Contemporary Slovene Literature

Mirjam Čuk Moishi

Born in Postojna, Slovenia. Literature has been her partner from her early age. She has experience in translating from Slovene and Japanese languages. Currently she engages in the translation of Boris Pahor’s works and in promoting Slovene literature and culture.

Slovenia became independent in 1991. This year marks 20 years of the EU membership. Before independence Slovenia was part of various countries and during that times, it has managed to maintain its language, literature and culture itself. There is a lot of literature in translation in Slovenia – translations allowed writers to come into contact with literature from Europe and the rest of the world. Many literats are also active translators of literature. That is why most literary trends, styles and literary forms, genres from world literatures were immediately present in every period. However, during the period of the former Yugoslav republic some themes were not allowed to be interpreted or written about. If a writer attempted to write about such forbidden topics they became subject to severe censorship or even harsher punishment. In short, independence’s biggest change was in the political system that brought about changes in social institutions, atmosphere and society itself and of course it affected also literature, mostly in its substance matter.

Slovenia has successfully nurtured all types of lyrical literary creation, both in earlier times and today. Particularly after the Second World War the creation of lyric poetry, which, like in all world literatures tended to free itself from the ‘armour’ of traditional poetic forms and move towards free verse, became particularly active. Above all, the power of lyric poetry can be explained by the fact that basic lyrical brevity in comparison to other literary forms allows for the most figurative expression and is therefore best suited to depict even some forbidden messages. The generation that initiated lyric expression was still active soon after the Second World War and until the beginning of this century, but even today we can count many lyric poets such as Svetlana Makarovič, Boris A. Novak, Milan Jesih. Many of them are rediscovering traditional forms, especially the long ones like Alexandrine verse, sonnet.

The novel is a kind of timeless means of expression, and its length is probably better suited to telling longer, multi-period stories. Novels manage to retain their presence among other literary forms because they allow for detailed characterisation and a broader treatment of events. Despite the fact that the profile of readers has changed in modern times and the amount of time individuals spend reading has decreased, the novel continues to hold title of a popular form of expression in the Slovenian literary space. Key literary figures include Boris Pahor, Drago Jančar, Goran Vojnović, Florijan Lipuš, Aleš Čar, Feri Lainšček and many younger literates.

It seems that elder literary generations see short story as a complementary form of expression to tell a larger story, while younger generations often see it as a central form of expression, and some are attracted to the essay. Short stories and essays are clearly legitimate and proper means of expression. To name only few: Jani Virk, Urban Vouk, Maruša Krese, Erica Johnson Debeljak, Lili Potpara and Katarina Marinčič. It should be added that most of Slovene novelists write short stories alongside their full-length novels.

Dramatic creativity has not rested either. At the same time, traditional forms of drama developed through the drama of the absurd and other modern forms and further developed back to traditional form of drama or completely free of all rules drama has. Sometimes themes, motifs contain seemingly nonsensical themes – or lacking some of the dramatic elements. Writers of plays are usually also their directors, their scriptwriters, so that often text of drama is created or changed through the very dramatisation on stage. To name but a few of the prominent playwrights, Vinko Moderndorfer, Evald Flisar, Rudi Šeligo.

To sum up – contemporary Slovenian literature is characterised above all by the fact that authors do not stick to one of the literary tools of expression. Short-story writers are also writers of novels, essays, even playwrights, scenarios, essays. The most ‘faithful’ to just one genre among literates are probably the lyricists, but even among them write a lot for children and young people. All literary creators are characterised by a plurality of themes – from the deep past, the Second World War, or themes of contemporary life such as gender issues, their recognition in society, the relationship between the sexes, etc. The good side of socialism was gender equality, which allowed Slovenian literary space to more quickly embrace the world’s trends in gender relations, women writers were also active in those times, however it is clear that they find their place in the active literary world more often than before. Slovenian literary space is thus concerned with social issues, one’s relationship to the past, and young people are concerned with the search for a lost identity or a place in the world. This is not the fault of the change in the political system thirty years ago, but of the change in the world as a whole. Which shows that Slovenia is part of the world’s literature as it addresses similar topics in universal genres.