal of which was to find a peaceful solution to the Yugoslav crisis.
  • He risked his life fighting against and writing against all forms of totalitarian practice.
  • In 1991 he was faced with persecution, slander and abuse of all kinds. Among other things, his mail box was riddled with bullets. To save his life he fled the country.
  • While in exile he became a powerful voice of criticism in ex-Yugoslav societies and spoke frankly about evil and its perpetrators.
  •  In 2001 he published an article, „Our Talibans,“ in the Zagreb newspaper Jutarnji List in which he named certain writers and intellectuals as responsible for incendiary words that fueled the war.
  • In 2005, he was tried in a rigged trial for the article „Our Talibans“ and given a conditional sentence of five months for slander. He never appealed the conviction because he felt that by doing so he would have been acknowledging the validity of the suit.
  • With his case he forced the political elite of Croatia to examine their actions. In his first term in office, while the campaign  against Predrag Matvejević was raging, President Stjepan Mesić decorated him with a prestigious Croatian honor, and early in this century, amid the legal furor, President Ivo Josipović named him as Croatian representative to the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie.
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