Ljubljana – The news of Boris Pahor’s death resonates in Slovenia and abroad, especially in Italy, where the Slovenian author died at his home in Trieste, aged 108. Writers, politicians, media, minority representatives and others have been sharing their thoughts and expressing condolences. A great man has died, is their joint message.
Top politicians from both countries honoured his memory and expressed condolences as did his literary colleagues. A moment of silence was held in the National Assembly in Ljubljana today to honour his memory.
“He was a writer without borders, a citizen of the world, a man of the heart,” President Borut Pahor wrote in his message. “With his departure an era ends and another begins. Without him we no longer have among us the eyes that saw and the hands that have written it down,” he said about the author who wrote about his own experience of Fascism and the suffering in Nazi death camps during World War II.
“He was an eye-witness, a reminder. A consciousness of the Slovenehood, Europe and the world. A man who demanded freedom for himself to be able to think differently and who claimed the same freedom for others,” said the president, adding he was deeply content that he and his Italian counterpart Sergio Mattarella honoured the writer with the highest state decorations on the day that the National Hall was returned to the Slovenian community in Trieste in 2020.
Born into a Slovenian family in the multicultural city of Trieste in the Austro-Hungarian Empire on 26 August 1913, a year before the outbreak of World War I, Boris Pahor witnessed the rise of Fascism in Italy as a child, most notably with the burning down of the National Hall, the hub of the Slovenian community in the city, by Fascists in 1920.
Mattarella too pointed to the state decorations, as he expressed his deep condolences at the death of a “decisive voice of the Slovenian minority in Italy, a high and clear literary expression of the 20th century, a witness and victim of the horrors caused by wars, wild nationalism and totalitarian ideologies”, according to the Italian press agency Ansa.
He was considered an icon both at home and within the Slovenian community, said Italian senator Tatjana Rojc, who is a member of the Slovenian minority in Italy.
“To me he was a great teacher. He taught me what is absolute evil and what is absolute love,” she said, pointing to his masterpiece, the Necropolis, in which he described his experience of being interned in Nazi concentration camps.
Drago Jančar, the internationally acclaimed Slovenian writer who had been engaged in many debates with Pahor and who shares his ethical and political ideas, said that the syntagm about Pahor’s resistance against all European totalitarian regimes of the 20th century was real but did not do him justice with respect to his personality and creativity.
In terms of his experience, knowledge and visions, Pahor was a cosmopolitan who “knew this is an empty word unless you know the tragic of human existence and the creative peaks of your own historical identity”, Jančar wrote.
According to the Slovenian Association of Journalists and Commentators (ZNP), Pahor was not only an extraordinary writer and thinker but also a co-creator of a democratic and independent Slovenia and an advocate of press freedom.
Organisations of Slovenians in Italy and Austria highlighted his critical views, fight for fundamental human rights and dedication to the humankind and the Slovenian community in their separate messages.
The main Italian newspapers report extensively of Pahor’s death, stressing the literary value of his works, and his recollections of the horrors of Nazism and Fascism and the oppression of the Slovenian minority in Italy.
The outgoing Slovenian government labelled Pahor “a great man” and a “role model of national loyalty and uprightness” who remains an inspiration in a message posted on Twitter. Outgoing Prime Minister Janez Janša wrote that “one of the greatest Slovenian writers has died”.
Prime Minister-designate Robert Golob wrote that Pahor had “steadfast love” for the Slovenian nation and that he had remained a Slovenian writer “despite averse life circumstances and the then totalitarian regime, which pushed our language away and banished it from public use”.
“He did not yield to the regime and his insightful works have left a mark on the humankind and the Slovenian minority. His oeuvre will live on with future generations,” Golob noted.
Parliamentary Speaker Urška Klakočar Zupančič said Slovenia had lost a very important man. She expressed her condolences to his relatives and announced that a moment of silence would also be held in Pahor’s memory at the upcoming session.