The novel Viijun (2016) by contemporary Croatian author Jasna Horvat is set in the year when the great ruler Kublai Khan and his confidant Marco Polo reach a parting of the ways. After the 17-years service in Kublai-Khan's Court, Marco Polo pleads to be allowed to return to the Kingdom of Croatia. Kublai Khan insists on Marco explaining the reasons why he should let him return home, which is at the same time the occasion for this fellowhisp at the very end of Kublai Khan's life. 

Besides providing a comprehensive account of Croatia — his homeland on the Adriatic Sea where fairies, invisible women from the Kingdom of Croatia, dwell, Marco Polo also mentions experience he gained in the Khan's Empire, as well as the travellers going along the two routes on the Silk Road to bow before the Great Khan. In his accounts, Marco Polo mentions both Korčula, Šibenik, Venice – the cities on the coast of the Adritic Sea and the cities along the continental and sea trade routes on the Silk Road. Almost like a magic song, descriptions of mediaval stations emerge before the Great Khan's eyes. Literary connection between today's China and Europe is presented through descriptions of geographical locations, history and culture of the cities along the Maritime Sea Route, which take Marco back to Croatia and Europe (Bagan, Chengdu, Camblau, Hormuz, Arbil, Trabzon, Constantinople) by the author applying the concept of storytelling from an outside the time perspective. The Silk Road in two Marco's directions, from West to East and from East to West, generates in Vilijun a palindromic sequence of reading the same in either direction favoured in the poetics of the Oulipians – writers and mathematicians whose expression is very close to that of the author Jasna Horvat. 
The plot takes place throughout a year in which Kublai Khan and Marco Polo spend their time at the Khan's residences. Here the reader finds out about the life of the Great Khan in the capital city Camblau, his hunting habits as well as the valuables of the Great Empire such as tea, spices, silk, porcelain, cashmere, paper and compass. By getting to know Kublai Khan more thoroughly the reader gets an insight into the wealth of the then Empire, the nomads travelling along the sea and continental route on the Silk Road and cultural exchange between East and West. On the occasion of their parting Marco Polo and Kublai Khan exchange gifts - Marco Polo is given the Map of the World and the Golden tablet – the special passport through the Khan's Empire, and Kublai Khan a salt nugget from the Kingdom of Croatia and the word million which was invented by Marco Polo to describe the greatness of Ancient China. 

The novel Vilijun is adorned with numerous quotations from Coleridge's poem Kublai Khan or A Vision in a Dream , Orhan Pamuk's Snow , Jorge Luis Borges's The Dream of Coleridge or Calvin'sInvisible Cities and many others. With these quotes, the novel becomes a literature catalogue of major world writers dealing with Kublai Khan and Marco Polo as the main theme in their literary texts. All of the above mentioned leads to the conclusion that the novel Vilijun connects the Great Empire with today's China, and today's China with cultural achievements of the Silk Route as pivotal, all-time link between East and West.

© 2018 Željko Ronta

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