Joyce’s Pupil by Drago Jancar
Translators -Andrew Wachtel and Lilla Potpara
I saw this on the library shelf and the title grabbed me as well as the cover as a fan of James Joyce a book that has a story that is a spin-off from Joyce appeal to me and since reading Slazoj Zizek The Slovenian Thinker and non fiction writer .I ve been wanting to try some Slovenian fiction .So what is Joyce’s Pupil ? it is a collection of short stories twelve in all (i ve mention three in the review leaving nine for you to find)mostly set in the Slovenia or nearby eastern Europe .The main title story is a wonderful story a unknown Slovenian man goes to Trieste university where at the time 1914 James Joyce is teaching them by making them describe an oil lamp ,this is something he would do as a recent show on british tv talking about Irish Gaelic said how very descriptive a language it is and they have many ways to describe a single thing .We then move forward to the second world war and the man has had to runaway from his homeland and ends up as the voice of the BBC radio service for Slovenia broadcasting during the war years to his homeland .But this leads to him being accused of being a british spy by the communist authorizes .Even thou we don’t know the man or even what he looks like you get the feeling you know him as you see his mortal coil unravel in front of you on the page .Thou the Joyce link is only a bit the thought of bring his pupil would be great idea to any book lover .
The teacher sits back and asks the pupil to describe the oil lamp in english .The pupil gets hopelessly tangled in technical expressions ,and the teacher takes over from him describing the oil lamp in exhaustive detail .He goes on for a full hour indulging a habit that many years later the student will call descriptive passion
Joyce tells the student how to describe in English .
This collection isn’t terribly long at 160 pages but is a great introduction to one of the most respected writers in eastern Europe/ Now Jancar Has that Middle European eye of questions ,suffering and alienation all crop up in his fictions and not always answering the questions but making you think about them .stories such as A man in a meadow that gets caught up in something .,a creepy story about eyes that has two different strands to it one old and one new .all leave you wondering after you have read this collection .All add to this rich tradition of middle european fiction .He himself was involved with other writers in the Slovenian independence movement ,he is also found of a liberal conservative movement called rally for republic in Slovenia .He was also president of Slovenian Pen in the late 80’s .The translation was divide between the two translators each doing some of the stories .It ‘s a reasonable translation not best nor the worst I’ve read .He has a novel due out next year from Dalkey Archive called the galley slave .
Have you read any Slovenian fiction ?