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Justice and Redemption

Anthropological Realities and Literary Visions by Ivan Cankar

Irena Avsenik Nabergoj

The book shows Ivan Cankar (1876–1918) as the first Slovenian writer to examine the human conscience, justice, guilt and punishment in a way comparable to Shakespeare, Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, and influenced also by the Bible. Given Cankar’s own bitter childhood experience of poverty and his awareness of the ceaseless injustice which rules the world, he has compassion for the wrongdoings carried out by people from lower social realms, especially children, and is all the more critical towards higher classes who cause their suffering. In his last book, Dream Visions, he reveals his experience of the First World War. He encompasses feelings of fear and anguish before death and surpasses them with the faith in redemption of all suffering people.
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9. “Dead Homes” and Longing for Salvation: The Suffering and Death of Innocent Girls as Salvation from the Evils of the World in Works by Cankar, Dostoyevsky and Hauptmann

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← 132 | 133 → 9.“Dead Homes” and Longing for Salvation: The Suffering and Death of Innocent Girls as Salvation from the Evils of the World in Works by Cankar, Dostoyevsky and Hauptmann

The suffering and deaths of innocent children is a frequent theme in Ivan Cankar’s works. This theme is poignantly presented in his novels The Ward of Our Lady of Mercy (1904) and Nina, which appeared two years later. Both novels contain clearly symbolist elements in terms of both narrative technique and style. In this section I compare the themes of suffering and deaths of innocent, emotionally neglected girls from a poor environment, as portrayed in selected works by Ivan Cankar, Gerhart Hauptmann and Fyodor Dostoyevsky. I focus in particular on how they experience suffering in their illness and their approaching deaths. In this context, a very prominent motif is that of the longing for salvation, through death, from the evil and sins of the world. They sense that death will bring them the peace and long- awaited meeting with departed ones who truly loved them in life.

9.1The Girls’ Longing for Death and for Heaven as Salvation from the Physical, from Sin and from Evil in Cankar’s The Ward of Our Lady of Mercy (1904)

Cankar believed that his novels The Ward of Our Lady of Mercy (1904) and Nina (1906), which contains a similar central theme, “would remain longer than all of the other” novels, as they “grew naturally from” him.47 He...

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