Boris Pahor celebrates 106th birthday at traditional bookshop talk
A strong advocate of Slovenian identity and language, Pahor was born in Trieste in what was the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and still lives in this city in Italy.
He was a witness of Fascist violence against Slovenians, and survived a Nazi concentration camp, the experience he described in his celebrated novel Nekropola.
When it was first published in Slovenian in 1967, Necropolis was largely overlooked, but was in 1990 translated to French to critical acclaim.
Pahor took the opportunity of today's event to thank Slovenian philosopher Evgen Bavčar for his efforts for the French translation, which was followed by translations into a number of other languages.
"Today Nekropola is a world-famous novel," said Pahor, referring to himself as "a pilgrim among shadows" as is the title of the French translation.
Still considering himself "a citizen of the concentration camp", he said he had first visited the Natzweiler-Struthof "concentration camp some 50 kilometres from Strasbourg where doctors dissected Jews to see if their brain is any different from that of European people", ten years after the end of the war.
Pahor has dedicated his life to warning about the pitfalls of totalitarian regimes and to promoting confidence based on a good knowledge of history and one's own identity.
Writer Peter Kovačič Peršin said Pahor had started writing as "an apostle of Sloveneness in an environment which is still not fond of him", and as "a messenger" who also wanted to revive the awareness of Slovenian identity and freedom among Slovenians in Slovenia.
"Your work has validated the greatness of Slovenian people, Slovenian national and Slovenian language," Kovačič Peršin told the packed bookshop, noting the love of the mother tongue was the recurring theme of Pahor's books.
Culture Minister Zoran Poznič praised Pahor as a witness who "draws attention to what went wrong in the 20th century so that it would not be repeated in the 21st century".
The head of the Slovenian Book Agency, Renata Zamida, said many abroad considered him the embodiment of literary creativity in Slovenia, while here he is considered the personification of national pride.
Many foreign journalists consider Pahor "a miracle of historical memory", Zamida said at the event, organised by Mladinska Knjiga and Cankarjeva Založba, and also attended by Minister for Slovenians Abroad Peter Česnik and Slovenian Senator in the Italian parliament Tatjana Rojc.
Pahor has received many awards and honours for his work, including the Prešeren Prize in 1992 and the Silver Order of Merit in 2000. In 2007, he was presented with the Legion of Honour, France's highest state order.