Monday, May 24, 2010


Via The Bratislava Theatre Institute has launched a website titled Slovak Drama in Translation which aims to introduce those few unfortunate souls who haven't managed to learn Slovak yet to, you guessed it, Slovak playwrights and their work. To be quite honest, most of the names included don't ring a bell, but I'm happy to report that it includes the true greats, such as Milan Lasica. To be precise, he and his long-time partner in crime Július Satinský (collectively known as Lasica a Satinský or L&S) fall somewhere between cabaret, stand up (Dialogues) and theatre - absurd - proper (Deň radosti, in French), but whatever the genre, their work undoubtedly belongs to the best our small literary scene has to offer. My only worry is that in addition to what is lost in the transfer from one medium to another, a lot of the punch the original packs (including the best wordplay ever) cannot be adequately translated.
All of the above is true, even more so, of Stanislav Štepka and his more or less amateur troupe "Radošinské naivné divadlo" (aka Radošinci). While Štepka's later work may be somewhat formulaic, his two most famous plays Jááánošíííík (1970, a drop dead funny and spot on deconstruction of a popular myth rivalled only by a 1976 movie Pacho hybský zbojník where, as chance would have it, Lasica a Satinský served as screenwriters) and Človečina (1973, roughly: "Human Condition", equally funny, but even more tragic and hard hitting look an average Slovak family) have become a firm part of Slovak popular culture to such extent that some (including yours truly) are able to recite large portions by heart. Neither play is, however, currently available in translation and I am not surprised. In most his plays, Štepka mixes his own Western Slovak dialect with standard Slovak and does so many wonderful things to both that I feel truly sorry for all of you who will never hear or see it the way we do. So enjoy the rest, such as it is. And learn Slovak.