Year of publication
Number of pages
UK (Istros Books)
English sample translation
1980s, Socialist Yugoslavia, state security service, informants, dissidents, publishing, love affair
by Ana Schnabl
The golden 1980s in the Socialist Yugoslavia were a curious time, a time when the country undoubtedly already began its descent into disintegration, but when the bloody years that would follow seemed inconceivable. A time of until then unprecedented freedom of thought and travel, a time of dissident movements and heady music and literary scenes. But also a time when the state still very much had a tight grip on the lives of its citizens, not least through its security service and its web of informants.
It is 1985 and Adam is a professor of literature at the Faculty of Arts in Ljubljana who, after twenty years, tries his hand at writing again and Ana is the editor that receives his manuscript The Masterpiece. The protagonists soon cross the lines of their professional relationship and become entangled in an intense, adulterous affair. But Adam moves in the dissident circles and Ana owes her position as the youngest editor in the history of the biggest state publishing house to her cooperation with the dark side of the government.
The Masterpiece is as much a love story as it a political drama that not only rocks the lives of the two main characters, but also changes the map of the world.
Ana Schnabl belongs to a canon of authors building on the legacy of great women writers and poets of the past and correcting age-old injustices that the system has inflicted upon women.
It’s a rare occasion that Slovenian is used in such a vivid manner. It’s a rare occasion that a young (or any) author writing in Slovenian so thoroughly – emotionally, physically, reflexively and reflectively – grasps the time, space and spirit of a generation, while keeping their writing free of petit-bourgeois moral judgments, taboos, ideologies, fake aesthetics, clichés, redundancies and overcompensations that belong in high school, as the author is wont to say … Schnabl, a clever student of human nature and a relentless examiner of her environment and circumstances, (almost) never exaggerates.
What sets Schnabl apart is her deliberate turn from cynicism. Thanks in part to its absence, the author’s dense writing never becomes oppressive, not even when at its most candid, and dispenses commentary on controlling social practices the as if it were an afterthought.