||This article includes a list of references, related reading or external links, but its sources remain unclear because it lacks inline citations. (April 2008)|
18 January 1914|
Ljubljana, Duchy of Carniola, Austria-Hungary (now in Slovenia)
|Died||14 May 1987
Ljubljana, Slovenia, Yugoslavia
|Occupation||Writer, Playwright, Poet, Screenwriter|
|Notable work(s)||Menuet za kitaro,
Komedija človeškega tkiva,
Igra s hudičevim repom
Vitomil Zupan (18 January 1914 – 14 May 1987), who also wrote under the pseudonym Langus, was a Slovenian writer, poet, playwright, essayist and screenwriter. He is considered one of the most important authors in the Slovene language of the second half of the 20th century.
Vitomil Zupan was born in Ljubljana, then part of Austria-Hungary. After finishing grammar school, he entered the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Ljubljana. Due to his restless spirit he was able to finish his studies only in 1958. Already before the outbreak of World War II, he travelled all across the Mediterranean, the Near East and Northern Africa earning his money as a sailor, a ship's stoker, a house painter in France, a skiing instructor, a professional boxer and other. After his return to Slovenia in the late 1930s, he became active in the Sokol athletic movement, which also had a strong political nature. Zupan belonged to the leftist democratic wing of the movement. After the Axis invasion of Yugoslavia in April 1941, Zupan joined the Liberation Front of the Slovenian People. He participated in several underground activities in the Italian-occupied Ljubljana. In 1942, the Italian Fascist authorities arrested him and sent him to the concentration camp Čiginj near Tolmin and later to the Gonars concentration camp. In 1943, he escaped and joined the partisan resistance. At first, he actively participated in the fighting units. There, he met with the later philosopher and literary theorist Dušan Pirjevec Ahac, with whom he established a strong friendship. Later he was transferred to the cultural section of the resistance, where he wrote propaganda plays and collaborated with the essayist and playwright Jože Javoršek, poet Matej Bor and novelist Igor Torkar.
After the war, Zupan worked as the chief editor of the cultural programme of Radio Ljubljana till 1947, when he fully dedicated himself to writing. That year he also received his first Prešeren Award, the highest prize for artistic and cultural achievements in Slovenia, for his novel Rojstvo v nevihti ("Birth in a Storm"). In 1948, he and his former co-worker at Radio Ljubljana were arrested by the Communist state authorities. His former collaborator in the partisan cultural section Jože Javoršek was arrested too. Zupan was tried on several serious charges, including spying, antipatriotic activity, anti-government conspiracy, immoral acts, murder, and attempted rape. In a show trial, he was sentenced to 18 years in prison. He was released in 1955, but he could only publish his works under a pseudonym Langus.
Beginning from the early 1960s, Zupan was again able to publish his works, some of which gained wide recognition. In 1980, his novel Menuet za kitaro (A Minuet for Guitar) was used by the Serbian director Živojin Pavlović as the basis for his film See You in the Next War (Slovene: Nasvidenje v naslednji vojni, Serbian: Doviđenja u sledećem ratu). In 1984, he was bestowed with the second Prešeren Award for his lifetime work.
Zupan died in Ljubljana in 1987 and is buried in the Žale cemetery.
Vitomil Zupan is best known for his semi-autobiographic novels. In his probably best work Menuet za kitaro (A Minuet for Guitar; 1975), he gave a highly individualized account of the Slovenian National Liberation War. The Minuet, the Levitan (1982), in which he described his experiences in prison, and Komedija človeškega tkiva (A Comedy of Human Tissue), which describes the period before and during World War II, form an original autobiographical trilogy centered on the quest of an individual for his identity in the modern world. In his probably most popular novel, Igra s hudičevim repom (A Game with the Devil's Tail; 1978), Zupan wrote about a middle-aged man who gets involved in a sexual affair with his housekeeper.
Zupan's novels are written from an individualist perspective and are full of detailed depictions of sexuality, the banality of everyday life, and the ruthless environments in repressive institutions, such as the army and the prison. He has occasionally been accused of pornography and excessively exhaustive descriptions of violence. On the other side, his writings are always very reflective and filled with philosophical and cultural references.
He also wrote poetry, most of which remained unpublished during his lifetime. A collection of Zupan's poetry from his prison years was first published in 2006 and revived the interest for Zupan's literary legacy.
Influence and legacy
In the 1940s and 1950s, Zupan's highly individualistic style and his bohemian and freethinking attitude was not very well received by the critics close to the Communist regime. His work was strongly criticised by Josip Vidmar, one of the most influential critics of the time, while Boris Ziherl, the official cultural ideologue of the Communist Party of Slovenia, accused Zupan's writings of being an example of decadence, cynicism, glorification of evil, amorality, and nihilism.
Zupan's work had an important influence on the Generation of '57, a group of alternative Slovene authors who challenged the rigid cultural policies of the Communist regime. He particularly influenced the poet Borut Kardelj. His writings had also an important influence on literary theorists and thinkers Dušan Pirjevec Ahac and Taras Kermauner. The echos of Zupan's vitalism and anticonformism can be seen in the works of the writer and essayist Marjan Rožanc, who reflected on Zupan in his novelistic essay Roman o knjigah (A Novel on Books, 1983).
- "Interview with Taras Kermauner on the Slovenian National TV (February 3, 2008)". RTV SLO. Retrieved 2008-04-18.
- "Vitomil Zupan: Stvar Jurija Trajbasa". Absolventi PefMB. Retrieved 2008-04-18.
- Vesna Milek, "Pesmi zoper smrt: portret Vitomila Zupana" in Delo, yr. 48, n. 114 (May 20, 2006), 26-28.
- Bernard Nežmah, "Vitomil Zupan, Levitan: ponatis legendarnega dela iz leta 1982" in Mladina (May 13, 2002), 81.
- Alenka Puhar, "Pesmi starega restanta: Zupanovo zbrano zaporniško delo" in Delo., yr. 48, n. 111 (May 17, 2006), 15.
- Marjan Rožanc, Roman o knjigah (Ljubljana: Slovenska matica, 1983).
- Andrej Inkret, "Zupan, Vitomil", article in Enciklopedija Slovenije, vol. 15 (Ljubljana: Mladinska knjiga, 2001), 235-236.
- Janko Kos et al., Interpretacije: Vitomil Zupan (Ljubljana: Nova revija, 1993)
- Vlado Žabot, Estetski vidiki v Zupanovem Levitanu (Ljubljana: Univerza v Ljubljani, 1986).