Tone Smolej & Majda Stanovnik – ANTON OCVIRK

In the monography Anton Ocvirk from the edition Famous Slovenians, its authors, prof.dr. Tone Smolej and prof. Majda Stanovnik, primarily give an account of Ocvirk’s youth and his life in Vienna (1907 – 1928), along with his university studies at the Faculty of Philosophy in Ljubljana (1928 – 1931). A comprehensive chapter is devoted to Ocvirk’s master studies in Paris where he met some of most prominent writers (A.Gide) and comparative literature professors (F. Baldensperger, P. Hazard) who influenced his horizons. A comprehensive account of Ocvirk’s editorial work in Ljubljansko zvono magazine (The Bell of Ljubljana) is also given (1933 – 1935). The authors paid a special attention to Ocvirk’s work The Theory of History of Comparative Literature (1936) that was the third work on the comparative literature in the world. The first part is concluded by Ocvirk’s employment at the Faculty of Philosophy in Ljubljana and his pre-war activities with the Resistance.

In post-war decades Ocvirk’s intensive individual and team work was simultaneously rolling out in various areas so the book is divided into topical chapters. His lectures at the World Literature Department, and later after his return to Comparative Literature and Literature Theory Department (1949 – 1971) were described based on real-life data and testimonials of his carefully chosen listeners who later became prominent authors and editors. Founding and editing of Collective Works of Slovenian Poetry and Prose Writers (1946 – 1980) comprises a more exhaustive presentation of Ocvirk’s gradual issuing of the opus by Srečko Kosovel that achieved great success. This was followed by an arduous collecting and editing of Slavic Magazine (1948 – 1963), a successful creation and finishing the work A Hundred Novels (1964 – 1977) with a hundred of original secondary studies, A Collection of Works for the occasion of the 80th birthday of Josip Vidmar (1975), originally founded Literary Lexicon and finally a topical collection of work under the programmatic name of Literary Art Between the History and Theory (1978 – 1980).

Vinko Ošlak – RESPECT AND ESSENCE. ESSAY ON NATURE, MAN AND CULTURE

In this book of essays by Vinko Ošlak deals with very complex issues we are facing today. The impression is that Ošlak verbalised what we are, if at all, barely aware of in searching for our own and mutual way into the future. Ošlak’s essays therefore deserve our full attention. If ever, then today is the day when we are supposed, when utopian energies have expired, as written by Jørgen Habermas, to sharpen our mind. Ošlak is directing his thoughts right that way when he says we shall truly respect the nature provided we, with the help of culture and ethics, i.e. being deeply rooted and ethically comprehended, experience its deepest nature, the very spirit that represents “the true nature of the nature”. Similarly Ošlak deduces the thought on the people, i.e. the nation. Ošlak’s conclusion is that only by culture and ethics overwhelmed members of a nation shall see beyond their own family and parentage, i.e. their deepest, elemental, human nature, their godly humanity. With issues of a nation, Ošlak is particularly concrete and critical when talking about possibilities and perils of one nation rising to the level of universal humanity and then, as Ošlak puts it, degenerating, focusing on itself and dealing with only itself. Ošlak comes up with that important thought at the moment when in our own homes, we start to notice growing provincialism and national patriotism, on one side, and “pure”, but consequently rather void cosmopolitanism, on the other. What are the chances of solving issues of the future? It would be deceitful to claim possibilities are numerous or at least as big as several generations earlier. Oswald Spengler believed that our culture, like Faust, sold its soul to the Devil inevitably taking the culture to its ruin. But with Goethe a miracle emerged, exactly the one that Ošlak finds our only possibility – Faust is successful in his rise, prompted not by his cosmic curiosity any more but a strive to understand men’s world, a need to participate in wider life, in the declaration of power in the mankind and for the mankind which eventually brought him God’s forgiveness because, despite all of his delusions and sins, he did not go astray from his origins. Will our civilisation be saved with of help of that miracle? We do not know it, but our task is to make it as truthful as possible. With the essays lying before us Ošlak has made his contribution to the cause.

Milan Dekleva – NESTS AND CATHEDRALS

Essays in the book by Milana Dekleva titled Nests and Cathedrals are an attempt to contemplate the way which has brought us from looking up at the skies to cloning. In short reflections various questions keep emerging – about transcendence with which a transcendented man talks about a world beyond humanism and metaphysics. An embrace of poetry and science, where contemporariness has found itself, is in the reality a love quarrel of nature and culture, of intuition and sensibility. That embrace can bring an ecstasy of a new birth or destruction of everything a man rules over. Nests may be the most perfect homes in the universe. Cathedrals may be the most intricate temples in the universe. Dekleva is convinced that the idea of a nest and the idea of a cathedral lay in the same plane that remains unfathomable to men. We can wonder about it for as long as the birds keep nesting on the walls of cathedrals. Transcendenting of a man is achieved, though, beyond his volition and it comes from beyond the horizon. In the syntagma “a transcendented man” the transcendence is permanent, and a man is a mortal category. We keep talking only because the silence is yet awaiting.

Aleš Berger – CROQUIS FROM ARLES

Essays by Aleš Berger were written over the period from 1989 to 2010 when the author was a grantee as a translator for the French language in Arles, France. On several occasions the author worked at the International Centre for Literary Translators where he translated works of acclaimed French authors into Slavonic languages. “Croquis from Arles” are multi-layered essays encompassing three thematic collections. The first one covers the period when the Berlin Wall fell down and the subsequent political events, including the time of Yugoslavia breaking up and Slovenia becoming an independent country and later joining the EU. The second collection is dedicated to translating and comprises a comprehensive study into the theory and practice of translating, whereas the third one is dedicated to literary reflections fraught with intimate atmosphere. The book comprises a selection from two other books by Aleš Berger – “Notes from Arles” and “A Cupboard in the Cellar” – which the author compiled especially for Croatian edition and where he gathered all of his reflections tied to Arles.

Matevž Kos – ON THE MISHAP OF BEING SLOVENIAN, HISTORY, CULTURE, IDEOLOGY

Matevž Kos started publishing his works in the early 1990s. Soon he established himself as one of the shrewdest Slovenian literary critics. He has already published several literary selections from his critics. This selection is limited to 50 critics, i.e. reflections, referring to non-fiction works published in the period between 1993 and 2013. What is special about this book, apart from its rather provocative title, is the fact it covers writings of various authors whose works belong to a wide range of approaches. The book, from one example to another, really tells a history of the 20th century Slovenia, and even a little longer, whereas its author does not fancy himself as standing way above this world but as being very much inside and involved although he does keep his distance when commenting. Therefore this is a book about various contributions to more recent Slovenian cultural history as it has been uncovered by its classics such as Josip Vidmar, Edvard Kocbek and Božo Vodušek, then by authors like Jože Pučnik, Taras Kermauner, Tine Hribar, Drago Jančar or Slavoj Žižek, and all the way to author’s contemporaries. Kos writes about lead figures of Slovenia in the 20th (and 21st) centuries, while simultaneously he is writing the very history himself through his dialogue, critical and/or polemic discourses in the name of democratic criticism. Most likely because we have no other. This is also a tale told in the book “On the Mishap of Being Slovenian”, telling us about mishaps and hardships not necessarily being exclusively Slovenian.

Milan Dekleva – ETYMOLOGY OF FORGETFULNESS

On “The Etymology of Forgetfulness” the author, Milan Dekleva, said that a century, where the feeling of endangerment and anxiety were ever increasing, was closing up behind. If we look at the heritage of earlier poets, their yearning for the bizarre, twisted and aberrant seems like a child’s play. No surprise there. The reality has transformed the world into a corporal and metaphysical graveyard, people into refugees who in new, unsympathetic lands had to give up the memories of their homeland, their languages, their rites and dreams. It is no surprise that in the world of seeking refuge, the rule has switched to the artificial worlds we so recklessly embraced with a help of drugs or IT networking. The feelings of endangerment and anxiety induce the need for salvation in humans. The past century offered a whole bunch of Messiahs and bliss-missionaries. Those who were honest were pushed away onto the edges of social consciousness and power, whereas the others, false prophets, eagerly mutilated souls, thoughts and bodies of individuals, tribes and peoples alike. The sense of the ending remains in full force – as well as the salvation game. At the ultimate point it seems almost blasphemous to re-iterate Hölderlin’s cry „What’s the point of poets in pitiful times?“ The times we are living in are no longer pitiful but numbed and deadened. As if a man had been taken over by light-headedness, as if he were lying dizzy on a surgical table. This is not about turning poetry into awakening tools, into gathering people around certain ideas and making them act – not in the least! The poetry itself did not manage to gain „freedom“, not before romanticism, to fancifully create in playful wording its own worlds that, prior to that, were simply non-existent. But what it kept whispering to us – in obscure, elliptical, mysterious, secretive language – we never even gave it a serious thought. Can we do it now after the elation had long abandoned us? (excerpt from the essay On the Thorn and the Rose)