Saturday, October 13, 2007

A Day in Spring by Ciril Kosmač

A Day in Spring is beautifully narrated tale by Ciril Kosmač, a Slovene poet, author. The book that first appeared in 1953 is a terse account of nostalgia and life of a writer who returns to his homeland after spending fifteen years away at wars. The story progresses through reminisces the writer has about his childhood. It yields, in a poignant and heartwarming detail, the development of narrator's personality through the two world wars in the backdrop. Essential to the story is the character of Kadetka, who the writer remembers lovingly as a child embedded with his nostalgia. His Auntie narrates some bits of the novel, and the contrast between the voices reveals what difference in insights experience, age, travel and education brings to us.

Several parallel tracks come together in this mature and modern novel. The affair of a Slovene girl with a Czech soldier, and years later another affair of her daughter with Italian soldier bring out the complexities and absurdities of war out in a very taut novel. The writer reveals his love for the mountainous country, the river Idrica and his people through descriptions that are lyrical and border on poetry. The personalities of the characters in the novel are revealed mostly through events, and the dialogues are kept to minimum. There are occasions in the novel when the reader feels sheer joy or compassion or love and in creating these occasions nearly a dozen times through the novel, Ciril Kosmač manages to arouse my whole hearted admiration, applause and appreciation. It was indeed a pleasant surprise to find this 169 page novel to be so aesthetically pleasing and rich in imagery and experience.

I have to quote the following extract from the book, for I think if it was relevant to Yugoslavians in 1950s, it is even more relevant to young nation of Slovenia now. It must be remarked that Slovenia is young nation in Eastern Alps, with population of two million. It is located close to Italy and Austria, and in the World War II, was the arena where partisans fought against Germans and Italians. Here is the quote, that is both a homage to his country and in some respect to his own terse novel:

"Yes,it seems to me that we small nations love our land more dearly than great ones do, or at least in a manner different from theirs. Our native land is small, and as we cannot sing of its greatness, we celebrate and sing of the details which are full of beauty. Because beauty is like truth. Truth does not require bulky tomes to make herself plain, nor does Beauty need a wide, boundless space wherein to unfold herself, to thrive and blossom. Let Expanse thunder forth its mighty song, true Beauty grows in silence. We know our country as we know our mother's face. Her lines and wrinkles are familiar to us, her expressions of joy and happiness, her furrows of grief and anxiety. We are always aware of the clasp of her hands, rough as a peasant's but kindly and warm; we cling to her and have defended her for a thousand years, often with simple means, yea, often with bare hands, but with success - because the chief sponsor of our victory is impassionate love, which does not calculate and therefore does not yield, even when faced with overwhelming odds."

(PS: I thank my friend Matija for this gift, which I enjoyed even more than Alamut, other novel translated from Slovene language, that I read last year.)

1 comment:

Vivek Sharma said...


October 13, 2007
02:04 PM

Nice find, I'm sure this is a much-overlooked novel. Someone should do a list of the top overlooked/forgotten novels.

October 14, 2007
01:01 AM


did you ever manage to find and read desani's all about mad hatter?

October 15, 2007
09:21 AM

All Hindi novels are much overlooked novels. I posted review of Maila Anchal long back. Gunahon ka devta and Jhoota Sach are over looked as is Premchand and all of regional literature.