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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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10. Searching for a “God of Justice” in the Novel The Bailiff Yerney and His Rights (1907)


← 174 | 175 → 10.Searching for a “God of Justice” in the Novel The Bailiff Yerney and His Rights (1907)

The Bailiff Yerney and His Rights was created around the time in which Cankar unexpectedly accepted the invitation to represent the Social Democrats (he was convinced that he would have won if workers had formed the majority of voters). He wrote the story after the election, but it is not clear whether the elections themselves motivated him to write it or whether it was the chance visit of a common person who had turned unsuccessfully to the courts after a dispute with his brother; however, no existing court would confirm his rights.55

In the novel The Bailiff Yerney and His Rights Cankar depicts a simple man who obeys only God’s authority – and human authority only to the extent that it approaches his conception of perfect justice. His strict unwavering principles and the inability to adapt to the new surroundings in which he finds himself after the death of his master Sitar lead to his inevitable decline. The simple story relates how Yerney had diligently served the old farmer Sitar for four decades, building a new home and cultivating the fields and mountain pastures. When old Sitar dies, his son succeeds him. In contrast to the hard-working, ambitious and considerate previous master, the son is haughty, conceited and contemptuous. Yerney, no longer able to bear the son’s arrogance accuses him of having in no way earned his position, since...

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