Drago Jančar nominated for Nobel Prize in Literature

Ljubljana – Drago Jančar, arguably Slovenia’s leading contemporary writer, has been nominated for this year’s Nobel Prize in Literature. He was nominated by the Slovenian Writers’ Association (DSP), the Slovenian PEN centre and the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts (SAZU).

DSP head Dušan Merc confirmed media reports for the STA that the nomination had been filed recently together with a three-page expert argumentation in English.

In recent years, Jančar has been alternating with Boris Pahor as Slovenian candidate for the prize. “But now we estimate that Jančar is our representative and author best known in the world,” Merc said.

In deciding on who, if anyone, will receive the prize, the Swedish Academy inquires with relevant national institutions every year on who would deserve it. In Slovenia, these are the DSP, PEN and SAZU.

But the consultations are held away from the public eye. The chair of the Slovenian PEN centre, Tone Peršak, therefore hopes that media reports about the nomination would not hurt the proposal.

Andrej Blatnik, a writer and editor, told the STA last autumn as the 2020 Nobel Prize was conferred that “the Slovenians definitely have literature worthy of the prize but cynics say that perhaps we would need more translations of our most distinguished authors into Sweden”.

He believes literature of small linguistic communities have smaller chances of winning the prize if their books are not translated in major languages, while works by Slovenian authors are regularly translated into English and also German.

Blatnik thinks Jančar has good chances also because he “is still in excellent literary shape”, which reflects in the prizes he is receiving at home and abroad.

Jančar, a 72-year-old novelist, playwright and essayist, is the most widely translated Slovenian writer, who has received an unparalleled number of awards in Slovenia and abroad.

His works often deal with an individual’s struggles with society and some delve into post-WWII events in Slovenia, a source of many present-day political fault lines.

He has written eleven novels; one of the most celebrated ones, I Saw Her That Night (To Noč Sem Jo Videl; 2010) has been translated into at least ten languages.

He is the only Slovenian writer to have won the prestigious Slovenian Kresnik Prize for the best novel of the year four times, most recently with And Love Itself in 2018.

Last August, he received the Austrian State Prize for European Literature 2020, a life-time achievement award given to writers with a strong international presence.