Van kleine helden
Richard de Nooy
Andrej Blatnik

Unbearable Joy – a Slovenian translation from my latest novel

Neznosna radost Unbearable Joy – is the beautiful Slovenian title of a story from my latest novel Van kleine helden (All The Little Heroes), which was recently published in the leading Slovenian literary magazine Literatura.

Translated by Mateja Seliškar, the story was inspired by several short stories from Law of Desire (Dalkey Archive Press, 2014), an anthology by Slovenian author Andrej Blatnik, whose superb stories paint a near-surrealistic picture of life in Ljubljana. In one of the stories, What We Talk About, a man meets a woman in a library and accompanies her to her apartment, where he discovers that she has a rather unusual job, writing biographies intended for only one reader. A fascinating premise for a story.

In my own story, I transported this couple further into the future, where they are former lovers who meet once a year, on the man’s birthday. The man is a once successful author, whose first collection of stories was a mega-bestseller, partly because he stole his muse’s stories. Since she left him, he has been unable to write a second book, spending his days in library and he nights drowning his sorrows.

Because the opening dialogue is a little too long for a blog post, I’ve chosen a short excerpt that will hopefully appeal to any writer’s reading this. Enjoy.

“The success had been relentless. Five years after the release of his short story collection, he was still regularly getting invitations to read at schools. It began to dry up soon thereafter, as rumours of his lewd conduct and diminishing reliability had spread among teachers nationwide. He had also become more and more embarrassed and annoyed by the eternal questions about his long-awaited second book. And so he remained a promising newcomer, a one-hit wonder, Icarus who had flown too high above the labyrinth with his wings of wax, dropping like a stone into the waves below. He had survived the fall, but that was even harsher punishment, because he was forced to contemplate his arrogance and insignificance as he floated around; constantly confronted with his inability to take flight on his broken wings; repeatedly reminded that he could never write anything better than the story of their nascent love; eternally indebted to her for her generosity and forgiveness. Yes, she had eventually left him for someone else, somewhere in the mesmerising fog of his emerging fame, but she had never been offended by the fact that his fame was fuelled by her ideas, her personal experiences, which she has shared with him back when they were still studying in the library, when they had more future than past, when she was not yet aware that her intriguing occupation would one day be used to build the title story of his award-winning anthology. She had assured him, again and again, that no one could have told her story as beautifully as he had, but he could never forget that it was her baby, kidnapped and lovingly raised by him, after which it had turned on him and ruthlessly orchestrated his demise.”