As Soon As I Finished Writing the Virus Broke Out

Ivan Medeši, last year's Anasoft Litera laureate, is nominated for the Ján Johanides Prize with his book Jedenie (Eating)

After the Anasoft Litera Award comes another nomination. Has critical praise become the norm for you or do you still get surprised?

No, I'm still waiting for the whole thing to turn around. It feels like the positive feedback can stop suddenly and negative reviews will start flowing in. That's why I take it with a grain of salt. I keep writing as I believe is necessary and I don't think about it. However, receiving positive feedback feels great, it elevates the ego from its mental catacombs. 


Has the success of Eating resonated in Serbia or in Ruski Krstur?

More or less. Many people were pleased and congratulated me. Some shook my hand with the insinuation that it was a lottery win, along the lines with "Congrats that your name got pulled out of the hat." The media within our Rusyn community didn't mention the Slovak literary life or Anasoft Litera too much and people interpreted the whole thing in different ways. The rest of Serbia doesn't know a thing. Only one publishing house has invited me for an interview. They found out about me by chance, someone working there is married to a Rusyn. We met, we talked and that was it. Perhaps they saw that I was an idiot so they back-pedalled. My first interview in a publishing house ever. 


Eating has only come out in Slovak so far. Have you been getting any translation offers? 

No miracles there either. There might be a Czech publication but I'll believe it when I see the book. I would be happy if there were translations - they'd prove that I could really exist as a writer. If I could be a half-time writer, or even a one-quarter... But I am a man with a full-time job and Maroš Volovar has his own life. He can't dedicate all of his time to this. I need to write a good book and everything else will come later. 


Both local and world media have likened the coronavirus quarantine to the state of war. You still remember the war in former Yugoslavia - what is your take on the comparison?

There are some parallels. But just like during the war, I am doing alright. It's a strange moment when being weird is allowed. You don't do anything, go anywhere, take care of yourself. You are asked to sit at home, read books and stick it out. For two years, I've been commuting to work, I didn't have time for anything and now I have been given time. I have been reading, repairing things around the house and I have edited a 6-year-old novel. It wasn't bad at all. 


Were you able to work on your book while you had home office? Is it going to be equally underground as Eating or has your style shifted? 

The new book was finished before the coronavirus, in November, maybe December. So just as I have finished it, the virus broke out. They are two long short stories. One is the story of a slightly stupid village guy and his shenanigans and it has a mellow flow. The other one is about the self-abasement we go through in order to keep our jobs. I don't know if it's underground. I wasn't even sure about the second story and I wondered whether it was really something that I wanted to tell people. It's more about emotions than about reason and morals. It's an experiment. I had to get it out in this form and it will stay like this.

During home office I was also rewriting a novel that has been waiting for me for six-seven years. My plan was to cut 200 pages to 150 but I was only able to get rid of five. We'll see what happens.