Year of publication
Number of pages
Bulgaria (Nauka i izkustvo)
English sample translation
relationships, family ties, love story, socialism, Tito, Yugoslavia, Slovenia, democracy, 1991
Strah za metulje v nevihti
Fearful for Butterflies in the Storm
Fearful for Butterflies in the Storm is an astonishing love story and an extraordinary literary testimony about life in Tito’s multi-ethnic Yugoslavia. The first part of the novel takes place in 1972, a time marked by some of the first nationalist manifestations and mass student demonstrations in the Socialist Yugoslavia, while the second part of the novel relates to events in 1991. The novel’s central figure is Marko, a Slovenian student who during his compulsory military service in the Yugoslav National Army falls in love with a Serbian high school student Lili. Their fervent, forbidden love, interrupted at the time by a series of unfortunate circumstances, fatefully marks them forever. Marko and Lili only meet again in 1991 when Slovenia is already an independent country and the foreshadowing heralding ethnic conflicts that soon led to the war in the Balkans can be felt throughout the rest of Yugoslavia.
The novel is thus not only a story about love, but also one of aspiring to freedom and democracy, and proves to be a powerful metaphor against war. With its lyrical energy and archetypal frankness, it leads us to examine the fate of the individual in an ideologically burdened union and furthermore tells the universal story of humanity.
Furthermore, love combined with nostalgia seems to be a winning combination – even those of us born after the break-up of Yugoslavia can feel the spirit of socialism that the novel is bursting with, while the story is surely even more immersive for the members of Marko Hribernik’s generation or those before it.
Fearful for Butterflies in the Storm is a novel in which the author’s style, as in I’ll Part the Foam from the Waves and Muriša, is convincingly appropriate to the spirit of the time it describes. More importantly, each part of the trilogy not only tells an individual love story, but also describes the universal human nature.
If the author’s previous novels were set against a backdrop of the Mura river, flowing quietly and bearing omens of the main characters’ demise, the river’s role has now been taken by war, while the main characters have become metaphorical butterflies whose dance was unable to survive the brutal atmosphere of infighting.