PUBLISHERS OF LITERARY FICTION SINCE 1983
Realism and naturalism dominate the complicated history of Slovak literature, and this collection of 20th-century stories by writers from the 1910s to the present, reflects that. But there are also questions about the novel or the story, a self-reflexiveness we recognise from the age of Modernism, and the themes of family and loss are universal
Where Karpinsky does triumph is in his overall concept. It is courageous of him to focus on internationally little-known modern Slovak writers, to demonstrate their inventiveness, playfulness and lyricism. Every tale, with the exception of the opening one, is first-rate. Vincent Sikula paints a touching portrait's of a man's failed attempt to look after his mentally disabled sister who lives in an eternal childhood. Milo Urban vividly brings home the pointlessness of fighting against old age. And there is something deliciously mystifying about Dusan Mitana's satirical tale in which an impotent tyrant is cuckolded with the help of the breeze...
The book helps to undermine the age-long Slovak inferiority complex, voiced by Rudolf Sloboda: 'Nothing we have is world renowned...Everything is provincial here'. Sloboda also jokes that Slovak writers would be 'better off taking up banditry'. Anglophone readers now have a wealth of evidence swith which to disagree with him.
Being half Russian, I have naturally read Tolstoy, Dostoevsky and Chekhov, but only because of The Dedalus Book of Slovak Literature (Dedalus), edited by Peter Karpinsky, am I now learning a little about the maternal side of my heritage. Just murmuring the names of these authors — Jozef Hronsky, Gejza Vamos, Rudolf Sloboda — makes me feel I am back at a church picnic in Lorain, Ohio.