Gorazd Kocijančič

Slovenia

Gorazd Kocijančič (1964) is a well-known philosopher, poet, translator and editor. His book of essays Tistim zunaj: Eksoterični zapisi 1990–2003 (To Those Outside: Exoteric Writings 1990–2003) won the Rožanc Award. Kocjančič’s excellent translation of the collected works of Plato garnered him the Sovre Award, while his poetry book Primož Trubar zapušča Ljubljano (Primož Trubar Is Leaving Ljubljana) received the Prešeren Foundation Award. Kocijančič was one of the collaborators in the publication of the standard translation of the Bible, as well as an editor for the integral Slovene collection Fragmenti predsokratikov (Fragments of the Pre-Socratics). In 2004, he was named Person of the Year by major Slovenian newspaper Delo. He is the author of four books of poetry – Tvoja imena (Your Names, 2000), Trideset stopnic in naju ni (Thirty Steps and We’re Gone, 2005), Certamen spirituale (2008) and Primož Trubar is Leaving Ljubljana (2012) – and of four books of essays. His works have been translated into English, Czech, Serbian, Italian and Russian.


The Slovenian public knows Gorazd Kocijančič not only as a poet but also as a philosopher and translator. He translates from ten different languages, including Ancient Greek, Latin and Hebrew. In 1996, he was one of the collaborators in the standard Slovene translation of the Bible, and he has translated and commented on a number of texts written by Church Fathers. He is also known for single-handedly translating the complete works of Plato, over a thousand pages in total. In 2005, this outstanding translation won him the Sovre Award granted by the Slovene Association of Literary Translators. In 2004, major Slovenian newspaper Delo named him Person of the Year for his translation of Plato’s complete works with notes and comments. Kocijančič’s answer, when asked how his life was changed by Plato and how it was changed by the awards he received for the translation, was terse: “If praise or criticism of any kind could change my life, it would mean Plato has done very little for me.”

 

Together with nine other classical philologists and philosophers, Kocijančič translated Fragments of the Pre-Socratics from Ancient Greek and Latin. The collection was published in 2013 by Študentska založba and consists of 2200 pages. The immensity of the effort is underscored by the fact that Slovene is only the second contemporary language with a complete translation of Pre-Socratic thought. Until the book’s publication, only Italians could boast such a translation.

 

Kocijančič’s essays have received a lot of attention as well. His book To Those Outside: Exoteric Writings 1990–2003, published by Kud Logos, received the 2004 Rožanc Award for Best Essay Colleciton.

 

Gorazd Kocijančič is also the author of four books of poetry: Your Names (Društvo SKAM, 2000), Thirty Steps and We’re Gone (LUD Literatura, 2005), Certamen spirituale (Študentska založba, 2008) and Primož Trubar Is Leaving Ljubljana (Študentska založba, 2012). Kocijančič’s first poetry book had already secured him the place in the eminent anthology of young Slovenian poetry Mi se vrnemo zvečer (We’re Coming Back in the Evening, Študentska založba 2004). His debut was also quite notable because Kocijančič’s poetry is among the few nowadays that try to speak of religious experience. His second book of poetry Thirty Steps and We’re Gone (LUD Literatura, 2005) was an extension of this meditative poetic inspired by religion and full of mysticism. Poet Robert Simonišek described the book saying: “Using religious symbolism, Biblical references, the tradition of Christian mysticism, and negative theology, Kocijančič accesses layers of meaning that everyday language, limited by its straightforward logic, is unable to reveal. That is the reason why the writing of this ‘epic’ is so different from what we find in books by other contemporary authors.” Kocijančič’s next book of poetry Certamen spirituale (Študentska založba 2008) is a high-concept work as well, turning Slovenian poetry back to the classical issue of spiritual struggle.

 

In his last book of poetry, Primož Trubar Is Leaving Ljubljana (Študentska založba, 2008), Kocijančič puts his poems into the mouth of Primož Trubar, founder of Slovene literary language, author of the first book written in Slovene and religious reformer from the 16th century, whose reformist activities got him exiled from Ljubljana. Kocijančič’s book “occurs” precisely in the moment before and after Trubar’s departure. In the introductory note to the book, the author says: “Not much happens in this book and everything seems too obvious. (I don’t recommend it to those who love an exciting tale.) An old, tired man is forced to leave his homeland and go into exile. In the night before, he paces around the house, has trouble sleeping, in the morning he’s a bit nervous about travelling and then in a rather bad mood as he’s saying goodbye to Ljubljana, which is understandable (this is written by a resident of Ljubljana); but then on the wagon that’s carrying him to Germany, his spirits suddenly brighten, which is already a bit less clear. And that’s it.”

 

In spite of the author’s note, more than enough happens in the book; in fact, the book won Kocijančič the greatest honour awarded by the Republic of Slovenia for achievements in the arts, the Prešeren Foundation Award. In truth though, the book doesn’t recount historical facts but rather speaks in the manner of a lyrical confession. In the award’s justification, poet and professor Vid Snoj wrote: “Since the Romantic period, we’ve been used to associate lyrical poetry with confession. Kocijančič’s poetry is different: he reveals not himself, but another. The voice – the poet’s voice sounded through the persona of Trubar – is carrying from within himself a magmatic matter of emotions that crystallize in words and are articulated in a spiritual struggle.”

 

Gorazd Kocijančič is without doubt the author of one of the most unique, singular and acclaimed contemporary Slovenian poetics. However, in face of all the awards and accolades he has received for his achievements in translation, philosophy and poetry, Kocijančič remains somewhat reserved: “That is to say, the ambition of thought is to gaze at the truth, truth with a capital T – but this ambition is not only impossible, it’s so insane, so excessive, that it can be moved neither by applause nor by hissing and booing.”

 

If Kocijančič is sceptical regarding the power of awards and accolades, he is much more appreciative of the power of poetry itself, saying: “… I haven’t yet totally lost hope for poetry to have the power of theurgy. Maybe we just need to find the right combination of letters, the right intention – and a world would change.”

 

Gorazd Kocijančič is also the founder of Logos society, a small publisher focused on fundamental works of Christian, ancient and medieval philosophy. He is an independent culture professional but spends a few days every week at the Manuscript Department of the Ljubljana National and University Library working with manuscript legacies of Slovenian writers. He probably wouldn’t mind being called a filmophile either.