Upon reading the selection/anthology of Slovenian short stories, intriguingly entitled WHAT ARE WE TALKING ABOUT
What Are We Talking About – Slovenian Short Stories, 1990-2004, anthology prepared by Mitja Čander (1974), a distinguished Slovenian essay and column writer, playwright, script writer… An excellently edited and made book which was originally issued in Ljubljana in 2004. The Macedonian edition is by Cultural Institution Blesok, Skopje, 2008 (338 p.)
#1 Within a relatively short time (barely two-three months), all of a sudden two exceptional (but also exceptionally relevant) Slovenian books appeared; on top of it both in competent translation, solid technical/graphic “cover” and professional editorial preparation. The first one is dedicated to the playwright work of the classic Ivan Cankar (Matica’s edition), and the second one to the recent Slovenian short story (Blesok’s edition). Both books are a result of the Macedonian-Slovenian cultural cooperation, which – judging by the results – should be considered a very good one. Both of the books stat that they were jointly funded by the Ministries of Culture of both countries. Great news!
Should, however, this great news be read/interpreted also as a strategic decision of the Macedonian and Slovenian officials, who have decided to introduce a system in the area of inter-country cultural cooperation (in this case: to “systematize” the cooperation in the area of publishing), which could – eventually – result in some reciprocity, via which we could soon expect some Slovenian translations of two-three Macedonian books? Or, is it still two lonely incidents, which happened due to lucky circumstances, a result of the individual involvement of some imagined individuals, and in general, some romantic facts, quite unusual for these consumers’ times?
Anyway, the book What Are We Talking About, determined as a selection/anthology of the Slovenian short stories of the last fifteen years (1994-2000), should be considered a real achievement. Thanks to its special and original character, the recent Macedonian literary context – whatever this uncertain determination might mean – all of a sudden has the possibility for a double benefit.
Our first and quite certain benefit is obtaining a precise, and moreover, well commented insight in the intentions and characteristics of the contemporary Slovenian short story. The book is accompanied by an extensive commentary of its editor Mitja Čander, whose text, besides its high level of information, also includes competent critical judgments.
Our second, but quite hypothetical benefit is facing the status of our own short story, the young and youngest, which – I hope – has some generation specific features (and qualities) which should be recorded and seriously commented. So that they could be offered to the Slovenians in return. But, as Jack Lemmon says in Sweet Irma of Billy Wilder, it is (still) a different story!
The priority and, at least for this text, most important is the story that is suggestively “told” by the book What Are We Talking About, in which we directly get to know 35 short stories of 12 Slovenian prose writers, all born after 1960. The exception of this “generation” principle is only one case, Vinko Moderndorfer (born in 1958), one of the most productive and most distinguished Slovenian writers, whose story Our Child (pp. 144-155) is one of the most impressive that I have read lately (in general, not only in this book). Compliments to his translator, Lidija Dimkovska, one of the three skilful “mediators” in the intercultural Slovenian-Macedonian dialogues that the book What Are We Talking About establishes (the other two are Namita Subiotto and Igor Isakovski, the latter also signed as the editor of the translation).
This generation book, artistically very intense, also indicates the advantage (quality!) that should be recorded with a great respect. It confirms that the younger Slovenian literature – the one that has been writing itself in the last two decades (or, in simpler terms, after the independence of Slovenia) – besides undoubtedly paying the tribute and following the formal vibrancy of the so-called post modern mainstream (so that it remains in touch with the world), also does not give up (at any cost!) the specific Slovenian way point of view, deeply impregnated by the tradition that the great Slovenian writers have left.
It is this powerful, very creative and – judging by the texts published in this book – absolutely authentic combination of the autochthonous and let’s say, trendy, can be determined as a key factor in the young Slovenian prose and make it so readable, communicative and attractive. Even if you do not know where it comes from – because, let’s assume, you have already read it translated to some other language – you will immediately know that it can only come from the “sunny side of the Alps”, as we used to talk. And no other place!
Translated by: Elizabeta Bakovska