restricted access The Perception of John Steinbeck's Work in Slovenia
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The Perception of John Steinbeck's Work in Slovenia

Editors' Note: This article corrects errors in an essay published in Vol. 16, 2005 (issues 1 and 2 combined) of Steinbeck Studies, titled "Translation and Reception of John Steinbeck in Slovenia: A Bibliographic Exploration," by Vesna Krajnc, which was plagiarized from Professor Cerce's work (see pp. 179-89 of Steinbeck Studies).

The 1958 article, "John Steinbeck: Vzhodno od raja," in a popular Slovene magazine dealing with cultural and social issues, Nasa zena, begins with this revealing passage:

It was not long ago when each book reaching Slovenia from across the Atlantic was a great sensation. Today, we can safely claim that American literature is far from being unknown to Slovenes, and John Steinbeck in particular has become our dearest acquaintance. We have read his novels The Grapes of Wrath, Of Mice and Men, In Dubious Battle and been amused by his Tortilla Flat. No wonder we reach for his latest novel, East of Eden, in the most genuine expectation of meeting a friend with a lot to give. And Steinbeck will most certainly not let us down!


So wrote Rapa Suklje, one of the strongest and most active voices of what may be called the first generation of Steinbeck [End Page 63] critics in Slovenia, following the first Slovene-language edition of Steinbeck's novel East of Eden (Vzhodno od raja), published by Cankarjeva zalozba in 1958. Such friendly and warm-hearted critical views had accompanied almost every Slovene translation of Steinbeck's novels since the writer first received the attention of the Slovene reading public in the early 1940s, and it was not until after the late 1960s that his popularity started to fade a little. There is no doubt that interest in American literature in Slovenia increased widely when Steinbeck began to produce his penetrating working-class novels, which burst onto the American scene from 1936 through 1939. It is also important to note that past social and political circumstances in Slovenia, which was before 1991 a part of the former socialist Yugoslavia, accounted for the general acceptance and appreciation of Steinbeck's work, especially of The Grapes of Wrath, which was crucial to Slovene understanding of the working-class experience in America and made Steinbeck a household name.

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Steinbeck in Warsaw, Poland.

To attribute the writer's appeal in Slovenia to the seeming simplicity of his writing and to the daring sincerity of its content that stemmed from the intensity of his engagement in the contemporary agriculture labor situation is only half the story. The reasons for Steinbeck's specific position in Slovene cultural history to the present day are complex, involving politics at least as much, if not more than his literary production. And to some degree the reasons transcend Steinbeck the person. Because of his anger and genuine sensitivity to human suffering he ceased to be regarded as an individual and became a political tool, a sympathetic advocate for the workers' cause, held up as a model of social realism in Slovene literature. Indeed, we can trace Steinbeck's influence in the work of the outstanding Slovene representative of this genre, Lovro Kuhar-Prezihov Voranc; he also had a considerable impact on the prominent Slovene realist writer, Ciril Kosmac.1 However, when Steinbeck abandoned the Depression era as a subject, some dogmatic left-wing critics, who believed that his work now lacked a distinctive political synthesis, attempted to label him as a "class traitor" and an "opportunist" in an anonymous article "Knjizevnost v ZDA" (Literature in the United States), published in the 31 March 1949 issue of Slovenski porocevalec. Nevertheless, judging from both the sheer number of Slovene translations and the prevailing enthusiasm behind the critical voice of Slovene reviewers discussing Steinbeck's fiction, it is understandable that in past decades—in the 1950s and 1960s [End Page 65] in particular-Steinbeck was arguably one of the most popular American writers in Slovenia.

Yet he has elicited a rather poor response on the part of Slovene critics. His art was predominantly assessed in periodical and newspaper articles—book reviewers and journalists who only occasionally...