A family’s testament of endurance in occupied Amsterdam
Five great books set in SLOVENIA
29th January 2020
Slovenia is the latest place for us to visit in our ‘Great books set in…’ series. Five great books set in Slovenia.
‘Speak the truth, but leave immediately after’ – Slovenian proverb
Minuet for Guitar by Vitomil Zuptan
Ranking with the best novels about World War II, Minuet for Guitar is also a masterpiece of Slovenian fiction. Taking cues from the wartime epics of Ford Madox Ford and Louis-Ferdinand Céline, Zupan tells the harrowing story of partisan soldier “Berk” and his surreal experiences as a guerilla during the Axis occupation of Ljubljana. Running parallel to the jumble of Berk’s wartime experiences is his no less peculiar encounter with an old enemy during a vacation at a Spanish coastal resort. Together, the two men try to make sense of their wartime memories, leading past and future into a danse macabre undermining the certainties of each. A document of the horrors and tiny comedies of war, and an exploration of the nature of beauty and morality when subjected to the absurdity of history, Minuet for Guitar is an overwhelming literary achievement.
Crumbs by Miha Mazzini
Egon is an amoral but charismatic writer, living on the breadline in a grim, unnamed communist factory town in Slovenia prior to the break-up of the former Yugoslavia. With little evidence of his real literary ambitions, he makes ends meet by writing trashy romances under a pseudonym. When not searching out sex with as many women as possible, or slagging off the literary establishment, Egon is full of schemes to feed his pathological need for the ruinously expensive aftershave, Cartier pour L’Homme.
Around him Egon has gathered a motley crew of friends and acquaintances, each of whom also has an equally obsessive, unattainable ambition. Poet is desperate to have his verse published in a leather bound volume, Ibro is in love with Ajsha, a factory girl to whom he cannot utter a single word, while Selim is convinced he’ll marry Nastassja Kinski, the world-famous actress.
As Egon’s attempts to secure more perfume become ever more degenerate, his grip on his own identity loosens. The consequences are messy, as grim as they are hilarious, and allude to a nation undergoing radical change. Crumbs is not only a ribald, dirty realist satire – a modern European classic – but also a fascinating and utterly unique commentary on the pathology of self-determination.
Law of Desire by Andre Blatnik
Following on from his short story collection, “You Do Understand?,” is this expansive collection of sixteen tales about “urban nomads” lost in a labyrinth of pop culture: “We go to the movies. We read books. We listen to music. No harm in that, but it’s not real.” A best-seller in Eastern Europe, “Law of Desire” is Blatnik at the height of his powers. He is one of the most respected and internationally relevant post-Yugoslav authors writing today.
I Saw Her That Night by Drago Jančar
I Saw Her That Night, a love story in time of war, is a novel about a few years in the life and mysterious disappearance of Veronika Zarnik, a young bourgeois woman from Ljubljana, sucked into the whirlwind of a turbulent period in history. We follow her story from the perspective of five different characters, who also talk about themselves, as well as the troubled Slovenian times before and during World War II; times that swallowed, like a Moloch, not only the people of various beliefs involved in historical events, but also those who lived on the fringes of tumultuous events, which they did not even fully comprehend–they only wanted to live.
But “only” to live was an illusion: it was a time when, even under the seemingly safe and idyllic shelter of a manor house in Slovenia, it was impossible to avoid the rushing train of violence.
Drago Jančar won both the Best Foreign Book Prize (Prix du meilleur livre etranger) and The Kresnik Award for I Saw Her That Night. Often described as “the seismologist of a chaotic history,” the celebrated Slovenian novelist has received a number of other honours, including the European Prize for Literature (Prix Européen de Littérature).
The Succubus by Vlado Žabot
In an unnamed city shrouded in mist, Valent Kosmina is a retiree living quietly yet discontentedly with his doped-up, TV-addicted wife. To escape the claustrophobia of home and city, he masquerades as a man of means and takes to spending his nights strolling through an opulent suburb—but when news comes of a gruesome murder on his new turf, Kosmina fears that he may be a suspect. Increasingly anxious and paranoid, Kosmina begins to see a mysterious dark-haired girl following him everywhere—and as this succubus takes hold of him, Kosmina finds his familiar city becoming indistinguishable from the landscape of his own nightmares.
Andrew for the TripFiction Team
Do you have a favourite read set in Slovenia? Have we missed an obvious choice? Please let us know in the comments below!
Thinking about a trip to beautiful Slovenia? Check out this Slovenia Holidays website.
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