Dane Zajc belongs to the first post-war generation of poets who brought modernism to Slovene poetry. Sharing sentiments of a tense, sceptical and disillusioned worldview, they relinquished intimate testimony in lieu of an impersonal portrayal of reality on the charred ruins of the Second World War. On a formal level, their poetic expression broke grammatical rules, coalescing within free verse. This poet generation is remembered by the Slovene literary lore as the surrealists or neo-expressionists.
The lyrical world of Zajc is one of inescapable, constant duality and arising ever-incompletion, even antagonistic ambivalence – “a twofold void”, a twofold loneliness, a twofold language (one uttering, one mute). Though Dane, who was considered the most influential of Slovene modernists, is frequently portrayed as the “poet of existential dread, of despair and grim obsession with the suffering of man”, his verses sparkle with refined irony and bestial dark humour.
“Dane Zajc understands the paradoxes between the physical and the metaphysical the same way he understands the balance between pathos and the quotidian, between magic incantation and ironic, cold alienation. Zajc’s poetry does not entirely forego personal elements – a fallen partisan-brother, the mother figure – what remains central, though, is the natural landscape of things and his own “inability of expression”, making Zajc’s verse neither intimate confession nor propaganda. He consistently rejects political tendencies, any ideological engagement whatsoever, in fact, which – in the Communist era – won him the fame of a rebel poet”, writes Ilma Rakusa in her afterword to the Scorpions collection.
Edited by: Aleš Berger
Afterword: Ilma Rakusa
Afterward translation: Lili Potpara