Diaspora writer Zorko Simčič celebrates 100th birthday

Ljubljana, 19 November - Writer, playwright and essayist Zorko Simčič, a recipient of the Prešeren Prize for Lifetime Achievement in literature, celebrates his 100th birthday on Friday. Simčič emigrated in 1945 and became one of the most prominent Slovenian diaspora authors, before returning to Slovenia in 1994.

Decorated Slovenian author Zorko Simčič
Photo: Nebojša Tejić/STA
File photo

Born in Maribor on this day exactly 100 years ago, Simčič first established himself as a writer shortly before the Second World War. In May 1945, he retreated to Carinthia, later went to Italy, and then emigrated to Argentina.

In Buenos Aires, he organised cultural life of Slovenians, was involved with the Slovenian Cultural Action and worked as an editor of a magazine.

Simčič came back to Slovenia in 1994, just a year after his novel The Man on Both Sides of the Wall (Človek na obeh straneh stene) was awarded the Prešeren Fund Prize. The novel has been described by literary historians as the most important narrative work of the Slovenian diaspora.

Simčič's literature is deeply marked by foreignness, the motif of the foreigner, of which he spoke in almost all of his interviews after his return to Slovenia.

"When you go out into the world, you are thrown out of your 'normal life'. You necessarily become different from someone who is born and dies in the same room, maybe even in the same bed," he said.

Simčič was elected an associate member of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts (SAZU) in 2006 and became a full member in 2011. Three years later, he was also awarded the Prešeren Prize for Lifetime Achievement in literature.

His literary work belongs to the canon of 20th century Slovenian literature, said the prize justification by literary historian and essayist Matevž Kos.

The Man on Both Sides of the Wall is the highlight of his writing career that addresses universal dilemmas of life, which are also concrete dilemmas of individuals and displaced persons, set in different time periods and geographical spaces.

© STA, 2021