Anton Baláž foto 2
Foto ©Peter Procházka

Anton Baláž

20. 9. 1943
Lehota pod Vtáčnikom
editorial activities, nonfiction, other, , radio production, general fiction
Baláž is one of the foremost Slovak novelists. In his first works he followed the tradition of the social novel. They bear features of narration, with parallel plot lines and a complex composition of changing settings and time zones. Baláž demonstrates a gift for characterisation in portraying his protagonists, inventiveness in plotting, ingenuous composition, and the ability and courage to define and name the social evils of the age. After his first novel Gods of the Four Seasons had been banned from distribution and pulped, he entered literature with the novels Dream of the Cellars and Shadows of the Past, where he captured the anti-fascist resistance of the last period of the Second World War and the first post-war years in their whole complexity. His novel Greenhouse Venus deals with the issue of the scientific-technological revolution and with its effects, both favourable and deleterious, on man and nature. The situation of the allegedly privileged labour class, its way of life, its problems, worries and joys was the theme of Baláž's two novels You Must Live Here and An Armchair for Two. The attitudes of social criticism in the last years of the totalitarian regime can be heard from the mouths of representatives of various social groups in a collection of loosely connected stories A Surgical Decameron. In the books of short stories, Giddy Up, Stalin's Horses!, The Chronicle of Happy Tomorrows, and especially in the novel The Camp of Fallen Women Baláž's poetics begin to be dominated by a grotesque and fantastical perception of reality. The Camp of the Fallen Women is a carnivalesque image of the "historical liquidation" of prostitution in Slovakia in the Fifties. Together with erotic licence the tale has an Orwellian dimension: it shows a world in which the perverted philosophy of social engineering prevails, the society is treated like an ant heap where every class and group fulfil a historically determined task and disobedience results in liquidation in a camp. This novel had a great response from readers and represents one of the peaks of Baláž's work. In the second half of the Nineties Baláž discovered new thematic areas for his work: the Holocaust of the Slovak Jewish community and the post-war destiny of those Jews who survived the German extermination camps and tried to discover a new meaning in life. In addition to his radio plays The Rift, Reviving and Ophelia Is Not Dead, the tragic fate of the Jewish community forms the thematic base of his novel, The Country of Forgetting. It is a story of Central European Jews attempting to move to Israel - "the country of forgetting" the trauma and humiliation which they encountered in the totalitarian regimes in the first half of the twentieth century. Read more