Slovenia's first picture book celebrating 100th birthday
Ljubljana, 12 September - Martin Krpan, a tale about a Slovenian salt smuggler who saves the emperor in Vienna from a brutal warrior, celebrates its 100th anniversary this year in a new outfit. The first Slovenian picture book is now available as a reprint with the original illustrations from 1917.
The story by Fran Levstik, which holds a special place in the hearts of Slovenians, was first published by Nova založba with black-and-white illustrations by Hinko Smrekar.
All other editions have been published by Mladinska knjiga, which decided that the jubilee edition will feature the original dozen illustrations by Smrekar, which are kept at the Novo mesto library.
According to art editor Pavle Učakar, the drawings had to be restored, as the paper has turned yellow and the India ink faded.
The drawings are of a bigger format than in the first issue of the book, but the latest reprint includes the drawings in full size, Učakar said. The book comes in a gift box.
Učakar said that Smrekar's depiction of Krpan and other characters was very elaborate.
Other illustrators made Krpan, a peasant from the region of Notranjsko in the late 18th and early 19th century, look somewhat primitive, but although he was from a remote small village, he travelled the world, meeting different people, he said.
In Smrekar's drawings he "wears shoes and socks from Trieste but wears them in a Slovenian way", Učakar said.
Literary historian Matjaž Kmecl agreed, saying that Levstik's Krpan was very clever indeed. He said the author had worked on Krpan for a long time and wrote many versions of the tale.
His target readers were ordinary people not nobility, for whom Levstik had little respect. Levstik wrote the tale to implement his literary programme The Journey from Litija to Čatež and promote the Slovenian national identity.
In the 1858 essay, Levstik provided guidelines for Slovenian authors striving to develop Slovenian literature, especially fiction. Writers were advised to rely on domestic tradition for their themes and thus move towards realism.
In creating the tale of Martin Krpan, Levstik drew his inspiration from folk heritage, which he however completely recreated to also convey some political messages.
Martin Krpan has seen many remakes and has so far been translated to more than a dozen languages. It has also been turned into a comic book, puppet show and cartoon.