Cult epic novel now issued in a comic-strip format

Ljubljana – A Slovenian literary classic that once aroused the interest of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios, the epic novel Under the Free Sun has now come out in a comic-strip format with the authors hoping to bring it out on stage and as an animated film one day.

Written by Fran Saleški Finžgar (1871-1962), the novel Pod Svobodnim Soncem is based on Slovenian mythology. Set in the 6th century, it depicts the conflict between South Slavic tribes and the Byzantine Empire.

This patriotism inspiring epic work first came out in a serial publication in 1906 before being published as a book in 1912. It has been reprinted more than 40 times since.

It has now become the latest Slovenian literary classic to be adapted and published as a graphic novel by Škrateljc, whose representative Uroš Grilc told the launch on Wednesday he believed Finžgar’s novel is Slovenia’s greatest book.

The text has been rewritten by the award-winning novelist Goran Vojnović and the drawings are by Damijan Stepančič, who has created several graphic novels based on Slovenian classics.

“You can feel the book dates back in time, but I wanted to make it topical, modern as well as dynamic,” Stepančič said, adding that he sought to expose certain elements of the story with full page drawings.

Vojnović, who is also a film director, applied the film principle in his adaptation of the text, but he did not depart much from the principal plot: “I was surprised how well the story functions as a narrative. It felt it did’t need huge inputs, but just fine little interventions and highlights that become the key then.”

Apart from Vojnović, the preface was written by ethnologist Janez Bogataj, a first nephew of Finžgar, who revealed that there have been three attempts to make the novel into a movie.

The first to take interest were Americans from Metro Goldwyn Mayer, but Finžgar’s condition was that the main characters should be played by actors of Slavic origin, so the project fell through.

The novel is still considered to be more than suitable to be adapted for the big screen. Vojnović remarked though that it was clear to him after reading only 30 pages that it would cost a ten-year budget of the Slovenian Film Centre to shoot only those.

However, Grilc said the ambition is to adapt the graphic novel to other formats as well. Stepančič’s drawings for the book will be put on display at Cankarjev Dom in late January.

The graphic novel is to be adapted for the stage in the coming years and Grilc said they also had the ambition to make it into a feature-length animated film.