Maribor – Drago Jančar, the internationally acclaimed Slovenian writer, launched his latest novel ‘Ob nastanku sveta’ (Upon the Creation of the World) in Maribor, his birth town, on Tuesday. Set in the post-WWII Maribor, the novel interlinks historical events, images from dreams, biblical stories with the childhood memories of the protagonist Danijel.
“Each new novel is the creation of a new world […] It’s always difficult to start again, there’s always a lot of hesitation, confusion. With this novel, that happened to me all the time, and that’s why it dragged on for a while,” the writer told the packed audience at the SNG Theatre in Maribor on the eve of his 74th birthday.
The publisher Beletrina describes the novel as a coming-of-age story about a world that does not yet exist and is “destined” to appear before the reader’s eyes.
It follows the protagonist’s story about his new neighbour Lena, for whom Danijel develops a special affection, and her love story that has a tragic ending and which prompts his response: “Now I know that this is the great story of life, unfolding in countless versions since the beginning of the world.”
Jančar says that some things, some interpersonal relationships, even social relationships, repeat themselves, never in the same way, but in a thousand million variations.
He says those who want to read his latest novel as an autobiography or as a novel about Maribor will be on the wrong track. “The novel is set here, but I’m not a genius loci type of writer who talks about the things of his place.” It is primarily a novel about a fictional character, Danijel, but there are also “bits of my life in it”, he said.
“Rather than real events, of which there are a few, the novel holds a certain atmosphere of the time I lived in. That time as a sense of the world, and I feel in a way this has made its way into the novel,” Jančar said.
The story is set in the aftermath of the Second World War, which still reverberates in society. “The war affected every family, in particular in this town. Although they wanted to forget it, people talked about it all the time.
“The world was more brutal, but at the same time sometimes more gentle, more solidarity-based. The world was more charged with emotions and everything else […] filled with tragic but also joyful events that cut deeper into people’s lives, into their consciousness. And we are the heirs of that time, it has stayed with us, hence these childhood memories,” he said.
Jančar did not pick Danijel (Daniel) by chance. “Daniel is a biblical figure who is summoned to court by the king to interpret a dream. As writers we interpret dreams, we make them up, and that is what happens in this novel.”