Sanje Publishing

Al Araf
by Vladimir Bartol

  • original title: Al Araf
  • short stories
  • first published in 1934, present edition published in 2013
  • translated by Michael Biggins
  • 344 pages
  • rights sold: Turkey (Koridor)
Al Araf

In the Qur’an, Al Araf is the wall dividing heaven and hell: a place of revelation, of knowledge that is power. The might be a bit misleading, but only in the sense that 27 short stories, composing the book, are a psychological and philosophical view of day-to-day problems of urban life. The short stories bear distinct fingerprints of psychoanalysis, which was unusual of Slovenian literary works prevailing social-realism at the time – Al Araf was first published 1936. By describing the destinies of international demonic and eccentric adventurers, the author developed themes related to will, power and absurdity, with which he became a forerunner of existentialism in literature. Bartol followed Plato in the extensive use of dialogue and Edgar Allan Poe in narrative technique. Nevertheless, the thinkers that influenced him most were Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevski, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Sigmund Freud.

After the epic breadth of Alamut, these short stories reveal a different Bartol, an ingenious storyteller. From story to story, the characters and plots add up to create a portrait of the modern man. The stories, owing much to Bartol’s own experience and to his thorough knowledge of psychology, biology, history and especially philosophy, also abound in fantasy and romance. They keep slipping across genre boundaries, from erotic-romantic prose through adventure or crime story to science fiction, always to return to the urgent themes of the collection Al Araf as a whole: problems of knowledge, power, freedom. Al Araf is both a picture of the apocalyptic schizophrenia of contemporary man and a map of his future.

Sample English translation is available in the attachement.