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Miha Remec

Miha Remec (born August 10, 1928) is a Slovene author.

Remec was born in Ptuj, Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (now Slovenia).

Biography

Childhood and education

His mother Ana was from Kostrivnica under Boč and his father Alojzij from Trieste. Alojzij was a writer, lawyer and, many years before the Second World War, he was the mayor of Ptuj.

Remec dipped his pen in ink at a very early age, and when he was 10 years old (1938) his Fairytale of Lucky Blacksmith (Pravljica o srečnem kovaču) was published in the feuilleton of Young Slovene (Mladi Slovenec). In Ptuj grammar school three Slovene artists taught him: his Slovene teacher, Anton Ingolič; his teacher of drawing, painter France Mihelič and his teacher of bible classes, theologian and writer Stanko Cajnkar.

The war then touched his childhood with all its horrible scourges. After the German occupation of Ptuj in 1941, the Gestapo confined and tortured Remec's father in prison. Later all of his family were deported. This was the last transportation of patriot Slovenes to Serbia, Vrnjačka Banja. Here Remec's family lived through these harsh times filled with distress, caused by poverty, lack of provisions and the sorrows of the war. The impact that the war had on Miha was great. He felt he had to contribute something, so that this horrific time would never be forgotten. He dutifully describes this time in the novel The Big Carriage (Veliki voz).

Post-war times

When coming back from exile in 1945, 17 year old Miha Remec joined the youth movement and took part in building the youth railways Brčko-Banoviči and Šamac-Sarajevo. He also took part in building a machine factory in Železniki near Belgrade. All these were projects undertaken by working brigades. "After experiencing the horrendous destruction of the world - where exile, starvation, killing, bombing, destruction and destruction again unforgettably imprinted themselves into my consciousness, I zealously dedicated my writing to the construction after the war," says Remec in the introduction to the collection of his construction poems.

These were poems to put on display boards, to recite when sitting around campfires, sing to the tunes of partisan's marching songs; they were all well known to every Slovene working brigade. Some of the songs were published in Youth Magazine (Mladinska revija), New World (Novi svet) and New Horizons (Nova Obzorja). Critics viewed them as an excellent example to young poets. Although this seemed like a good opportunity for Remec to continue creating poetry professionally, this did not result in him contributing to institutional poetry. Remec stayed in the working brigades, where construction was going on and was still spellbound by the "construction" enthusiasm of the young generation.

Things began to change after the resolution of Informbiro at the end of 1948 and beginning of 1949, when Remec was already doing his military service in the guard units in Belgrade and later in the tank brigade in Čapljina, Herzegovina. Critics started to agitate the Public against "poetry of hack"; they blamed Remec for his lack of emotions, use of cant and incorrect language.

Artistic fiasco of construction poetry in years 1946-1950 is not a reason in itself for literary journalists, essayists and historians to overlook it. It offers us several different questions, and the answers to them would greatly help us to understand Slovene literature of the 20th century. Is it not true, that construction poetry is in fact a lower level of partisan's epic poetry? Does not the end of "railway poetry" also mean the final defeat of utilitarian and pragmatic understanding of literature in an aesthetically artistic way? Is not Man (with capital M) only a step away to a world without man? Is not a cult of hack, shovel, bulldozer and welding torch, worship of machine and conveyor, connected with veneration of objects in Seligo's prose? Or with the "machining" of a man in the anti-utopian prose of the former "cubist" Miha Remec?

Drago Bajt, Construction poetry 1946-1950 (Graditeljska poezija 1946-1950), Dialogues (Dialogi) 3,4, 1981

Deeply disappointed he withdrew in anonymity and started writing short stories and novellas under the female pen name Irena Remrom. The following were published in Youth Magazine (Mladinska revija) and New Horizons (Nova Obzorja): Bubbles (Mehurčki), Storm (Nevihta), Roses of December (Decembrske vrtince) and My Godfather Okusnik (Moj boter Okusnik). Criticism was in favour of Remec's short stories, they were perceived as fresh and neoteric additions to Slovene post-war literature.

Around the same time as when his short stories were published, Remec was the leader of a group of actors in Čapljina tank brigade and he directed a number of shows held to celebrate various special events upon a floating stage on the river Neretva. He wrote short, humorous plays for these occasions, and this helped him, along with being an actor himself, gain insight into the art of drama and theatre in general. This served him well when he later went on to write several plays.

When he finished his three-year military service he returned to his hometown Ptuj, where he then wrote the novel The Big Carriage (Veliki voz - which was not published until thirty-four years later). He frequently visited his father, who was writing Late Flowers (Pozne roze), a cycle of love poems, before he died in 1952.

After his father's death, Remec was employed as a correspondent of the newspaper People's Right (Ljudska pravica) in Ptuj. When, in 1959, People's Right merged with another Slovene newspaper Slovene Reporter (Slovenski poročevalec), he remained a journalist with the main Slovene daily newspaper Work (Delo). He married Nedeljka Kacin and moved to Ljubljana.

Remec set himself clear boundaries between journalism and writing. He viewed journalism as a profession and made no attempts to make himself valued through it. Now he writes several humours newspaper columns and glosses in Work, Weekly Tribune (Tedenska tribuna) and Slovene News (Slovenske novice) using pen names. For many years, he worked with Delo (Work) newspaper as the night editor.

In the 60's, most of Remec's creations were dramas. After the peasant drama Dead Kurent (Mrtvi kurent) was staged in Maribor (1960), they performed Happy Dragons (Srečni zmaji) in Celje theatre (1963). Happy Dragons is a drama about fishmen caught in radioactive cloud caused by a nuclear test. We can already notice all the characteristics of Remec's style of science fiction writing: catastrophe, anti-utopia and hope in human survival.

During the period 1966 - 1967, Slovene National Theatre (Slovensko narodno gledališče), directed by Bojan Štih, staged Remec's political drama Workshop of Clouds (Delavnica oblakov), a severe condemnation of post-war state authority that "fed on its own children." As a result, Slovene stages, and later also television, hermetically closed up for Remec. Unstaged dramas were: Bonfire at Savica (Kres ob Savici), The Plastionic Plague (Kuga plastionska) and Reaching the Skies (Priklicevanje nebov). Unperformed films and television scripts were Recall from Orbit (Odpoklic iz orbite), Vanishing Mana (Izginjajoča Mana) and On the Edge of the Sun (Na robu sonca).

Leaving the theatre meant a new turning point in Remec's work, as well as in his personal life. He divorced his first wife, and his first novel, Solstice (Soncni obrat), was published in 1969. In this novel, Remec was still dealing with the objectiveness and alienation of which humans experienced, in a realistic style.

What gives the most personal note to Remec's texts is his dealing with sexuality without any erotic hypocrisy. At times this panopticon of a shameless, to light coming subconsciousness almost reaches features of thrilling greatness.

M. Kramberger, from the Solstice cover

Middle ages

In the beginning of the seventies, Remec married Mira Iskra; in their marriage, three sons were born: Matija, Andrej and Jernej. His most productive and creative period follows. In so called "leaden times", when the communist power tried to suppress, especially in the artistic field, the rising freedom of spirit and democracy, Remec's anti-utopian novels The Cave (Votlina), Recognition (Prepoznavanje) and Ixion (Iksion) arose.

The central writer of Slovene science fiction production in the eighties was Miha Remec, and his predominant form of writing was the novel. In novels The Cave, Recognition, Iksion, Mana, Green Covenant (Zelena zaveza) and Journals of Earth's Envoy (Zapiski odposlanca Zemlje) two themes reappear like a thread: the theme of a polluted environment, and the theme of an individual, who desperately strives to maintain his/her uniqueness, originality and irreplacability in contrast with the tendencies of the environment, all of which aim at the conversion of individuals into so called Society.

Metka Kordigel, "Science Fiction", Literary Lexicons, volume 41

»I describe the world as it should not be,« says Remec in one of the interviews after Iksion was published. The observant reader, however, cannot overlook that through science fiction writing, he describes the times that he has lived in and his experiences; the time of human restriction, one-mindedness, robotization and media blindness.

Iksion, a novel about a dark future for humans, is at the same time a novel about the present and the past. The features of Remec's heroes are therefore the general features of a human being, regardless of what time they were living in ... Iksion is Remec's creative climax of the past few years, and is an interesting achievement, not only of modern Slovene prose, but also of anti-utopian works in general.

Drago Bajt, in critique of novel Iksion

Five years after Iksion (1985), the Technical Publishing House of Slovenia (Tehnična založba Slovenije) and The Pomurska Publishing House (Pomurska založba) published Remec's new novel entitled Mana, the chronological records of the journalist Jurij Jereb, in which Remec returned back from anti-utopian writing into real time, connecting with the inconceivable, extra sensory perception of the parallel world.

The essential theme of Mana is set through a philosophy of space and, above all, time, and through dealing with touch, word and sight, which constitute the means of the first contact. The theme is also set through neologism and its different variations, which can also be faultious, wrong and tragical. There are two ever-present components which are interwoven within the text: a science fictional component with such a compact, human orientated and broad content that almost appeals for tolerance regarding differences, even sub-normality. On the other hand, there is a realistic component in this novel, a recognisable reflection of circumstances and relationships within Slovene journalism that is factual in nature.

Janez Majnič, Miha Remec and his science fictional opus, from the introductional study to Astral Lighthouses

It is interesting that this novel was most well accepted by readers, despite the fact that a great deal of copies of other Remec's novels were sold, and stores would literally run out of stock quite soon, it is interesting that this novel is the most popular among its readers, whereas critics favour other works.

After the appearance of two short novels The Hunter and The Unclean Daughter (Lovec in nečista hči) and the picture book for children, Dandelion Fluff in Space (Kodeljica v vesolju), Remec began using a rather interesting genre: "political-fantastic" in the novel Green Covenant (Zelena zaveza). The novel describes Slovenia's separation from Balkania in the far future. However, when the book is printed by Fighter Publishing House (Založba Borec) in 1989, the separation occurred for real in the blink of an eye. Later, events took place in an almost unbelievably similar way to how they were portrayed in Green Covenant.

The main idea of the novel is for the successful attainment of independence and hence leaving the federal country. This, however, already offers a question: to what extent was it written only as a political-fictional novel - just as a fictitious description, or was it at least a futurological prognosis, perhaps even a social prediction?

Another completely relevant question is whether this book is possibly a book of "Slovene spring"- the early times of Slovene independence, and if so, to what extent? (The manuscript of Green Covenant was completed in July 1988).

Several elements can be found within the novel which indicate that it is likely that Green Covenant is a book about the "Slovene Spring". A dispute and victorious fight with federal military units, Kočevje as a taboo zone, flowers, balloons and protests taking place in front of the barracks. Also, most notably, how the television is used as an effective political tool for gaining leadership and authority of the state.

Also, for the story to be presented as if one were "at the place and time of the event itself" (Clark), could at that time a book of Slovene spring be written in any other genre at all, even though in the novel events are "staged" a century later?

If we understand his novel in this way - and why shouldn't we - then this is a compliment to the author as the events then took place in a much shorter space of time. Such a speed up of events also, in general, took away its political fantastic frame.

Janez Majnič, Miha Remec and his science fictional opus, from the introductional study to Astral Lighthouses

After Green Covenant, when Slovenia was already independent, Remec's juvenile science fiction story Journals of Earth's Envoy was published by Prešeren Society (Prešernova družba) in 1992. It appeared in the regular annual collection of novels with an extremely large amount of copies than usual for Slovenia.

On the other hand, Remec's collection of science fiction novellas and stories, which he was writing and getting published frequently in the magazines Sirius, My Micro (Moj mikro), Heart and Eye (Srce in oko), Plastic Words (Likovne besede) and New Atlantis (Nova Atlantida), were published in smaller editions. Astral Lighthouses with its comprehensive introductory study about Remec's science fictional opus, written by Janez Majnič, appeared in 1993 with amateur private publishing house Kiki Keram.

»Catastrophe in its basic and primordial sense can be above all noticed in Remec's short science fiction stories,« wrote Janez Majnič. »However, when we are talking about the novels, we can define this catastrophic element more accurately with a label - "locked man". Remec himself says that he deals with a confined, chained individual and consequently also with his/her escape out of the difficulties presented in his work, whether this difficulty may be the locked chain of Kurent or a hyperlight2 capsule.«

Majnič also views the following as typical attributes of Remec's work: erotica, ecology, phenomena of time and opposition to technology. »Miha Remec sovereignly walks along the time and space axis. The themes of his science fiction literature negotiate all necessary and possible co-ordinates: past, present, future, spatially (here, where we are, everywhere on the Earth, in celestial and space worlds, also in no-time and no-space). Time is thus (his) universal continuum, slipping and unpredictable, executioner and forgiver, self-sufficient and eternal; in-finite.«

Therefore it is not surprising, that Miha Remec returns again and again to time snares of "time-going, time-outgoing and time-ingoing" as he does in time travel novel Trapan's Chronographies (Trapanske kronografije). The novel appeared in the feuilleton of Nedelo newspaper during 1995 to 1997 and was a bitter mockery of the new times of Slovenia's independence. Whereas Slovenia is a small country in a big world, in the novel, Trapans live on their small planet within a vast universe.

Miha Remec's opus is large and gives a special characteristic to Slovene science fiction literature. He received extremely positive coverage from literary critics. In the A to Z encyclopaedia (Vsevednik, TZS 1991) on page 442, under the keyword "novels" in the sub-category "anti-utopian novel", essayist and translator Drago Bajt lists: »Zamyatin: We; Huxley: Brave New World; Orwell: 1948; Remec: Iksion.« In the forty-first volume of Literary Lexicons (DZS, 1994), Metka Kordigel put Remec right next to Orwell. Despite all these acknowledgements of his work, Remec did not enjoy any special attention or recognition from the Slovene literary community.

However, in 1981 in Zagreb (Croatia) he was awarded the honour prize "Sfera" for the best science fiction novel (Recognition), and in 1987 he was rewarded the same prize for the science fiction story (Monument for Evridika).

This indicates that the older traditionalists in Slovene literature wrongly view science fiction as "incorrect" (not proper) literature that is out of the main literary stream. Although many recognised and acknowledged writers, young philologists and literary historians occasionally dealt, and are still dealing with, science fiction, due to lack of knowledge they often overlook Slovene science or they re-discover it all over again.

In Remec's science fictional opus, there are numerous significant parts that we could put down as a closure to this detailed but short illustration of his work and life. Almost randomly, we have chosen the ending of the novella Astral Lighthouses:

He raised himself and knelt. His eyes could not stray away from this magnificent sight. He did not notice Eva until she was only just a few steps away from him. Her eyes were smiling mischievously; she was in the same marching clothes she had worn a year before when she left, her long hair was tied back and she behaved as though they had never separated.

Adam was not surprised to see her either. He had known all along that at the end there would be Eva.

»You are here then, Eva,« he said while still kneeling.

»Here, Adam.«

»Right at the end,«

»At the end of ends, Adam.«

»So there was a shortcut?«

She nodded and knelt down next to him. She touched his dried and swollen mouth with her moist lips. He felt revived, as if she would give him food and drink with her kiss.

»What about the answer, Eva?« he asked during the kisses.

»Look toward the east, Adam...« she whispered mysteriously.

Adam Bard turned to look and was astonished.

»It is so simple then...« he sighed.

See also

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