From THREE LOVES, ONE DEATH by Evald Flisar translated by David Limon

Chapter 1

 

1.

I won’t talk about school because nothing ever happens there – at least, nothing worth writing a book about. Why would I bore you with lists of homework assignments and the poor marks I get for my laziness, when the story of my family is a hundred times more interesting? You may well ask what can we expect from a schoolboy, who may at best be able to put together a good school essay but not a family chronicle with a beginning and an end?

In spite of that, I can’t help but try. There are events in life that have to be documented so that later, grown-up and more experienced, we can more easily understand their significance. If for no one else, the stories of my predecessors will at least bring pleasure to my great-grandchildren – if I ever have any.

It all started some years after the war for independence, when my family decided to move from the town to the country. Our enthusiasm was indescribable. The faces of even the gloomiest among us shone, while my grandmother – who could not move the lower part of her face after her stroke – managed to stretch the right corner of her mouth. My mother was convinced that this was the most reliable sign that in our new home renewal and rude health awaited us.

The house was nothing special. It was near a wood on the edge of a village, and it was most reminiscent of a neglected country inn, with a cellar where the previous owner had left three barrels of wine. There were also some outbuildings, the functions of which we could only guess at.

One of them had definitely been a pigsty. This was established by my cousin Elizabeta, Mara’s illegitimate daughter, born when my aunt was forty. Whenever Granny had a glass of wine on festive days, she liked to say that Elizabeta had been conceived immaculately or fathered by a malign demon. Elizabeta could discern not only smells that most people did not know existed but the history of spaces and the colours of feelings that hung in the air.

‘I smell pigs,’ she said when she entered the outbuilding, which Aunt Mara, an amateur painter with ambition but no talent, had decided to convert into a studio. Fortunately, only my mother and I heard her.

When Elizabeta sniffed again and added that she could also smell the mortal fear of the pigs that had been dragged into the yard to be slaughtered, my mother shouted for her to be quiet, for God’s sake. After all, Aunt Mara had chosen the outbuilding for a studio because of the view of the river down below and the surrounding hills. Besides which, it would all be aired and repainted and immediately impregnated with a mixture of Mara’s paints and perfumes. And even reputable English families were known to live in adapted stables.

Elizabeta calmly offered to keep quiet for the price of three large boxes of chocolates. ‘Two,’ insisted my mother. ‘Two of the biggest,’ was Elizabeta’s compromise. ‘But for the last time,’ said my mother.

Aunt Mara never suspected what sounds were supplanted by the baroque arias that accompanied her in the new space when, brush in hand and cigarette in mouth, she started to realize her ‘renewed vision’. When Elizabeta once commented loudly at dinner that these arias reminded her of the squealing of pigs, she became instantly agitated, but my mother’s prompt praise of her new style sufficiently softened her so that she forgot to call Elizabeta a little bastard and began to discuss at length the difference between watercolours and oils – to the delight of the rest of the family, who one after the other offered improbable reasons why they couldn’t finish their meal and quickly left the table.

Next morning Elizabeta got another box of chocolates from my mother.

Nevertheless, it seemed at first that everyone would get from village life what they most wanted. Granny, the smell of freshly ploughed earth and the mooing of cows, as well as other smells and sounds that reminded her of her childhood. ‘Carnations,’ she had scrawled on a sheet of paper, when a stroke robbed her of speech. ‘There will be carnations everywhere, and I’ll sleep with the window open so that I can carry their scent with me when I take my last breath and go to the other side.’

Mum hoped that in the new house she could set up a private centre for meditation and healthy living, and at the same time find enough room for at least two thousand books on Zen Buddhism, yoga, Reiki, Rolfing and other aspects of the Age of Aquarius. As a retired secondary-school teacher, this seemed to her the only thing worthy of her time.

But, above all, she was enthusiastic about the paths that gently wound their way towards the valley and up towards the woods, just right for her daily morning run – or that extreme form of masochism, the ‘mini marathon’, as it was referred to by the psychiatrist that my parents visited as part of a healthy-living programme to help with Dad’s alcoholism.

After several years of stubbornly resisting the psychiatrist’s methods, Dad suddenly lost interest not only in drinking but also in all of life’s other pleasures, including those that Mum was not yet ready to forgo. Thus a morning marathon was the only way to neutralize the energy that built up inside her on a daily basis because of Dad’s indifference. Dad, who understood this, carefully set the alarm every evening so that she would never oversleep.

Immediately after quitting the programme at his own request, he went to the headmaster of the school where he had taught history for thirty years and asked for early retirement.

‘History is over,’ he stated, ‘not because of what Fukuyama said but because of the success that our small nation has finally achieved. Freedom, that most mixed blessing of all, has completely ruined the ground from which could spring tragic conflicts or big ideas and sowed the seeds of petty division, devious business dealings and the banality of the public media.’ His subject, history, had ceased to be academic and become esoteric, and he had no intention of dealing with that. He would like to withdraw, with appropriate severance pay, of course.

The headmaster, who was Mum’s cousin and a good friend of the family, immediately agreed. The severance money contributed the vital missing amount that allowed Dad to buy the house where ‘his entire band’, as he referred to us, would be able to find – better late than never – that genuine freedom which is the source of true happiness.

‘At the end of the day, being free is our duty,’ he said. ‘A free country needs free people.’

Dad saw happiness in inertia. In contrast to Mum, who wanted to stay eternally young and was prepared to die for the idea, he decided to listen to Jung’s advice that at the age of sixty a man must bid farewell to the things that are more suited to younger years and turn inwards, shaping from his memories a mosaic of life that will give meaning to his time on earth and also provide a bridge that would, at the required moment, connect him to God. He stressed that he would still be available, but most of the time he would be sunk in thought, and he expected us to respect his need to retreat from the external world to the internal one, where a great deal of work awaited him.

Ultimately, he said, everyone got what they wanted: Peter, an ideal location for his telescope and star-gazing; me, the perfect opportunity for aimless wandering through the woods and fruitless speculation about the future, which, it seemed likely, would be no different from my past; Mum’s brother Vinko – an accountant by profession but for years in the grip of an ambition to grow the biggest head of cabbage in the world and find his way into the Guinness World Records – fertile soil; Dad’s cousin Vladimir, the time as well as the peace and quiet in which to complete the memoirs of his heroic partisan days; and his wife Eva, thirty years younger than him, a good enough road to allow her to disappear in his Alfa Romeo every day to have a good time with friends and leave him in peace.

After his speech, my father withdrew to his part of the house and left us wondering whether some of us were truly worthy of the saintly glow he was emitting. For the first time in our lives we felt as one that Dad had, until now, cultivated his best qualities in secret and that while in his sphere of influence nothing bad could happen to any of us.

Renovation work on the house and its six outbuildings proceeded with such speed and efficiency that we soon cut the estimated completion date for our new home from two years down to one.

 

 

 

2.

 

The only one who failed to blend in with the homogenous familial whole that took shape in the glow of Dad’s wisdom and the rays of Mum’s energy was – inevitably – Elizabeta, partly, no doubt, because Mum stopped giving her boxes of chocolates but mainly because of her new school, where in most subjects, or so she claimed, she surpassed not only her fellow pupils but also the teachers.

‘Boredom is Lucifer’s favourite son,’ Granny kept saying when she could still speak, but at that point no one suspected how prophetic her words would prove to be in connection with Elizabeta.

One Sunday during lunch, the young troublemaker announced that the house and all its outbuildings stood upon a dangerous intersection of electromagnetic currents, and so all our efforts to create an ideal family were doomed to failure.

‘We’re dealing with forces that themselves don’t know what they want and are acting like mischievous gremlins who just do whatever comes into their heads.’

Mum was the only one to show any sign of being startled by this announcement; the rest of us merely shrugged, muttered something non-committal and then carried on eating.

Elizabeta hated a lukewarm response to her provocations. She went into full attack mode. She said that strange things were happening in the house. That for some time Aunt Mara had been filling the clearings and meadows in her watercolours with pigs rather than sheep. That Granny was arguing with someone in her room almost the whole night. That the books Mum had carefully arranged on the shelves in alphabetical order by author surname had twice been jumbled up – each time according to some unknown and probably diabolical alphabet. That there emerged from my room at night guttural gasping and panting as if someone were being throttled. And twice she had seen Uncle Vladimir, stripped to the waist, standing in a wild storm in the middle of the neighbour’s wheatfield with his arms raised, begging the thunder to strike him.

On the table in Peter’s room she found some notes from which it was evident that through his telescope he had been watching a giant meteor, which was only two weeks away from earth and would scatter it through space. Uncle Vinko wasn’t digging in the garden to plant cabbages but was excavating grave-like holes in which he was planning to bury our bodies when the spirit that ruled the place strangled each of us in turn.

The only answer was to sell the house and move back to the town.

Her words were followed by silence. Some members of the family gave each other furtive glances; others stared stubbornly at their plates. Then, all at the same time, we turned and looked at Dad. It was clear he was the only one capable of passing judgement.

He popped the last piece of steak into his mouth and chewed it thoroughly. Then he carefully, contemplatively wiped his mouth and chin. Finally, he slowly got up and without looking at anyone went to his room. His door seemed to close somewhat more decisively than usual.

Mum had to take the role of judge.

She said that in addition to pigs Aunt Mara could also paint giraffes, walruses or five-headed monsters if her artistic imagination so dictated. That Granny wasn’t arguing with anyone in her room but listening to the radio because she couldn’t sleep. That the books had not been rearranged by a goblin according to some diabolical alphabet but that they had done so of their own accord when the shelves collapsed under their weight. That the gasping and panting supposedly coming from my room were the result of the terrible nightmares that had plagued me since I was five, certainly not the consequence of the obsessive masturbation that is often characteristic of boys my age.

As for Vladimir, we had to understand that he had a very young, flighty wife, who was sometimes too much even for a hero in possession of ten partisan medals for bravery. Peter’s notes on meteors and so on were, of course, a matter for discussion between him and the professor under whose supervision he should long ago have finished his degree in cosmology. Certainly, the earth would not crumble into dust merely because a naughty girl wanted to frighten her nearest and dearest.

‘And Vinko,’ said Mum in conclusion, ‘can explain himself who he is burying in the garden.’

Without evasion, Uncle Vinko acknowledged that the holes really did look like graves, but his hobby was so important to him that he didn’t have the time to think about killing any of us in passing. He merely wanted to bury the remains of the dusty farm equipment that was taking up space in the shed in the orchard. He wanted to do it up and turn it into a seed store. What use were broken pickaxes, hoes, forks, scythes, sickles, ploughshares, harrows and so on – we hadn’t returned to the village to start farming again after two generations of urban life. Everything superfluous that reminds us too clearly of other times, other places, and other stories should be buried away out of sight. This needed to be done in order to distance ourselves from the mistakes of the past that had been hindering our efforts ever since we moved into the new house.

Mum was the first to applaud these words; the others followed her example, all except for Elizabeta who stuck out her tongue and ran outside.

 

 

 

3.

Since I had nothing to do, I offered to help Uncle Vinko. Some of the things in the shed were so heavy that he couldn’t easily get them to their graves on his own. Overflowing with gratitude, he left for me the dustiest and most decaying pieces of equipment. With the larger items that called for two pairs of hands, I always ended up, miraculously, with the heaviest or most awkward end.

I was extremely pleased when Peter joined us and started to pester Uncle. He asked him what were the philosophical implications of the fact that he needed a hoe if he wished to bury a hoe and a spade to bury a spade. But, above all, whether he didn’t see in his burying of old tools with new ones a symbolic re-enactment of the Sisyphean fruitlessness of all human striving.

Uncle Vinko replied that he normally left primary-school-level philosophizing to fourth-year physics students, especially those who had already failed philosophy. He saw his actions as the decisive phase in healing the spirit of the family which had, for more than a hundred generations, been forced to serve an endless succession of exploiters of every possible ilk, from counts through big landowners to the members of the Church and agricultural cooperatives, who had never ploughed and sown seeds in the earth out of love. The suffering of the family spirit could be felt so expressively in these old tools that it positively radiated from them, he emphasized, but, together with the tools themselves, it would be interred for ever. Only then would we be truly free – if it was freedom that we really needed. And wanted. From now on, every tool that we used – be it a spade, an axe, a coffee grinder or a computer – would be accompanied by a feeling arising from joy at life, not fear of poverty or imprisonment.

He said these words more in celebration than in anger. Then he asked Peter to help us carry a piece of equipment from the shed that was so big and awkward it would need three of us to shift it. We each took a corner and with great difficulty manoeuvred the thing from the gloomy interior into the daylight. We laid it on the grass and examined it. First with surprise. And then astonishment.

For it was like nothing we had ever seen before. Above all, it had no flat surface on which to stand it. From the central mass, which had no discernible shape or function, there protruded without order or symmetry all different kinds of steel, aluminium and even wooden growths. With some imagination it was possible to recognize among them the cubist forms of spades, picks, hoes, perhaps sickles and scythes, perhaps rakes and other tools, but these were just the ends or beginnings of what they were supposed to be. In between, joined with other pieces, it was possible to discern the links of a chain, half a cogwheel, a toilet bowl, the workings of a wall clock, two weights and blackened frying-pan handles.

If only these parts or fragments had been bound together with wire or welded together into a whole! Then the entire object could be ascribed to the imagination of a modernist sculptor, and, by relocating it to the domain of art, where everything is possible and everything permitted, it could be deprived of the aggressive concreteness before which we squatted like helpless children.

Making a visible effort, Uncle Vinko gathered himself and declared that this unfortunate joke by a drunken blacksmith should be thrown in a hole, covered over and forgotten about. Peter was strongly against this: it could be part of a space ship that had crashed somewhere near by. In any case, every unknown thing should first be researched, given a name and a meaning, so that later it did not leap forth from our subconscious in the form of neurosis.

But Vinko stubbornly insisted. I think he would have dragged the chained monster to the hole himself if my mother hadn’t happened to walk past at that moment, returning from her afternoon marathon (the morning one had been cancelled because of a downpour). She stopped and looked at the thing from every possible angle. She pressed here, pulled there, shook it to the left and to the right. Then in a voice trembling with agitation she told me to call my father.

In five minutes the whole family had gathered around the discovery, including Vladimir’s wife, who had just returned from one of her escapades. With water from a hosepipe we washed the grime from the object. We wanted to see whether beneath the layer of compacted soil there might be signs of joints and welds. Peter brought a magnifying glass so as to be able to spot even the smallest joint. He found none.

We all waited to hear what Dad would say. He was silent for quite some time. When he finally opened his mouth, he did not deliver a solution but merely asked for our thoughts about the contraption.

Elizabeta said that it was an evil device made by spirits under cover of night in order to bring conflict and confusion to our family and to drive us away, since it was more than evident that we would never find either peace or happiness here. ‘Nonsense,’ said Mum angrily, ‘we’ll begin to talk about spirits only when the last – and I mean the last – attempt to explain it rationally has failed.’

But she could not come up with such an explanation herself, so she fell into embarrassed silence.

It soon became obvious that, in trying to find a solution to the puzzle that lay before us, we were not searching through memory banks of appropriate knowledge but rather competing in imagination. In this regard the most imaginative was Vladimir’s wife, who ascribed the creation of the object to a crash between a sports car and a tractor full of farm implements; through the extreme pressure and the explosion of fuel everything had shattered and fused into something that we were now unnecessarily scratching our heads about and wasting time that could be spent more pleasantly (in her case, on dates in town – and she immediately drove off to one).

Vladimir said that, for him, as a scientific materialist, there were no mysteries on this earth that could not be resolved through a historical-dialectical approach. We should look into the past and ask the previous owner as well as his predecessor, for the object had not fallen from the sky, it had come from somewhere, someone had left or assembled it there, someone was involved, someone was guilty. We needed to establish who, for freedom is only possible when blame has been fairly attributed, even for the most trivial of things.

Aunt Mara brought her easel and began to paint the unidentified object. She said that it had definitely fallen from the sky, but that wasn’t important; everything in the world was first and foremost an artistic challenge.

Dad turned to me. Since I didn’t want to give the impression of indifference I quickly contributed the idea that it must have been – because of the wires and clock-wheels – a bomb, which when detonated hadn’t exploded but rather imploded and sunk into itself.

Peter agreed that the idea was not such a stupid one but that the wheel in the centre was not from a clock, it was from a shortwave radio. He brought three batteries, put them into the slot at the centre of the wheel, and the strange creation began to screech and to broadcast a programme in which some man, in an unknown language that sounded like Arabic, was shouting out a news item or an explanation of something.

With lowered eyes and hands we stood around the diabolical device and listened to the voice coming from God knows where, maybe from space, maybe from the interior of the thing itself or from our defeated imaginations, which had, beneath the weight of the incident – like the object before us – become stuck together in a mass of uncertainty and unease.

It began to rain. We covered the thing with a tarpaulin and retreated to our rooms.

Renovation of the house began to falter; finally, it stopped. Peter started to neglect his studies and then pulled out of his final exam, postponing it for a year. The unidentified object lay in the middle of the orchard, visible to all. It calmly accepted heat waves, downpours, hailstorms, kicks, sampling, chemical analysis, photographic sessions and, above all, curiosity, for our house became a tourist attraction for both domestic and foreign visitors.

Some American offered Dad a quarter of a million dollars for the mysterious object. Dad said he could have it for nothing if he first told him what it was, where it had appeared from and what it was for.

Eventually, the attentions of the journalists and the curious began to stifle us. Mum started running round the perimeter of the house, doing two hundred circuits a day. Dad submerged himself up to the eyeballs in the study of engineering, chemistry, agronomy, physics and related disciplines. He borrowed some books from Peter, the others he collected from libraries and bookshops and brought them home in a minibus. He was getting ever thinner; his eyes were burning as if inside he was slowly being consumed by the flames of hell.

The method employed by cousin Vladimir also failed to bear fruit. He compiled a report on the history of the house and its previous owners, but none of them, including the one we had bought the house from, could recall ever seeing the object in the shed. Although he himself had thrown some unwanted tools in there, most had been in the shed since time immemorial.

 

 

 

4.

 

After some months, the only ones still searching for an answer were Dad and Peter. The rest of us had grown weary and gradually returned to our old habits and chores. The mystery became bothersome, even funny somehow, especially when, in the middle of the night, we looked through the window and saw Dad and Peter in the middle of the orchard measuring by torchlight distances and angles between parts of the object and writing them down. Afterwards we heard them in the living-room debating and arguing until dawn.

One day, in front of us all, Mum asked Dad to desist from his activities, which she felt could only lead to ruin; if not for his own sake, then for that of his son, a student who had been a star of the faculty but was now on the verge of losing his mind.

‘I’m asking both of you,’ she said, ‘I’m asking you in the name of the family to stop.’

Peter said nothing.

For the first time in ages Dad addressed the whole family, as he was wont to do in the time before the discovery of the mystery object. He said that the family had not been struck by an accident, as some liked to think. Quite the opposite. Everything on this earth had its purpose and meaning; nothing made by God or man was without its origin. And if we put God to one side, there was still evolution, quantum theory and chaos theory – even they did not allow for the possibility that something could come from nowhere, find itself somewhere for no reason and be of no use to anyone.

Let’s face the truth. We were a family that had gone off the rails because of the stresses of the modern world and, fearing disaster, had returned to the countryside to seek its roots, to find fresh blood, a new energy for life. But it’s more than obvious that hoping for an escape is an illusion. In whatever direction you flee you encounter a sphinx that won’t let you pass. Often the sphinx is a puzzle you have to solve if you don’t want to get stuck where you are or to flee back to from where you fled. In our family we have always fled – from poverty to the town, from urban poverty to America, from the foreign world back home, from disappointment to alcohol, from alcohol to treatment, from the effort required to live a healthy life to mysticism and from there back to the embrace of almighty Reason.

‘In the past three hundred years not one member of our family has dared to confront that great, central obstacle on our path, the puzzle that cannot be circumvented or jumped over. Now the moment of decision has come for us, too. Are we going to flee? Or are we going to face the challenge?’

With these words Dad turned and went to his room. He hadn’t even touched the food on his plate.

Mum began to cry without speaking. Large tears dripped on to the pieces of cauliflower that she was absently placing in her mouth. Peter tried to add something, perhaps to clarify what Dad had left incomplete or not stated clearly enough. It seemed that his eyes took in each one of us, as if he was looking for encouragement or reassurance that we would understand what he was about to say. But then, thanks to the dull glow in our eyes, he said not a word.

And thus silence became the tone and the colour of life in the half-finished house; the guilt-laden silence that on the outside resembled consideration taken to extremes but was really the last defence against the despair that was waiting for an opportunity to erupt and overwhelm us.

Dad and Peter began to invite ‘experts’ to the house. They drank plenty of wine and spoke a lot. One of them used a special programme on Peter’s computer to analyse the shapes and relations between the parts of the device. The result surprised him more than anyone: after each attempt there appeared on the screen the message ‘object of unknown origin’.

It was soon after that a farmer from a village at the other end of the country wrote to Dad that the mystery object, as far as he could judge from the pictures in the newspaper, was nothing more or less than a plough. Without waiting for a reply, three days later he appeared on the doorstep, apologizing that the matter wouldn’t give him a moment’s peace; if we had a field that needed ploughing he would quickly show us that common sense could solve any mystery.

The required field and ox were lent by our nearest neighbour. He also helped us to carry the device down the hill and attach it to an ox’s harness with two outgrowths – one reminiscent of part of a spade and the other of a link in a chain.

Then with his left hand, the farmer took hold of the protruding part reminiscent of a hoe and with his right the handle of the frying pan. He turned the object so that the wavy blade was on the ground, cracked the whip, and the ox began to pull and the blade to plough. Behind the device there appeared deep, nicely levelled furrows.

‘A plough,’ repeated the farmer, when he had done the whole field.

But the radio in the centre of the ‘plough’, even during the ploughing, had continued to broadcast the shortwave programme that had not changed since we first heard it. The male voice, still the same one, was, without pause, rather brusquely and didactically reporting, preaching or explaining.

Dad asked the farmer whether the radio had disturbed him while ploughing. The man replied that he’d prefer a lively tune and then – embarrassed and not too pleased with himself – took his leave.

Autumn arrived and with it a time of melancholy. Mum had already abandoned her marathon in the summer: she’d bought some cookery books and started to bake potica cake to compete with Mara, who was convinced that hers was the best. At school Elizabeta had bitten her maths teacher and drawn blood; she had then fled into the woods, where we had found her with the help of the police only after a few days, all cried-out and chilled through. Vladimir completed his memoirs but was so dissatisfied with them that he threw them into the fire and swore he would never write another word.

This was not entirely unconnected with the fact that his Eva had not returned from one of her assignations. Instead of her, there arrived a letter in which she informed him that she was leaving him – if she ever wanted to write her own memoirs she must make an effort to have something to write about.

Uncle Vinko changed jobs and was working so much that he was completely neglecting his cabbages.

Then, just before the first snow, Granny died. On the notepad beside her bed she had scrawled her last word: lightning. Only three weeks after her funeral a debate blew up about what she’d been thinking of. Mum thought that as death approached she’d felt as if she’d been struck by lightning. But Aunt Mara claimed she’d been trying to tell us something completely different: let lightning strike every one of us.

Elizabeta, who’d been less irritating recently, said that the word lightning referred to the thing that was still lying in the orchard, although we’d all forgotten about it because it was hidden by snow. The shed, which had at one time contained a confusion of tools, a redundant radio and a toilet bowl, had once been struck by lightning, and the extreme heat had welded the various items into the ‘mysterious device’. That’s what Granny had been trying to tell us before she went to the other world.

To the question as to why the shed had not burnt down when the lightning struck, Elizabeta had no answer. She said that was another story, another mystery that we didn’t need to concern ourselves with.

We looked at Dad and waited for him to choose a side. But he said nothing. No one dared to encourage him to speak; we knew he’d been drinking again for some time and that there was slowly building within him, undiscernibly yet inexorably, the old exasperation. We quietly hoped that he and Mum would return to the psychiatrist’s programme, which perhaps hadn’t worked first time around because it had robbed them of their ability to face the unpredictable and had cultivated within them an over-rigid self-belief and excessive self-confidence. Perhaps second time around, with the experience they had, it would have a benign influence on the psychologist and through him on them and other patients.

When the snow melted we carried the unknown object back inside the shed. Mum bought a heavy padlock and asked me to secure the door with it. When I had done so she locked it and threw the key in the well.

‘There,’ she said.

She and Dad began to take long walks in the surrounding hills. Spring awoke. We guessed that Mum was trying to bring Dad back into contact with nature, with the breath of living and understandable things, with the smell of earth, in which he had once seen the only possible cure for the melancholy that arises from the helplessness of the human intellect.

But his posture became evermore bent, reflecting the weight of a defeat from which he could not recover in just over a month or thereabouts. It was only in his eyes that we saw a gentle gleam that suggested that perhaps in a year or two he might be able to accept that the world was no less perfect because it contained things and events that could not be explained.

By Evald Flisar

Translated by David Limon

Part of Istros Books’ World Series with Peter Owen. More about the book here.

 

Evald Flisar is a novelist, playwright, essayist, editor, globe-trotter (travelled in more than 90 countries), underground train driver in Sydney, editor of (among other publications) an encyclopaedia of science and invention in London, author of short stories and radio plays for the BBC, president (1995 – 2002) of the Slovene Writers’ Association, since 1998 editor of the oldest Slovenian literary journal Sodobnost (Contemporary Review). Author of eleven novels (eight nominated for the Kresnik Award, the Slovenian “Booker”), two collections of short stories, three travelogues (regarded as the best in Slovenian travel writing), two books for children (both nominated for awards) and fifteen stage plays (seven nominated for Best Play of the Year Award, three times won the award). Winner of the Prešeren Foundation Prize, the highest state award for prose and drama, the prestigious Župančič Award for lifetime achievement, three awards for Best Radio Play, etc. Various works translated into 33 languages, among them Bengali, Malay, Nepalese, Indonesian, Turkish, Greek, Japanese, Chinese, Arabic, Czech, Albanian, Lithuanian, Icelandic, Russian, English, German, Italian, Spanish, etc. His stage plays are regularly performed all over the world, most recently in Austria, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Japan, Taiwan, Serbia, Bosnia & Herzegovina and Belarus. Attended more than 50 literary readings and festivals on all continents. Lived abroad for 20 years (three years in Australia, 17 years in London). Since 1990, resident in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

David Limon is an Englishman in Ljubljana, a translator, university teacher and researcher of intercultural communication. His literary translations include novels by Andrej Skubic, Boris Kolar and Evald Flisar, as well as short stories and other works by a broad range of writers, including Fran Levstik, Ivan Cankar, Janez Trdina, Vitomil Zupan, Mirana Likar Bajželj, Tadej Golob, Nina Kokelj and Janja Vidmar.

 

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