The work Four Phases of the Moon by the established author Ksenija Premur, although the author herself calls it a collection of poetry, is actually written in the form of a poem. It is a story written in verse that brings excerpts from life in a postmodern manner. These fragments form a whole that leads us through the history of the lyrical subject, telling a story of love. The author, as the title itself says, leads us through four phases of change – four types of love. The first is the phase of sinful love, the second of unfulfilled romantic love, the third of friendly love, and the fourth is of a person’s love for himself. This time, the author decided on a completely new approach to the topic of love – the author teaches us about love, but also encourages the reader to reflect on their own understanding of love. As the reader reads this poem, it does not seem to him to be fictional, something that is foreign to him, but he immediately empathetically surrenders to the text. The first phase “About the new moon” is a story about jealousy, deception, about love that could not succeed due to its character. It is a dark love that takes place on the streets of Zagreb, in a public place, but in fact it is a love hidden from everyone, forbidden love. It is love that is not really love at all, but an eternal walk on the edge, a repeated challenging of destiny that ends like this: “that you repent for every word / that you said on that fateful day / and I’m leaving / going far […] and I change my hair color / going on a long journey”. The second phase “About the first quarter of the moon” tells the story of love that “should have been” realized in the full sense of the word, but fate did not permit it. Others intervened in the love between the two people, the family intervened and thus created an insurmountable obstacle to that love. “About the full moon” is the third phase that speaks of friendship. In this part, the key is the metamorphosis of love that the author offers us by combining the second and third phases. It is made clear that the main actor, along with the lyrical subject, in both phases is actually one and the same literary person. Although the second phase is a part dedicated to pure, beautiful love, it does not end happily. However, this love experiences a transformation that completes it and thus grants it its full splendor. “But even today / I call you every day / and never a better friend / never a more memorable interlocutor / and a dear confessor / we have crossed the threshold / old age has entered the great door”. “It dawned / a new day / of a new decade / all good and beautiful.” With these verses begins “About the moon’s last quarter”, a story of self-love. Giving oneself the opportunity to reconcile with destiny is also interpreted here as a kind of love. Despite and precisely because people go through different emotions through life, loves and hates, phases and changes they are human beings, they have to go through eternal changes in order to reach ultimate happiness and lasting peace. The author demonstrates this with the following verses “and my life is beautiful / and woven to my measure”, but also with “I ask heaven / just one thing more / to gift me / a happy death / an easy departure / from this world / for my soul to touch / gardens of paradise / and stay there forever.” The author points out all aspects of love, not just the beautiful ones. When talking about the dark sides of love and the suffering it brings, she does not fall into pathos, but very realistically describes the events that are a kind of symbols. Ksenija Premur shows maturity in writing and in experiencing emotions that she expertly turns into poetry – this is indicated by the motives of growing up, maturing, aging, but also the motives of overcoming the past, forgiveness and reconciliation.
The newest collection of poetry by Ksenija Premur entitled Sun at the Zenith, as a faithful reader who follows the work of this already established writer, I would call the peak of the author’s poetry. It is an extremely deep intimate love poetry, and the collection is written in one breath; the entire collection can be read as a single poem. To begin with, the peculiarity of this collection of poems are the titles that are formulated as imperatives (e.g. remember, give to me, fall, wander, etc.), which indicates a kind of conversation between the lyrical subject and a man unknown to readers. This conversation is actually a monologue, and the gradation of feelings from the beginning to the end of the collection implies unhappy love – the first song is titled wait, and the last one forget me. The conversation, i.e. the collection, begins with the following words: “just wait and everything will come / like the golden sun at the zenith”, it begins with optimism, hope in love, and ends with “I await the break of dawn / for you to forget me / and never look for me / because the gods just / played with us / (…) / under the sun at the zenith”, that is, it ends with the end of love. The sun at the zenith, which appears in the first and last poem, is a symbol of both opposites – the beginning and the end, but also of eternity, a motif that also appears with opposing motives (eternal paradise, eternal life, eternal oblivion, eternal struggle, eternal ruin). Eternity is a dialectic of both extremes, an eternal shift between optimism and pessimism, good and evil, waiting and forgetting, giving and taking (“and history repeats itself / in the end everything repeats itself / as variations on the theme of eternity”). However, eternity is a category reserved only for immortal phenomena such as love, but for mortal beings the aspect of temporality includes transience “because what was yesterday / today is already past / and what is now is doomed to pass.” The collection brings a whole range of feelings, such as sadness, melancholy, longing, joy, hope. It is love, which is the central motif and theme, that triggers all these feelings. This love is described as fated, regardless of the imperatives, as something that the one who is in love in no way can control. To rein in and explain this love, the author invokes gods and goddesses, transcendent beings who may have access to knowledge that could be helpful. However, the last poem reveals that the author’s attempt failed – love failed: “and you keep chaining me / with newer and heavier shackles / I can no longer wear them on my chest (…) so forget me / as if I never was”. This time also, a biographical note is unavoidable – particularly, philosophical expertise introduces philosophical, religious and historical concepts into the collection (cosmos, destiny, Horace, Jesus, Colossus of Rhodes, Apollo, Botticelli, etc.). Similar to previous collections of poems, the author draws inspiration from the seascape (rocks, waves, sand, seagulls, fish, etc.), and a special role is played by the motif of the gaze mentioned in the titles of the poems (observe, look, the pupil of the sun, look at the turbulent world, your gaze, persistent gaze, etc.). In this way, the motifs of a gaze and eyes, i.e. of the sight, as the most important human sense, point to the significant importance that the author places on visual hedonism, the splendor of nature and the bodies she describes. With the help of exceptional inspiration, creativity and insight, the author succeeded in writing a very special, innovative and unique collection of poems – a collection that is at the same time intellectual, philosophical, natural, intimate and love poetry. Therefore, this collection is intended for all those who were/are happily or unhappily in love, or better said, for all those who have emotions, all lovers of poetry.
Rains in April. To Međimurje and My Father is a collection of poetry by the established poet Ivan Sokač. As the title of the collection suggests, the poems in question are topographical poems that are related to Međimurje, but at the same time they are imbued with intimate themes. The collection is primarily characterized by descriptions of landscapes, especially Međimurje, but in the background are strong feelings that are, among other things, driven by nostalgia for his homeland: “Heart without land / desolate and alone. / Like a child without a mother / who is far away.”; “I have no home, nowhere.” Along with nostalgia, the theme is the return to one’s homeland, but also alienation from the homeland: “I have become a stranger wherever I am,” which includes elements of oblivion and departure. The poet frames the entire collection with motifs related to water, which symbolizes life, such as streams, rivers, seas, oceans, rain, etc. Through the oppositions of light and darkness, day and night, heaven and earth, laughter and tears he touches on the variability of the world. The poet emphasizes the spiritual aspect of man by thematizing the human soul and mind, and deals with the universal themes of man’s position in the world, meaning and meaninglessness, and the search for meaning. The poet pays special attention to rhyme and rhythm, but also to stylistic features, especially lively metaphors: “Day after day / of edible shame, / tears the time hungry without a soul.” Regardless of the predominance of landscape, the collection is intimate lyric poetry. Sometimes it’s about addressing “her”: “I just remember when I lie down / that you are my treasure.”, and sometimes addressing himself and his own emotions. The high degree of self-referentiality (“I will translate this poem as well.”, “It’s just a poem. It hurts while I’m writing it…”) is manifested by the author’s self-awareness of his own perspective as a poet, as evidenced by the very title of the poem “Poet”. The author describes the life of the poet and the source of his inspiration in a sincere manner: “A poet without sorrow is not worth anything. / His days and words are in vain. / And the pen and the thoughts he uses.” The key feelings that guide the poet in his writing are sadness and melancholy, but also love: “I am not the only one living in me. / But someone else who loves and breathes.” Because of all the above, the collection is a very complex reflection of the poet’s spirit motivated by the search for his own meaning of life. With the help of this collection and through empathy with the poet, the reader can embark on the path of self-knowledge.
The scientific monograph The Collision of The Worlds: Studies on Contemporary Slovene Drama contains twelve studies joined into a whole by their common object of study, namely contemporary Slovenian drama, as well as by their common methodological framework, in which the approaches of literary history and literary theory are constantly connected with those of theatre studies, culture studies, sociology, history, anthropology, and other aspects. The first five studies give a perspective on the features that characterise the development of Slovene drama after 1991 (with the most attention paid to the newest plays after 2000), presenting the breakthrough for female playwrights, the social relevance of the selected dramatic texts, the influence of the media and media technologies on the writing and staging of plays, the features of comedy, and the role and significance of the Grum Award as the central prize for original Slovene plays. The analyses show that contemporary Slovene drama remains a vital part of Slovene literature, that it has mainly dealt with intimate topics since 1991, but that from 2006 on, there have been growing critical notes calling attention to various anomalies of contemporary society. There are also notable new textual practices, as well as a change in the role of the textual in theatres, which takes us into the field of the post-dramatic or the no-longer-dramatic, or rather, transcends both notions.
The aim of Virk’s monograph Under Prešeren’s Head. Slovene Literature and Social Changes: National State, Democracy and Transitional Discrepancies is to analyse the structural changes in the Slovene literary system since its beginning, particularly the shift in the social role of the Slovene literature since the Slovene independence, gained in 1991. For this purpose, the study departs from broadly developed hypotheses about the nature of the relation between Slovene literature and Slovene society. In the period before the independence, this relation had often been treated and at least its basic features outlined. The Slovenes were part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire up to the First World War. They didn’t have their own state and its institutions. As a consequence, the culture, and within it literature in particular, acquired a special, exalted significance. Slovene literature – such was at least its predominant (self) image – was one of the most important media of national self-awareness in the 19th century. With the establishment of the communist regime after the Second World War, Slovene literature gained a new, politically emancipatory dimension. Throughout the period of total ideologization, literary texts were one of the rare media for freedom and ideological uncontrollability. The literature gradually began to open up silenced, undesirable topics, and a large part of literary writing, but also a literary culture in whole, thus gained a political dimension: oppositional, dissident, or at least para-dissident. With the transition to a parliamentary democracy and with gaining independence, new social conditions arose, which also influenced the cultural and the literary sphere. The traditional social role of literature – i.e. national-constitutive and politically emancipatory – characteristic of Slovene literary culture, changed significantly, and literature itself slowly began to adapt to this: on the level of public influence and resonance it was a shift from social-national representativeness to gradual marginalization and at the same time, in particular among the young literary generations, also an adaptation to the new reality. The aim of the study is to research how the critical potential of Slovene literature was modified in this period.prof. dr. Janez Vrečko
Sails on the High Seas (2021) is a poetry collection by Ksenija Premur and includes poems from 2006 to 2020. The collection includes poems from six previously published collections From Coast to Coast (2006), Madrigal for Summer (2008), Shards of Chinese Porcelain (2010), Dreams of the Naked Body (2012), Lighthouse (2018) and Vineyards at Dawn (2020). Since the collection contains an opus of more than 15 years of creativity, this is also reflected in the diversity of themes, motifs and atmosphere. The collection From Coast to Coast is dedicated to existentialist thinking about life, death, destiny, etc. Although the collection begins with sadness, pessimism and melancholy, it ends, as the subtitle “And three more – for children and those who, fortunately, have not yet grown-up” suggests, in hope and playfulness that culminates in the final love poems dedicated to the Silver Knight. In Madrigal for the Summer, the poems deal with mostly love and erotic themes and are often connected and incorporated into descriptions and metaphors about nature. They are imbued with the author’s already standard philosophical vocabulary and motifs of nature, such as the sea, water, flowers, etc., and special attention is paid to the human body, desire and Peter, a mysterious character that runs through the entire collection. Shards of Chinese Porcelain, on the other hand, generally have a more satirical tone, the theme is predominantly social, and almost every poem is geographically located. It deals with consideration of social arrangements and poetic descriptions of everyday life that take place in parallel with intimate and love themes, all interwoven with motifs of nature. Dreams of the Naked Body, as a kind of lyrical philosophical discourse, questions the relationship between mortality and immortality, eternity, God, the cosmos. The poems are enriched with mythological and biblical motifs, toponyms and lyrical descriptions of cities and nature. The Lighthouse reflects the author’s shift from love and erotic themes to metaphysical themes that focus on eternity, time and the relationship between heaven and earth. The expansion of the author’s focus from the intimate and reflexive to the metaphysical is accompanied by a simplification of the poetic expression itself, which turns to the philosophical, removing the superfluous in favour of its subject matter. The Vineyards at Dawn collection is dominated by motifs such as dawn, which reflects the author’s shift from a philosophical vocabulary to more picturesque landscape motifs, but the roots of philosophical thought remain. This is indicated by the very motif of vineyards and grapes, which are presented as a place where heaven and earth merge, a place that connects the physical and the metaphysical. The value of the Sails on the High Seas collection lies in the diversity that promises to enrich the reading experience with each re-reading. This is a collection that is read at intervals because it provides the reader with a whole range of emotions and impressions, and it is suitable, precisely because of its diversity, for almost any occasion.
The theory of literature was featured by two types of interpretations in the 20 century. The first included widely comprehended ways of interpreting the essence of literature and attempts to bring some order into it, whereas the other followed the procedures of over-formalizing that never took real roots. If the former derived from the belief the theory broadened our knowledge about the construction of a literary work, the latter generally shunned from the theory because of the belief literature can be comprehended even without theoretical knowledge. The resistance to the theory was even connected with a belief that the theory created yet another language (discourse) with whose assistance we can interpret other languages – e.g. the language of the work and the language of the interpretation, i.e. literary critics, which significantly increases the content of the language and its layers thus causing the distancing from the most important thing – the literature itself. Although theory of literature has always stirred controversies, and despite its aporias and ambivalence, it thrived throughout the history and it was exactly the 20 century that gave most theoretical paths, schools and movements. Paradoxically the same era (mostly the end of the 20 century) also stirred most interest into the topics, with a plethora of related works being published after the traditional era ended, which created the need to reform the theory. The end of its traditional form was partly embedded in the very concept of post-modernism, the concept of thinning former categories of genre and discourse as present day writings are simply referred to as theory, depicting everything or nothing from the “traditional theory”.
Through his incredible knowledge of Russian constructivism, Kosovel left a deep mark on his associates and friends. A year after his death, in 1927, Trieste Constructivist Cabinet was exactly the place where, due to Kosovel’s influence, an argument between supremacists and constructivists was settled (previously attempted by Lissitzky through a theoretical synthesis of both fractions in year 1921). Through a white square hanging from an invisible thread under the ceiling, “White on White” by Malevich, an icon of modern painting, the burden of a composition was stripped off and the border between the aesthetics of subjected framed painting and the construction as a new formation of space was established. The statics of Malevich’s work, as probably Kosovel would have told in his exposition, grew into the space and transformed into a moving construction. This means it was exactly during this occasion in Trieste when Malevich was liberated for the first time from historical burden laid upon him by Tatlin when he described his work as “a sum of all mistakes in the history of painting”. These facts put Trieste Constructivist Cabinet among the most important events in the history of avant-garde in general. The argument that started in INHUK between Kandinsky and Rodchenko, later continued between Kandinsky, Moholy-Nagy and Gropius on Bauhaus and transferred into the argument between Černigoj-Kosovel in Ljubljana, was finally settled. Willet’s thesis that there was no avant-garde below the line Vienna-Budapest was completely rejected. Kosovel is responsible for the constructivism having one of its pinnacles outside the Soviet Union right through his kons. Kosovel was aware of it – in his Mechanics he wrote about the related events taking place in Slovenia for the first time and he understood his life as „Slovenian, contemporary, European and eternal“. Ergo, Kosovel never belonged to a small-town literature as his example completely denies the thesis that the constructivism achieved significance primarily in fine arts and architecture, whereas its influence onto the literature in Europe never took deeper roots. Intensive but short Kosovel’s political phase serving the revolutionary purposes, as it happened with many Russian, French, Czech, Polish, German and other members of the avant-garde movement, ended with Kosovel’s death. He died too young to reach the indoctrination of the thirties which yet finished with the conflict in the left-wing in Slovenia, unlike what happened in other parts of what was then Yugoslavia. In the last years, especially last months of his life, Kosovel was floating between the poetic and political, between kons and integrals. In his last exposé before the urban audience, which was later postponed, he was planning on re-appearing as a constructivist which is immensely important for understanding his constructivism. Therefore we are analysing Kosovel’s public appearances thoroughly and following his increasing political engagement which slowly resulted in the ban of his public work, coinciding with his fatal illness.
When books The Ethics of Reading by Joseph Hillis Miller, The Company We Keep by Wayne C.Booth and Love’s Knowledge by Martha C.Nussbaum were published in the USA around 1990 – books that were met by a wide reception, and which all touched the relationship between the literature and the ethics, each from its own point of view and method – they incited a plethora of other similar works and treatises, and soon “ethical reversal in the literary science” was announced within American academic circles. The phenomenon was most pronounced in the USA and UK, partly spread into German and French literary sciences, and with a little delay into Chinese and South Korean sciences, whereas it failed to immerse into other regions so prominently. Nevertheless, a central role of North American humanities has provided global importance and influence over the past decades thus reaching into Slovenia. Past few years hosted two scientific symposia featuring literature and ethics, and here is the first Slovene monography dealing with the phenomenon. Virk’s monography features and reviews some of the most important topics of the literature and ethics within the ethical reversal that had a widespread response. Most attention is paid to M.Nussbaum, W. Booth, A. MacIntyre, H. Meretoja, J. Phelan, W. Müller, A. Nünning, E. Levinas, J. Derrida, P. de Man, J. Hillisu Miller, G. C. Spivak and Nie Zhenzhao. Virk outlines each of their fundamental contributions to ethical literary science, and then reviews their theories and cautions about the traps ethical approaches in the literature in general are faced with. As he pointed out in the introduction, Virk is not attempting to establish his own pattern of ethical literary science (he implies this may happen in the future at best), but focuses on the critical analysis of ethical reversal. Yet, in the conclusion he gives several suggestions on how to eliminate principal flaws of ethical literary science. What points to the contemporary methodical literary-scientific issues, dealing with ethical questions, is that Virk’s monography dug the first shovel. It points to the current world issues, but simultaneously it is not purely panoramic but problematic, analytical and critical. It is not merely an introduction into ethical literary science – quite the contrary. Despite author’s restraints about the topic, the work is a significant contribution to the subject matter. Virk’s book, widely opening up to contemporary literary-scientific trends, is nevertheless mostly featured by traditional, classical humanities. Dr. Tone Smolej
Poetic collection World and World, Podlogar’s fifth individual collection, comprises a trilogy on the poetic exploration of the world and its expression following a tradition, starting with avant-garde poetic movements (beginning of 20 century). After Million Seconds Closer (2006) and Merry New Ears (2010), World and World is an attempt, an experiment how to metaphorically encompass philosophical differentiation that has been a focus for many thinkers. Yet, neither the language nor the approach by the poetic self to the world are focused on the philosophy and its vocabulary; the poems were not created through the prism of literary modernism which is particularly interested in the topic, but through various procedures (polyphony, graphic images of poems, citations, etc) poems express not only the difference between the self (I) and the world (philosophically: the being and the self) but also between the worlds, words, viewpoints, emotions and other. The collection World and World was published thanks to the support of the Slovenian Book Agency.
FROM COSMOS TO DEATH Let’s open the window and breathe some fresh air of ever contemporary poetry by one of the greatest Slovenian poets and a representative of literary Constructivism, Srečko Kosovel (18/3/1904, Sežana – 27/5/1926, Tomaj). A 160-pages selection of Kosovel’s work, titled OPEN 0.2, interweaves poems and poems in prose, along with selected thoughts from journals, letters, essays and lectures. Kosovel’s manifesto To the Mechanics!is at the core of the work. The selection comprises various literary genres and styles the author used in his creative work: from an avant-garde constructivist and socially engaged poet, aware of the meaning and the importance of art and critically pondering over the society he lived in, to an expressionist poet and velvety lyric, who tended to withdraw to the homeland mountains escaping the buzz of the contemporary world, looking for solace in solitude, love, yearning and hope in a better world, a world of love, truth, justice and ethics. The pocket-size book is intended for readers to carry it around, anywhere and everywhere, and read the lines that are ever contemporary, current, Slovenian, European and eternal, as Srečko Kosovel believed himself to be. The collection was published by Constructivist Society (Društvo Konstruktivist) from the town of Sežana. Kosovel’s poems and other reflections were selected by Mateja Kralj, the custodian of Kosovel’s memorial room in his birth house in Sežana. The design was created by a painter Simon Kastelic. The translation of selected poems and other texts of Open 0.2 into Croatian was provided by Ksenija Premur. The book was published in November 2020 in cooperation of Constructivist Society and Lara Publishing from Zagreb.