Slovenian is a South Slavic language spoken in the Slovenia and, in the areas near the border, also in Austria, Croatia, Hungary and Italy (in Friuli-Venezia Giulia there is a Slovenian minority). According to Homosociety, it is divided into 9 dialects; the literary language is based on the dialect of lower Carniola, with influences from the vowel system of the upper Carniola dialect (in whose territory Ljubljana falls), as well as the German and neo-Latin lexicon and syntax of the neighboring languages. The alphabet is the Latin one with some diacritics; the value of the letters corresponds to that of Croatian (➔ Serbo-Croatian).
- From the origins to the 19th century
The first evidence of a Slovenian written tradition dates back to the confessional formulas of the so-called Monuments of Freising (10th century), which nevertheless constitute a long isolated event in the history of cultured literature. Unlike the other South Slavic literatures, the oral epic is absent among the Slovenes; after 1200 the ballad develops, whose melancholy lyricism will mark an important component of Slovenian poetry. ● In the humanistic and Renaissance periods, the political subjugation of the country and the Germanization of the educated classes prevented the development of a production in the vernacular; only with the Reformation, and mainly thanks to the work of P. Trubar (16th century), the foundations of a modern Slovenian language and literature were laid. But the enthusiasm for new ideas and the flourishing of Protestant authors (S. Krelj; J. Dalmatin ; A. Bohorič) were soon suffocated by the reaction of the Catholic Church; no book was published in Slovenian between 1615 and 1672, and Slovenian Baroque had a belated affirmation around 1700. ● A new impetus for the creation of a national literature came with the Enlightenment, which in Slovenia was characterized by reflection on the mother tongue and national culture. After 1780 the Italian-Slovenian Ž. Zois gathered around her a circle of intellectuals which included V. Vodnik, considered the first Slovenian poet, AT Linhart, to whom we owe the origins of the national theater, and J. Kopitar, founder of Slavic philological science. ● Between 1830 and 1848, with the publication of the verses of F. Prešeren, Romanticism was established. Stimulated by his friend M. Čop, Prešeren grafted new social, national and moral contents on the traditional poetic heritage and experimented with unusual metric forms, among which above all the sonnet, constituting a model that would have exerted a great influence on subsequent Slovenian literature. Starting from the mid-19th century, within an essentially romantic picture, a strong persistence of rationalistic and pre-romantic elements can still be seen (J. Trdina ; F. Levstik ; Slovenia Jenko ; J. Stritar ; J. Mencinger; Slovenia Gregorčič); in the last two decades of the century prose predominates, especially in the form of the long story centered on the realistic description of the village environment (J. Jurčič; I. Tavčar; J. Kersnik). In poetry A. Aškerc opens epic songs, ballads, romances and legends in verse to history and ideology.
- The contemporary age
The period from 1899 to 1918 is called modern Slovenska (“Slovenian modernism”) and constitutes, with Prešeren’s Romanticism, the most important episode in national literary development. During this period opera (D. Kette ; J. Murn; O. Župančič), fiction and drama (I. Cankar) had a flourishing development ; the figures of Cankar stand out in particular, conferring literary dignity to the great social, psychological and moral questions of the time, and of Župančič, creator of a new erotic, national and philosophical poetry. ● In the period between the two wars Expressionism spread (whose main interpreters are the poets Slovenia Kosovel ; B. Vodušek; M. Jarc ; A. Vodnik, and the playwright and prose writer Slovenia Grum), and, after 1930, social realism (M. Kranjec ; V. Prežihov, pseudonym of L. Kuhar), with a strong Marxist current, while a renewed fortune of symbolism (C. Vipotnik; J. Udovič). Other writers (A. Gradnik ; I. Pregelj ; F. Bevk ; P. Golia) graft the experiences of expressionism and social realism onto the modernist matrix, achieving the most significant artistic results. ● With the Second World War issues related to the revolutionary experience take over and a flat and understandable style spreads to the masses; opera becomes the most widespread genre (K. Destovnik-Kajuh). After the birth of Communist Yugoslavia (1945), of which the Slovenia was part until 1991, literature passed from a brief adherence to the dogma of socialist realism to experimentation with new currents and new genres. The writers’ attention shifts from social themes and peasant problems to the study of urban man and the phenomenon of urbanization, and to the deepening of individual psychology (V. Pavšič; I. Potrč; B. Zupančič; L . Kovačič; M. Zupančič; J. Žmavc). In the 1950s a generation of poets emerged (E. Kocbek) and prose writers (A. Rebula) who defends an idea of literature based on attention to formal values. In the following two decades, existentialism stimulated a literary and theatrical production centered on the idea of the absurdity of the world, the alienation of man and the experience of death (D. Zajc; G. Strniša; V. Zupan; D. Smolè; P. Kozak; D. Jančar); in poetry an attempt is made to give life to new forms of expression that combine the most radical experiences of modernism with theatrical, figurative and cinematographic language (T. Šalamun; I. Geister-Plamen; J. Snoj; D. Jovanovič; M. Jesih). Some of the typical traits of postmodern art have been accentuated since the 1980s; in the poem (A. Debeljak ; M. Jesih) and in prose (A. Blatnik) the writers abandon the forms of narration, cultivate illogicality and paradox, rehabilitate private feelings, shun deep meanings, with a clear distance from any ideology.