Cultural Institution Blesok • Established 1998
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ISSN 1409-6900 | UDK 82+7     Blesok no. 44 | volume VIII | September-October, 2005



                     Peer-reviewed journal
Blesok no. 44September-October, 2005

Dinner for Four

p. 1
Andrej Blatnik

    Things were different in Slovenia before 1991. It was part of ex-Yugoslavia where two million inhabitants, eight percent of the national population, created a quarter of the gross national product. The residents of this ethnically homogenous, partially autonomous republic used a language different from the language of the majority. According to a phrase straight from Tito´s doctrine of self-government, books were objects of `special social importance´. Books preserved Slovene cultural and national awareness through eras of various hegemonies, the Austro-Hungarian monarchy being the longest lasting one.
    The first national cultural programme was launched by the Romantic poet France Preseren (1800-1849) when he decided to write in Slovene and not in the then official language of communication, German, in which he initially wrote poetry. In the introduction to the second edition of Preseren´s Poezije (1847) published in 1866, this programme was formulated more clearly by poet and writer Josip Stritar (1836-1923). In the turbulent years of more recent Slovene history (1988-1991), Slovene writers played a prominent role in the creation of the Slovenian state, having formulated the first declaration of the aim of independence in a document referred to as the `writers´ constitution´, and it was rightly expected that the independent state of Slovenia would accord Slovene literature and creative writing a status of importance.
    This however turned out to be wishful thinking, and books soon became a commodity like any other. After the liberalization of economy several hundred companies were registered as publishers, in place of the approximately twenty state-run publishing houses of the previous era. Around eighty publishers appear at the Ljubljana book fair every year and approximately four thousand titles have been published annualy in the past years. Of these three quarters were first editions (twice as many as in 1990). But in the case of the 2000 titles or six million books published in 1990 and 2000 the average print-run per title has been halved to 1500 copies. And it was the area of literary publishing that took the brunt of this drop: the print-run of poetry titles fell below 500 copies, while fiction print-runs start at 400 copies and rarely climb above 1500.
    The drop in sales has been accompanied (or compensated by) retail price increases. In the old days of socialism, lack of consumer goods meant that people bought books with their disposable income, as there was not much else to spend it on. Now, not only are

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