The Slovenia Times

Millennial writer wins Kresnik Prize for novel discussing taboo topic

Anja Mugerli, the winner of the 2024 Kresnik Prize for best novel. Photo: Katja Kodba/STA

Millennial writer Anja Mugerli has won the coveted Kresnik Prize for the novel of the year for Expectations (Pričakovanja), a story in which she draws on her personal experience of infertility treatment.

Mugerli, 39, is only the fifth woman author to win the accolade, awarded by the newspaper publisher Delo on Midsummer's Night, a Slovenian pagan holiday, for the 34th year running.

Named after a Slavic mythology god associated with the summer solstice, the award comes with a €7,000 cheque. The winner is declared at a ceremony on Ljubljana's Rožnik Hill before lighting a bonfire.

The judging panel praised Mugerli for dealing with taboos such as inability to have children and dilemmas around artificial insemination in a subtle and reflective manner.

"She speaks directly about the control over the reproductive role of women, who, despite having been emancipated in modern society, are still reduced to the womb," the judges said.

Mugerli's novel also questions the "idealisation of motherhood, which is encouraged at all costs, and a sense of guilt is evoked in a woman who is not ready to sacrifice her own health or lifestyle".

The novel is narrated in the first person by Jana, an anagram of the author's first name. She is a patient at a fertility clinic who is being treated for unexplained infertility.

"Mugerli does not moralise or fall into sentimentality. On the contrary, she presents the psychological dilemmas of the protagonist realistically, without beating around the bush, with a bit of humour and in a convincing manner."

The judges find that this is why the novel based on an intimate experience "opens and moves the boundaries of the discourse on the social role of women in the 21st century".

Mugerli said she had a certain sense of urgency to write the novel. She believes Expectations is an important novel that opens a discussion on an issue that is present in society but perhaps not so visible.

Born in Šempeter pri Gorici in 1984, Mugerli graduated in Slovenian from the University of Nova Gorica in 2010. In 2015 she earned a master's degree in performance studies and creative writing at the University of Primorska.

Her novel Spovin was among the ten shortlisted novels for the Kresnik Prize in 2018 and she has won a number of awards and nominations for her works both in Slovenia and internationally.

She was one of the 13 winners of the European Union Prize for Literature for 2021 for Čebelja Družina (Bee Family) a book of seven stories where the old Slovenian customs and traditions take on a new role in a new, contemporary time frame.

The judging panel declared the Kresnik laureate after reading 185 novels that came out last year, narrowing them down to ten on the long list and then to five finalists before the award ceremony.

Apart from Mugerli, the other five finalists were Boris Kolar, Pia Prezelj, Janja Rakuš and Vlado Žabot.

Last year the award went posthumously to Lado Kralj for Ne Bom Se Več Drsal na Bajerju (I'm Not Skating on the Pond Anymore), a novel taking place in Ljubljana from the Italian occupation in the early 1940s to the post-war period in the 1950s.


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