The Biography of an Idealist
Translated and with an Introduction by John K. Cox
Ivan Cankar (1876–1918) was a Slovenian writer, playwright, essayist, poet and political activist. He is regarded as the greatest writer in the Slovene language and the founder of modernism in Slovenia. He had a major effect on the Slovene language as such, established a model of lyrical prose that overshadowed his contemporaries and predecessors.
John K. Cox is professor of history at North Dakota State University in
The novel Martin Kačur, which dates from 1907, tells the engrossing story of a young schoolteacher who moves from one provincial Slovene town to the next, trying to enlighten his countrymen and countrywomen but instead receiving only the mistrust and scorn of the traditional-minded and petty population. The novel is ruthless in its analysis and self-analysis of the failure of this abstract idealist.
Brilliant descriptions of Slovenia’s natural beauty alternate with the haze of alcoholic despair, rural violence, marital alienation, and the death of a young and beloved child. The Slovene prose writer, poet, and dramatist Cankar’s characterizations of duplicitous political and religious leaders (the village priest, the mayor, other teachers, doctors, etc.) and the treacherous social scene are remarkable in their engaging clarity. No doubt the raw emotional impact of Martin Kačur derives partly from Cankar’s portrayal of the way society isolates people, denying them sympathy and solidarity. Cankar's style here owes a debt both to naturalism and to symbolism and contains, in its sometimes frantic pace and associative interior monologues, hints of early expressionism.
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