22 September 2007
Dane Zajc (1929−2005) is one of the most acclaimed contemporary Slovene authors. His last play, Baba Yaga, represents the culmination of his literary career.
Baba Yaga is set in the “heart of the fire,” at the intersection of human and mythical worlds, where Almighty Nature appears. Charcoal burner Gregor, who keeps the charcoal pile burning overnight during the Ember Week, is also a poet. His perception of the world is sensitive and comprehensive: trees and people, real and fairy tale creatures, cruel stories from this world and the world beyond, dreamlike visions and real shadows—all keep him company while he watches that his charcoal pile does not collapse and burn to dust and ashes. If it did, his life would as well. While guarding the pile, he is visited by dead charcoal burners who lost their battle with Almighty Nature. The deceased declare that before their death, the devil sent them the apparition of a beautiful girl who sucked out their life energy in a delightful stupor. The beautiful girl visits Gregor, too, and arouses his lust, which is eventually satisfied by their strange wedding. This wedding will perhaps forever unite weak man and Almighty Nature, bringing together a living world of low human interests and the world of the dead with bad conscience and unsettled accounts. Various guests appear at the wedding including, unwillingly, the charcoal burners who died only recently, but who, because of selfish motives, became involved in the ugly stories of their less recently dead comrades. The dead come to obtain satisfaction. The music and the ritual are performed by a group of devils and witches who loudly mock everything human. In a wild dance, all the stories merge into one—hot blood and the cold grip of death, dreamlike images and sharp rocks, wild heartbeat and scattered, torn limbs.
Although linked to the mythical world of folk tradition, Dane Zajc’s farewell play is deeply personal. He worked on it a lot years and did not really want to finish it completely. What he left us is both the ecstatic poetry of eros and thanatos, and an ironic view of ultimate human acts.
38. Week of Slovenian Drama in Kranj