Blesok no. 74, September-October, 2010
A view to a contemporary one
(Balla: Dvosamljenost; Ljubljana, Društvo Apokalipsa 2005;
Selected and afterword by Stanislava Chrobáková-Repar.
Translated by Špela Šramel in collaboration with Stanislava Chrobáková-Repar)
This selection of short-stories by Vladimir Balla (1967) succinctly entitled Dvosamljenost (in the original Slovak “Dvojsamelost” – Two (lone) Sameness, although the opening story prefers the German title „Die Zweisamkeit”) is a happy capture of the essentials of the author's intensive ten years of presence in Slovak literature – from his debut Leptokaria (1996) to the short-stories of De la Cniz (2005). Existential anxiety and an almost paranoid fear of life in a world saturated with horrors and suffering, ruined with absurdity and full of irrational outside animosities provide the backdrop of Balla's perspective on the contemporary individual; additionally, critics find his motifs to include incapability of communication and loneliness understood as the only space of authenticity, as even the state of a love affair amounts but to a lonesomeness in two. The situation of Balla's characters, defined chiefly through loneliness and an incapacity to relate to other people, is always formulated anew, as if unambiguously, in a language that gives these long-known problems a new perspective. At the same time, intertextual bonds are being developed, other authors borrowed from, references made to other ideas or narrative strategies from works preferred or “proven” by the author or tradition. The demands placed on the reader (let alone the translator) are more pronounced here.
Balla does not give up the inherent ambiguity of a statement made in words; rather, he uses this often to widen the spectrum of possibilities, in order to present the subject's detachment from observed reality – involving an ingenious pun, joke, self-parody, a skeptical conclusion or a resigned sight. Stanislava Chrobáková-Repar managed to present to the demanding and critical Slovenian readership a book for literary connoisseurs, including an additional afterword of hers, a revised chapter from her research project “Semantics of Silence”. The translator Špela Šramel did a great job faced with the subtleties of the minefield of Balla's texts, mastering formally exquisite passages, the specifics of the author's self-parodic style, as well as references to other authors. Hopefully, the deepening of mutual knowledge among closely related Central European literatures will continue – I am sure that, after Vilikovský and Balla, there will be plenty of other writers who will stand a chance of proving the quality and attractiveness of Slovak literature.
Translated by Ľuben Urbánek