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The page of Štrasser, Ján, English Reception

Image of Štrasser, Ján
Štrasser, Ján
(1946–)

Reception

CHARACTERISTICS OF HIS WORK
The varied activities of poet, song lyric writer; journalist and trans­lator are connected with the name of ran Štrasser. He started as a promising literary critic of the generation. which engaged in polemics with the exclusive poetics of the ‘Concretist’ group (cf. Stacho, Mihalkovič). Paradoxically, his poetic debut. Renunciation, in many aspects follows the example of the concretise complexly coded imagery. In the Seventies, during the era of ‘normalization’ following the crushing of the Prague Spring, he joined the authors, who didn’t publish books and redirected his energy to the freer field of song texts. His second collection. Subject, was a break­through. Štrasser realised that his imagery was not his forte and he concentrated on the sad wit of poetic observations and „sharply cutting lyrical aphorisms” (Albín Bagin). In his lively collection, Daily, we find amorous episodes with sprightly sketched details, illustrating the co-existence of men and women. Beginning with Live Broadcast Štrasser offers us a lot of the so-called banal family conflicts, which in fact are not banal because they deeply influence life. Watching television can lead to a quarrel and even generate a feeling of suppression of freedom, if one of the partners cannot change to his/her favourite programme. That is no hyperbole. The phantom of the mass media causes desensitization – “anaesthetization”, to use the term of W. Welsch - because people redirect their interest to subjects that are being sewed by the television program­mes. Although Štrasser recognizes the role of thought in creative work, he polemicizes with a stark rationality as an attitude to life. Especially in the collection Roadworks Ahead he refuses to be a Rimbaud-like surrealistic magus or a Parnassian creator. The poet is presented in the form of a simple man. He sees writing as everyday work, and with a hidden irony contrasts this fact with the position of the poet / bard, belonging to the elite of the nation. He points out that the new ten crown banknote features the portrait of the representative, but little read classic Hviezdoslav, owing to which he finally ‘belongs to his people’, Štrasser’s satirical and at the same time intensely personal utterance is distinguished by the self-irony of someone who almost could be the little man, slightly impractical in a too real and sometimes even disenchanting world. Owing to his many-sided gifts Ján Štrasser represents an unusual type of an intuitive and at the same time dexterous poet, mastering the high and low genres of poetry and verse. He could be considered a distant counterpart of the Enlightenment classicist Bohuslav Tab­lic, who wrote sublime anacreontic lyrics alongside garish ballads for books of popular reading. Štrasser visibly reflects the changed status of the poet, a professional craftsman working with words. What he stresses is not the exclusivity of the poet, but cooperative partnership. Owing to his satirical verses sung in the television programme of the satirist M. Markovič, this talkshow became one of the most popular programmes in Slovakia in the Nineties. Štras­ser has developed a new form of a social engagement, which is filled first and foremost with human decency and without rhetorical agitation and straining for effect. On the contrary, feelings are expressed in a subdued way and the expression is easier to understand. Štrasser spontaneously bypasses the more coded post­symbolist and avant-garde poetics and thus indirectly addresses his readers as partners. His fragmented expression revels in the clever adaptation of a journalistic and technical style, so that his series of collections from the Eighties and Nineties has got the form of notes from wandering along life’s roads. Their prevailing plain tone, i.e. everyday themes and “urban” style, stands in apparent contrast with the heterogeneous collection The Mouse of Good Hope. Bela­tedly it brings allegories on the political oppression following 1968, written a long time ago. His latest book Ey,e Background confirms that the author creates from words rather than inspiration. This brings him to the effort of trying to drop superfluous ballast by using the briefest form possible, the Japanese haiku. Here, too. he preserves a boyish energy, but also a mature scepticism, political drive, sarcasm, and playfulness as well as seriousness. The apparent cynicism in his work always hides an inclination to sentiment. Besides this he continues sketching the image of a semiotized world where newer and newer signs suppress direct contact. He claims that instead of people, answering machines start to communicate between themselves, and in this way he ironizes the sentimental exclamation. “Oh, / how unansweringly / we depend on one an­other”. In the literature of the Eighties the issue of the enviroment came to the fore in the social-cultural conditions of the time. But in connection with Štrasser we can speak also about an inner ecology through the mining out of human honour under unfavourable conditions. Through both ecological dimensions - by asking questions about the global destruction of civilization and at the same time through internal purification - he is related with the more imaginative work of his fellow travellers, Ivan Štrpka and Ivan Laučik. Štrasser can represent the individual events of life in a way that practically everybody can identify with. This art makes him one of the most specific contemporary Slovak writers, who presents his hidden appeal for a tolerant attitude of man to man without any moralizing.

ON THE AUTHOR
Štrasser’s poems are the Don Quixotiads of everyday life, where be­hind the troubles of Sancho Panza we perceive the contours of Don Quixote, behind the humdrum life of wives, lovers and mothers a glimpse of Dulcinea, behind everyday troubles with children the fairy tale desire for successors - if not to the throne, at least to po­liteness, tact, grace and favour. In this sense many of Štrasser’s song texts are poems at the same time, and many of his poems are songs. They are the 
songs of the ordinary citizen with the civic life, which should just be “watered and it’ll go green”. But if there is anything that lift, this person and this life above the ephemeral mutually exchangeable it is his own self-reflection. (Peter Zajac)

His poetic method precludes any kind of ornament, poeticising, and aestheticizing, but also sentimentality and emotionalism, which should be noted, because he does not choose great themes, taking things from life in the way they appear ordinarily (moving flats, using a deodorizer, a healthy walk and so on), and he presents then in the same way, relying on the new order in which he places them inside the poem. (Jozef B
žoch) Štrasser is a poet sparkling with humour and wit, with inventive aphoristic ideas, sensitive observations and analyses of contem­porary reality which always surprise the reader with an aesthetically effective and astonishing poetic punch line. (Eva Jenčíková)

AWARDS
Ivan Krasko Prize for the poetic debut of the year – Renunciation (1968)
Prize of Smena publishing house for poetry - Renunciation (1968)
Premium of the Association of Organisations of Writers in Slovakia for the collection Roadworks Ahead (1989)
Ján Holl
ý Prize for the translation of The Last Days of Mankind by Kral Kraus (1987, together with Peter Zajac)
Zora Jesenská
Prize for the translation of an anthology of German expressionist poetry Shout and Silence of the Century (Krik a ticho storia, 1999, together with Peter Zajac)
Ján Holl
ý Prize for the translation of Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin (2003)
Anthology ::
Literature ::
Translation ::

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