Vitomil Zupan

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Vitomil Zupan
Vitomil Zupan.jpg
Born(1914-01-18)18 January 1914
Ljubljana, Duchy of Carniola, Austria-Hungary (now in Slovenia)
Died14 May 1987(1987-05-14) (aged 73)
Ljubljana, Slovenia, Yugoslavia
Occupation Writer, Playwright, Poet, Screenwriter
Nationality Slovenian
Notable worksMenuet za kitaro,
Komedija človeškega tkiva,
Igra s hudičevim repom

Vitomil Zupan (18 January 1914 – 14 May 1987) was a post-World War II modernist Slovene writer [Note 1] and Gonars concentration camp survivor. Because of his detailed descriptions of sex and violence, he was dubbed the Slovene Hemingway [3] and was compared to Henry Miller. He is best known for Menuet za kitaro (A Minuet for Guitar, 1975), describing the years he spent with the Slovene Partisans. In Titoist Yugoslavia he was sentenced to 18 years in a show trial, and upon his release in 1955 his works could only be published under his pseudonym Langus. He is considered one of the most important Slovene writers.

World War II 1939–1945 global war

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.

Gonars concentration camp

The Gonars concentration camp was one of the several Italian concentration camps and it was established on February 23, 1942, near Gonars, Italy.

Henry Miller American novelist

Henry Valentine Miller was an American writer. He was known for breaking with existing literary forms and developing a new type of semi-autobiographical novel that blended character study, social criticism, philosophical reflection, stream of consciousness, explicit language, sex, surrealist free association, and mysticism. His most characteristic works of this kind are Tropic of Cancer, Black Spring, Tropic of Capricorn and The Rosy Crucifixion trilogy, which are based on his experiences in New York and Paris. He also wrote travel memoirs and literary criticism, and painted watercolors.



Zupan was born in Ljubljana, then part of Austria-Hungary. His mother was a teacher and his father, a soldier, was killed in the First World War. At age 18, Zupan played Russian roulette and shot a friend in the head, killing him. [3] As a result, he was prohibited from graduating from secondary school in Yugoslavia. After leaving the country, he traveled for years—earning money as a sailor, ship's stoker, house painter in France, ski instructor, and professional boxer—across the Mediterranean, the Middle East, and North Africa, all before the outbreak of World War II. Upon returning home, he enrolled in the University of Ljubljana's Faculty of Engineering, which he did not graduate from, and read medical textbooks in an attempt to better understand his emotional condition. [3]

Ljubljana Capital city in City Municipality of Ljubljana, Slovenia

Ljubljana is the capital and largest city of Slovenia. It has been the cultural, educational, economic, political, and administrative centre of independent Slovenia since 1991.

Austria-Hungary Constitutional monarchic union between 1867 and 1918

Austria-Hungary, often referred to as the Austro-Hungarian Empire or the Dual Monarchy, was a constitutional monarchy in Central and Eastern Europe between 1867 and 1918. It was formed by giving a new constitution to the Austrian Empire, which devolved powers on Austria (Cisleithania) and Hungary (Transleithania) and placed them on an equal footing. It broke apart into several states at the end of World War I.

Russian roulette potentially lethal game of chance

Russian roulette is a lethal game of chance in which a player places a single round in a revolver, spins the cylinder, places the muzzle against their head, and pulls the trigger. Russian refers to the supposed country of origin, and roulette to the element of risk-taking and the spinning of the revolver's cylinder, which is reminiscent of a spinning roulette wheel.

After the Axis invasion of Yugoslavia in April 1941, as member of the Sokol athletic movement he joined the Liberation Front and participated in its underground activities in the annexed Province of Ljubljana until the authorities sent him to the Gonars concentration camp in 1942.

Axis powers Alliance of countries defeated in World War II

The Axis powers, also known as "Rome–Berlin–Tokyo Axis", were the nations that fought in World War II against the Allies. The Axis powers agreed on their opposition to the Allies, but did not completely coordinate their activity.

Invasion of Yugoslavia German-led attack on the Kingdom of Yugoslavia by the Axis powers during the Second World War

The invasion of Yugoslavia, also known as the April War or Operation 25, was a German-led attack on the Kingdom of Yugoslavia by the Axis powers which began on 6 April 1941 during World War II. The order for the invasion was put forward in "Führer Directive No. 25", which Adolf Hitler issued on 27 March 1941, following the Yugoslav coup d'état.

Sokol all-age gymnastics organization first founded in Prague

The Sokol movement is an all-age gymnastics organization first founded in Prague in the Czech region of Austria-Hungary in 1862 by Miroslav Tyrš and Jindřich Fügner. It was based upon the principle of "a strong mind in a sound body". The Sokol, through lectures, discussions, and group outings provided what Tyrš viewed as physical, moral, and intellectual training for the nation. This training extended to men of all ages and classes, and eventually to women.

After the capitulation of Italy, in 1943 he joined the Slovene Partisans, first in combat units and soon after in the cultural unit, where he was assigned to write resistance propaganda theater plays. After World War II, until 1947, when he fully dedicated himself to writing, he served at Radio Ljubljana as the cultural program's chief editor. For his novel Rojstvo v nevihti (Birth in a Storm) he was awarded his first Prešeren Award the same year. He married Nikolaja Dolenc and they had two sons, Dim and Martel; [3] however, after the Tito-Stalin split in 1948, he was accused of anti-government conspiracy, spying, antipatriotic activity, immoral acts, murder, and attempted rape, and was sentenced in a show trial to almost twenty years in prison. He was released in 1955 and his two sons lived without their father, similar to his own childhood.

Slovene Partisans Slovene part of the Communist-led Yugoslav World War II resistance movement

The Slovene Partisans were part of Europe's most effective anti-Nazi resistance movement led by Yugoslav revolutionary communists during World War II, the Yugoslav Partisans. Since a quarter of Slovene ethnic territory and approximately 327,000 out of total population of 1.3 million Slovenes were subjected to forced Italianization since the end of the First World War, the objective of the movement was the establishment of the state of Slovenes that would include majority of Slovenes within a socialist Yugoslav federation in the post-War period.

Radiotelevizija Slovenija organization

Radiotelevizija Slovenija – usually abbreviated to RTV Slovenija – is Slovenia's national public broadcasting organization. Based in the country's capital, Ljubljana, it has regional broadcasting centres in Koper and Maribor and correspondents around Slovenia, Europe and the world. RTV Slovenija's national radio services operate under the name Radio Slovenija, while the television division carries the name Televizija Slovenija or TV Slovenija. The names are sometimes Anglicized as Radio Slovenia and TV Slovenia, respectively. There are three national and four regional radio services, which can all be heard online as well. RTV Slovenija also finances the RTV Slovenia Symphony Orchestra and the RTV Slovenia Big Band.

The Prešeren Award, also called the Grand Prešeren Award, is the highest decoration in the field of artistic and in the past also scientific creation in Slovenia. It is awarded each year by the Prešeren Fund to two eminent Slovene artists, with the provision that their work was presented to the public at least two years ago. In general, it may be given to an artist only once, and can also be given to a group of artists. It is given on the eve of the Prešeren Day, the Slovenian cultural holiday celebrated on the anniversary of the death of France Prešeren, the Slovene national poet. On the same occasion, the Prešeren Fund Awards or Small Prešeren Awards are given to up to six artists. The awardees also receive a financial award, with the Prešeren Award three times as high as the Prešeren Fund Award. In recent years, the awards have been increasingly given for lifetime work.

He published his works for several years only under a pseudonym and was again able to publish under his name again from the 1960s onward. His best-known novel, Menuet za kitaro (A Minuet for Guitar), was adapted by the Serbian director Živojin Pavlović for his 1980 film See You in the Next War (Slovene : Nasvidenje v naslednji vojni, Serbian : Doviđenja u sledećem ratu) and Zupan received his second Prešeren Award—this time for lifetime achievement.

Serbia Republic in Southeastern Europe

Serbia, officially the Republic of Serbia, is a country situated at the crossroads of Central and Southeast Europe in the southern Pannonian Plain and the central Balkans. The sovereign state borders Hungary to the north, Romania to the northeast, Bulgaria to the southeast, North Macedonia to the south, Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina to the west, and Montenegro to the southwest. The country claims a border with Albania through the disputed territory of Kosovo. Serbia's population is about seven million. Its capital, Belgrade, ranks among the oldest and largest citiеs in southeastern Europe.

Živojin "Žika" Pavlović was a Serbian film director and writer. In his films and novels, he depicted the cruel reality of small, poor and abandoned people living in the corners of society; he was one of the major figures of the Black Wave in Yugoslav cinema in 1960s, a movement which portrayed the darker side of life rather than the shiny facades of communist Yugoslavia. Pavlović received numerous awards, including two NIN Prizes for his novels, one Silver Bear of the Berlin International Film Festival and several Golden Arenas of the Yugoslavia's most prestigious Pula Film Festival.

See You in the Next War is a 1980 Yugoslav war film directed by Živojin Pavlović. It competed in the Un Certain Regard section at the 1982 Cannes Film Festival.

Zupan died in Ljubljana in 1987 and is buried in the Žale cemetery.

Žale cemetery

Žale Central Cemetery, often simply Žale, is the largest and the central cemetery in Ljubljana and Slovenia. It is located in the Bežigrad District and operated by the Žale Public Company.


Vitomil Zupan is best known for his semi-autobiographical novels centered on the quest of an individual for his identity in the modern world. He gave an idiosyncratic description of the years he spent with the Slovene Partisans in his 1975 novel Menuet za kitaro (A Minuet for Guitar), described the ruthless environments in repressive institutions, such as the army and the prison in the 1982 novel Levitan, and described the period before and during World War II in the third part of his trilogy, Komedija človeškega tkiva (A Comedy of Human Tissue).

In the 1978 novel Igra s hudičevim repom (A Game with the Devil's Tail), he wrote about a middle-aged man who becomes involved in a sexual affair with his housekeeper, filled with depictions of sexuality and the banality of everyday life, because of which he was accused of pornography. However, his novels were also filled with philosophical and cultural references, and he 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 interest in Zupan's literary legacy.

Reception and legacy

The Yugoslav critics were part of official Titoist nomenclature, and rejected his bohemian style and freethinking attitude and accused his writings of being decadent, cynical, and a glorification of evil, amorality, and nihilism.

Alternative Slovene writers and literary thinkers, such as Dušan Pirjevec Ahac and Taras Kermauner, were influenced by Zupan's work and they challenged the Titoist cultural policies. 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 1983 novel-like essay Roman o knjigah (A Novel about Books). He also influenced the poet Borut Kardelj.

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  1. Marcel Štefančič, Jr. (2013). Maškerada, Kino Dvor, 17. 10. 2013
  2. Zdenko Vrdlovec: Recenzija dela Maškarada, Dnevnik, 9 November 2013
  3. 1 2 3 4 Vitomil Zupan, lovec na izkušnje, Delo, 18 January 2014


  1. In addition to his novels, he also wrote poetry, plays, essays, and screenplays. He wrote the screenplay for Maškarada, directed by Boštjan Hladnik, which, despite being screened only in a censored form, became a cult film of the Slovenian hippie generation. [1] [2]


Further reading