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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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13. An Impenitent Sinner’s Confession in the Sketch “Idyll at the Spring” (1909)

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← 201 | 202 → 13.An Impenitent Sinner’s Confession in the Sketch “Idyll at the Spring” (1909)

In his final sketches, Cankar increasingly emphasises the necessity for the impenitent sinner to cleanse his heart. And so in the sketch “Idyll at the Spring” (1909), he describes how a man, “who had kept silent for twenty- five years,” wishes to go to confession. The first confessor is not acceptable because “he was not a holy man.” But when they show him a second, who is wrapped in a grey robe and whose face is hidden in an enormous hood. The man

Hurried… tremblingly, longingly; he knelt down onto the stone under the window, folded his hands, and lowered his head.… A strange sense of anguish came down from the heavens to earth. Is it already dusk? Did God’s hand block out the sun? – A dark memory reached into his soul. Watery-eyed fears gazed out from among the chestnut trees. One trembling hand grasped the other. From the confessional there was muffled whispering, hidden sobs. If only it had been a cutting cry, loud weeping! The confessor spoke. A human ear has never heard such a voice. What was the word that unlocked the doors, raised the bolt, set twenty-five years ago? “God!” Time turned to stone; the heart stopped, dumb in its horror.Confessor, raise the hand to bless, redeem us!… The sinner got up. As if he were in the throes of fever, a violent trembling bent him and lay...

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