Al Araby Newspaper 2021
Questions from the Culture section of Al-Araby Al-Jadeed newspaper and website
■ How would you present the literary/cultural scene in your country, specially to a reader who is not familiar with this scene?
The cultural scene in Slovenia is extremely diverse, international, alive. Music, theatre, visual and experimental art forms and literature above all are the main focus. Although there are not more than 2,5 readers of Slovenian books, there is a very diverse publishing and event landscape with many international festivals, books being translated from all over the world and many magazines and literary journals. It is worth mentioning that Slovenia will be the main guest in focus of the biggest book fair worldwide in Frankfurt in 2023.
■ How do you present your own work to a new reader, and which of your publications do you recommend that they start with?
I have published 14 books so far, both poetry and prose. My work is marked by diversity, each and every book I write is a story of itself. The most translated books of mine are the poetry book The Book of Things and the prose book Berlin. Lately I wrote the novels Absolution and Neverend. There is also the experimental writing project Written on Site which is ongoing since 2012.
■ What issues are on your mind these days?
I am wondering about the self destructiveness of humans. We are radically changing our planet but cannot control the changes. We change societies, but mostly for worse. We develop new remedies but at the same time also new diseases. We sell democracy and weapons in the same package. We are not thinking and acting as one. We are a paradox on two legs.
■ What do you like most about the culture you belong to and what do you wish to change in it?
I don’t feel like belonging to only one singular pure culture. I think this does not exist at all. If I would have to define myself I would probably go for European. What I absolutely dislike in Europe is a false sense of superiority, malicious colonial attitudes that you meet about everywhere.
■ If you were to start all over again, which path would you choose in life and what other choices would you make?
I wouldn’t change anything, poetry is my path.
■ What changes do you wish the most for the world?
The world will have to become a much more equal place in sense of equal opportunities and freedom for everyone to live one’s life and one’s traditions and dreams. Instead of exploiting nature and other humans we will have to transform ourselves into a civilization of creators. I know it may sound far from reality, but is the only way how to preserve this planet and human kind, I think.
■ If you could meet one person or historical figure from the past, who would it be, and why?
In an underground cave system Divje Babe not far from Ljubljana, where I live, archeologists found a Neanderthal bone flute, dated 43.000 years ago. It is probably the oldest instrument found so far on our planet. I would like to meet the person who made it and to listen to his or her songs.
■ In your opinion, what is the most serious challenge to the writer’s freedom and writing in general in today’s world?
A great challenge for a writer is to overcome self censorship on one hand and to free oneself from daily politics and from the overflow of information on the other. In my eyes a writer is not a political commentator, literature works on a time line much different than day-to-day survival.
■ What do you stand for in your work, and what are your main questions and concerns?
I am interested in the power of human imagination and how it can deal with some of the atrocities and iniquities of our times. I am interested in possibilities of naming of what cannot have a name and to heal in some extend through the act of writing.
■ “Global literature is written by translators.” To what extent do you agree with this statement, and to what extent do you think your literature was written by translators?
I am extremely grateful to all my translators and occasionally I translate myself. It is one of the most beautiful aspects of our Babylonian times that we are capable to access many works written in foreign languages. Generations before us could only dream about our possibilities of reading each other’s works. On the other hand there is nothing like a “global” literature, since all literature is firmly rooted in very specific contexts, it is just that certain contexts are promoted globally and others remain unknown to the majority.
■ How do you describe your relationship with the language in which you write?
Although it is a language with a fairly small number of speakers, I love my language and I have never thought about writing in any other language. Every language is a specific way to experience and approach the world, therefore I consider writing in a rare language a very special gift.
■ Can you name a forgotten or unknown author from your culture whom you would like the world to read?
Dane Zajc, a poet, playwright and shaman. His work is partly accessible on the net in translations.
■ If your books are still around 1000 years from now, how would you like your image to be for future readers?
Like in the case of many authors from the antiquity, my image should dissolve and disappear completely. The only thing that should remain are poems and texts, signed “anonymous”.
■ What would you say to the Arab reader who may be discovering your work today?
I am extremely thankful that you remain searching for soulmates and you took time to meet someone, who’s work hopefully speaks to you.