Who builds history? Man – or is man just a building stone used by time to build and demolish at the same time? What do we measure time with? Days, months, centuries – or with people, especially those already departed? And then Francis Fukuyama declares ‘the end of history’, along with the end of great narratives. So what is literature – poetry, fiction, drama – to do then? To retreat and leave its place to the narrator, the author, whose task is to narrate, to illustrate, even if it is entirely unreal, as long as it is well-fictionalised, in accordance with Giordano Bruno’s quote: »Se non è vero è ben trovato.«
The voyage of the family S. through the 20th century is not a Carniolan version of One Hundred Years of Solitude, but a semi-documentary tale of a family originating in a village at the foot of Stol in the north of Slovenia. The great Slovenian Romantic poet Prešeren’s mother Mina was related to the family too. It is a story of a family that refused to remain a passive observer of history, but tried to become its co-creator, even though this carried along a dark shadow of doubt in life and made it look for redemption underneath an empty sky, in death. Be it a young man’s suicide because of unrequited love towards a young teacher Vida, a suicide brought upon by a loss of woods in a game of cards, or a deliberate sacrifice for a better tomorrow, for a revolution that had not yet gobbled up its own children but handed over the revolutionaries’ children to be looked after substitute mothers during the national liberation war. The children were called the little illegals. Or a little girl who spent the war with her mother in a concentration camp.
A chorus of female characters, including the poet Vida Jerajeva, the daughters of revolutionaries, national heroes, who grew up in the late 1950s and early 1960s, grounds the male characters who prefer to live in the zone of ideas rather than making them come true in the real world,. In the same way as giving birth is such a joy for a woman, death is an unfathomable force, a passion for life, for struggle, for victory.
When the century is at its end and the Slovenians get their independent state, history spins around in a single August afternoon as if on a carousel; the living and the dead are dancing their casual Sunday chat. Among them, we spot a reader of Anna Karenina, leaving for a trip to the other side of the world, where her fears – born perhaps in a concentration camp – will come alive again. Thus, on Christmas Eve, she throws herself into a dark river as cold as marble …