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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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16. Faith and Doubt in the Mother Sketches from the Ljubljana Period (1909–1918)


← 241 | 242 → 16.Faith and Doubt in the Mother Sketches from the Ljubljana Period (1909–1918)

Cankar’s mother sketches from his Ljubljana period show that only as a child did he trust in God’s protection. Although he remained a believer, it was not in a forgiving and loving God that he believed but rather in a strict judge he felt he was too weak to turn to in prayer. His childhood faith is often described in sketches in which he recalls his, the one who brought God closest to him. Almost all of the mother sketches from the period 1910 to 1914 describe Cankar’s being divided between the desire to approach the model of his mother’s Christian piety and his doubts, which manifested themselves through his childish stubbornness, recklessness and absent-mindedness. Although he often said that he believed in God, as a child he did not feel the need for Church piety, and at the same time he, because he had given up prayer, regularly accused himself for this. Already in childhood, he preferred a dialogue with God to Church piety. In some sketches he states that prayer grants him a blessed sense of spiritual balance, whereas in other works he expresses disappointment because God does not hear his prayers. As a child and then as a student he often did not partake of communal prayer and, instead, preferred to go walking in the woods; after the death of his mother, he distanced himself completely from external forms of...

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