My characters leave but always return.


Maybe a year ago, or so, I had written an article, ‘I carry my theatre and my actors with me,’ in which I reflected on the relationship between a writer and his/her characters. I shall explore this, rather intriguing, relationship a little bit more in-depth. My character, Otto, came to me in the form of a lonely, gentle soul I had met years earlier in Andalucia. The character, the voice in my head, would not leave until I wrote about him.

The Conclusion of a Two Part Series. See Part One here.


YEARS HAD PASSED and I had written several novels since then. The stories of Otto the Poet were stored on my computer.

One day I published the story Simona. It was extremely well received by my readership. It was published in printed form in a literary journal and online, in two languages. Shortly after the second publication, I opened the window before I started editing the just finished novel ‘Dethroned’. The gentle wind blew into my house and I heard a gentle voice:

“It’s me! Otto, again.”



Branka Cubrilo
Branka Cubrilo

I was delighted as if a long lost friend had reappeared. Even though I was so keen to finish editing ‘Dethroned’, I left it aside for the time being. I found the majority of the stories Otto narrated to me years ago while hiding me in my room defending me from Nicholas’s unexpected visits. Nicholas had been the gentle but disturbed gentle soul on whom I had based Otto the Poet.

When I finished arranging and editing the stories, he encouraged me to collect some other stories and put them together into a collection.

I sent it off to my publisher the other week and I wonder if Otto is at peace now. He waited more than a decade to convince me to tell his stories to the world. He urged me to leave the novel and give him priority as his patience had worn out.


I wonder: Is this the end, or is there anything left to say? I think the time will show as Otto comes unannounced and unpredictably. And there is something within me that can’t just let go. And he is likable, child-like, extreme, though he is hyper-sensible and not resistant to the world, craving attention in need to tell everyone that we need a better world where poets would get a pat on the back and accolades rather than ruthless businessmen who never deal with matters of the human soul. On that note let’s finish with some of Otto’s remarks:


“I was a broken man when I reached Milan. A city I disliked; big, too big for a poet; dirty, too dirty for a pure soul; indifferent, not a home for a frightened person, yet I had no other. I sat down and cried. Not a single person to understand me, not a single friend, not a single soul mate! Carla came to mind; actually she wasn’t all that bad. There were moments when she understood me; there were moments when trying to stroke my hair, she would say, “Otto, you are such an eccentric,” or she would say, ”Well yes, you are a true poetic soul; no place for reality!”

What kind of reality, I ask myself? What is reality? Whose reality? Did Carla think I was supposed to live in her Reality? My Reality was seen with my eyes; I felt it with my heart and it beat to my heart’s rhythm, moved to the rhythm of my breathing, resounded to the rhythm of my footsteps, restless with phrases that are mine and smells of my sweat; and when it is blurred, it is blurred by the mist of my tears. How could Carla say anything about My Reality, how could she have comprehended what My Reality was at all! And how did she dare even try to tell me that I had – no place for reality?

And her Reality?

Employment. Bank employee. She puts on a black dress and blouse that’s not too dark, although not too bright either, that’s not buttoned up from top to bottom, yet certainly not unbuttoned ‘where it shouldn’t be unbuttoned’; she wears shoes in which one feels secure because they don’t differ in any way from those that others wear; her hair gathered at the back of her head in ponytail style does not allow it to be lively and free; she never uses too little or too much perfume, just the right measure that is needed and suits her (or the picture of her Reality). Her smile is made-to-measure for that reality, in other words gracious but not too friendly so that ‘just anyone’ wouldn’t dare approach her or talk out of turn with her. That smile is a barometer. Anybody who is knowledgeable about smiles knows the type of barometer that allows approach to a certain extent only. When I first met her I did not know about that barometer, but later on her Reality taught me what it was. Her mother was a part of her Reality, but not of mine. I simply avoided her and ignored her, as if she did not exist in my Reality. She was an occupant of the Reality of my wife, but I refused to acknowledge all the protagonists of her Reality. There was no room for her in mine; and when both women attempted to push her into my Reality, as I said before, I said, “Ta-ta, I’m leaving since there isn’t any room for you in my Reality.”

The short-story collection, The Lonely Poet and Other Stories will be published in 2015 by Speaking Volumes (USA).

Please click the book cover image to read more about Branka Cubrilo and her books.

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