Who is Drago Jančar?
Drago Jančar is a Slovenian writer and activist. Throughout the splintering of Yugoslavia during the aftermath of the Cold War, his voice has been heard on issues regarding his homeland, although he has never pursued a career in politics. Early on, he espoused freedom of speech while Yugoslavia was still under Communist rule and wrote critically of the current regime while on the student newspaper. He was made to resign. Working for a daily newspaper, he was found guilty of distributing a pamphlet which detailed a massacre by Marshal Tito's forces during World War II, and was sentenced to a year of prison, gaining release after three months. He joined the army, but was persecuted throughout his army career as being a subversive element. His writing experience grew as he worked for a film studio, publishing house, and political journal. Although he was not allowed to publish early in his career, after Marshal Tito's death and gradual liberalization of Yugoslavia his novels, short stories, and plays flourished. In particular, Central Europe boasted of his writing, and his fame spread throughout the world, being translated into 21 languages in Europe, Asia and the United States. Recently, Jancar was a co-founder of the liberal conservative civic platform Rally for the Republic, and currently he works for a major publishing house in Ljubljana.
Childhood & Early Life
Drago Jančar was born on 13 April 1948, in Maribor, in erstwhile Yougoslavia. His father was part of ‘Slovene Partisans’, an anti-Nazi resistance movement during World War II.
As a teenager, he began writing for the 'Mladina’, a current affairs left-wing magazine.
Jančar studied law in his hometown Maribor .While attending college in the late 1960s, he was the chief editor of student journal 'Katedra’.
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Drago Jančar worked for the daily newspaper 'Vecer.' In 1974, he was arrested for distributing a pamphlet decrying Marshal Tito's forces' role in the massacre of World War II prisoners in May 1945.
Jancar was sentenced to a year in prison in 1975. After three months, he was released and immediately called to military service in southern Serbia. He had a tough time in his military and was harassed by his superiors.
After completing his stint with the military, Drago Jančar joined back the newspaper ‘Vecer’, but was allowed to perform only administrative work. As a result, he decided to relocate to Ljubljana.
His relocation to Ljubljana allowed him to befriend influential artists and intellectuals critical of the Communist regime in Yugoslavia. He counts Edvard Kocbek, the prominent poet whose political stances after World War II made him controversial in Slovenian politics, and Alenka Puhar, a leading proponent of psychohistory, as profound influences on his thoughts and actions.
From 1978 to 1980, he worked as a screenwriter in the film studio, Viba Film. Censorship of his work led him to quit his job as at Viba Film.
In 1981, he worked as a secretary for the publishing house 'Slovenska matica'. He rose in prestige and is now an editor there.
1982 saw him as a co-founder of the journal 'Nova revija'. It was a major opposition and alternative voice to Socialist Slovenia.
In the mid-1980s, he gained critical acclaim in the gradual liberalization of political expression in his native country. Boris Pahor, who wrote about his experiences in Nazi concentration camps, became his friend and important influence at that time.
In the late 1980s, his work proved to be internationally popular. The readers were attracted to his laconic treatment of the theme of the individual versus monumental institutions, such as prisons, barracks, and military hospitals.
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Jančar’s 1990 essay 'The Man Who Said No' extended his admiration of Pahor into a published work. The essay propounded Pahor's literary and moral influence in post-war Slovenia.
From 1987-1991, he was president of the Slovenian PEN Center. Through this association, he supported the emergence of Slovenian democracy.
In 1988, he and others organized the first opposition political demonstration in Slovenia since 1945. He opposed the Ljubljana Trial which oversaw the prosecution of four men who wrote critically of the Yugoslavian Army in Socialist Yugoslavia.
At the Slovenian Declaration of Independence on June 25, 1991, the Slovenian War of Independence broke out. Drago Jančar and other writers rallied international support for their country's cause.
His essay 'Short Report From A City Long Besieged' compared the 1991–2001 Yugoslavian Wars between Serbs and Albanians.
In his essay 'Xenos and Xenophobia', published in the year 2000, he accused the Slovenian liberal media of promoting anti-Catholicism and xenophobia.
In 2011, Michael Biggins translated Jančar's 1978 novel 'The Galley Slave' into English. The novel describes a picaresque protagonist struggling to live in the Slovenian part of the world in the late Middle Ages era, complete with witch hunts, superstitions, and the plague.
Awards & Achievements
In 1993, he was honored with the Prešeren Award for lifetime achievement. It is the highest Slovenian literary award.
In 1994, he won the European Short Story Award. Translations of his work grew after he received this honor, and his popularity spread beyond Slovenian borders even more.
His enthusiasm for chronicling the current political and cultural Slovenian scene is unbounded. During the Bosnian War, he personally visited the besieged Sarajevo to deliver supplies collected by the Slovene Writers' Association to the civilians there.