The page of Ballek, Ladislav, English Reception
ReceptionCHARACTERISTICS OF HIS WRITING
Ladislav Ballek first appeared in print with his novella Escape to the Green Meadow. The subject of this prose, as well of those that followed (Lily-Red journey, White Sparrow) are the philosophical problems of a young man who does not want to come to terms with the conventions of social reality. The searching characters soon find out that a rebellion against society leads only to suffering and self-destruction. It does not bring about a liberation of the individual, but gives him a feeling of frustration when he finds himself at a dead end. The injustice and cruelty of the surrounding world inspire hatred and the need for positive action in his characters. Ballek’s work of this period is characterized by expressiveness, epic construction, and imagery with allegorical elements.
Ballek’s next period deals with positive philosophical solutions. He finds them above all in childhood, in his native southern Slovakian countryside. These positive features he further developed in his Southern Mail. He leaves behind the story model and develops his technique in the epic narrative. There he treats very sensitively a clear intellectual story concerned with the fundamental issues of humanity and gives them a positive philosophical charge. The novel Helper is a prototype of pure epic construction where the various concepts of life meet and where, to the background of the fatal transformation brought about by the Second World War, he displays the dramatic destinies of the individual characters. The action takes place on the Slovak-Hungarian border. The dramatic conflict concerns an encounter between an honest and hardworking butcher who has to work with a helper who is an ambitious man achieving success at the price of an open clash with the law.
The complex novelistic composition of The Acacias connects with the previous novel through its epic pathos. Again, Ballek uses the Southern Slovak countryside and draws in high relief a number of major and minor characters that throw themselves with incredible enthusiasm and vigour into the stormy, post-war situation lead by their desire for a better future. Ballek’s work combines nostalgia for the past with an aggressive present, but also with a complex philosophical reflection on European reality of late Forties. This does not detract from the authenticity and effectiveness or sensuousness of Ballek’s style. Both novels belong among the most remarkable and artistically penetrating works of modern Slovak prose.
Ballek’s books that followed continued with his reflexive character, particularly with his unconventional meditation on the meaning of the modern state (Forest Theatre), or his treatment of the traditional generation conflict between Fathers and their children (The Strange Sleeper from the Slovak Paradise). In these works he interpolated many thoughtful passages that, through the individualized characters, comment on the situation of the modern world from the perspective of history and civilization. With his latest book, Ballek turns to a symbolic story of three brothers and touches the philosophical problems of man living in a totalitarian regime. In recent years Ballek turned to essay writing.
ON THE AUTHOR
Ballek’s literary hero is composed of various devices of characterization, but their integrating factor is their social quality. Thus, it is not surprising that even their environment becomes a sort of living character. Ballek’s epic is an interplay of characters and their environment, but it is finer and more complex than in the classical novel of the 19th century, though it may be equally urgent. (Jan Števček)
Ballek resisted emotionalism and his well-balanced ensemble is a marvel of rational fictional construction. Once readers fully enter his world, they sense the subtleties of the text. Within the broad epic strokes of his story telling is an inner world full of psychological and historical echoes, allusions and meanings. These enrich the novels without hindering the narrative. (Peter Petro)
THE AUTHOR ON HIMSELF
I would like to compare the land where I was born and where I grew up to a grocery store on account of its colourfulness and variety of its fragrances. I am its representative. The country around the lower Ipeľ River always reminded me of the primordial land where man originated. Many of those people who live up north think that the country south of Levice is lion country. That’s nonsense and that is why my Palánk is situated in these regions.
A narrator has to love people; or else he won’t be able to say a single decent or interesting thing about them. To write also means to love life, to be enchanted by the existence, to experience deeply even ordinary things, to have respect for human freedom, history, respect for big and small creatures, for nature, but above all for the human spirit.