Even if we didn’t immediately label Jana Juráňová as the hard core of Slovak feminism, with regard to her education and scope of knowledge she is definitely a conspicuous part of its brain centre. But even in the greatest fervour of the debate her talent does not allow her to write schematic propaganda and “didactic stories”. She can become very indignant and she does not spare venomous, but usually rightly measured irony. In her prose works we are nearly always surprised to also find inner dissatisfaction and sadness about a forlorn life that tragically is not as it should be – if it ever was.
Juráňová has ruffled the surface of inertia and offered a different, more bizarre and less historically and ideologically encumbered and static, fossilised picture of our national revivalists.
In her latest book Žila som s Hviezdoslavom / My Life with Hviezdoslav Jana Juráňová has captured the life of Ilona Országhová – the wife of our greatest poet. She has tried to present an untraditional portrait of this great poet, looking at her subject from the feminist point of view with the aim of deconstructing the myth of the genius and concentrating on the wider range of conditions, impulses and connections. She is, however, primarily interested in the portrait of his intelligent wife, Ilona, who, within the limits for women of the period, was also well-educated. The author’s narration takes the form of an overlapping of the ageing widow Iona’s memories of the past and descriptions of the present. Even though the reconstruction of the life of this married couple is based on documentary materials (their correspondence obviously being the most important),and on what we know about the poet, his work and times, something has been breathed into the figure of Ilona that comes, as the author herself says, from her “unruly imagination”. Here “unruliness” means untraditionality, non-submission to conventions, not even to certain literary history paradigms; the courage to break down customary barriers. Along with this “unruliness” Juráňová has shown in the text one more important trait: an ability not only to look with great (gender sensitive) empathy at the life of an “ordinary” nineteenth-century educated, cultured woman from our environment (with the strict limitations imposed on her activities), but also to clearly imagine herself in her position, with her thoughts and feelings. Thanks to Juráňová Ilona, the loving and caring wife of Hviezdoslav, has come to life, symbolically representing the wives, daughters and mothers of prominent figures that history usually relegates to the fringes of memory. And thanks to her the portrait of the poet has been given new life and “humanised”.