Svetlana Makarovič

Svetlana Makarovič

Svetlana Makarovič in August 2011 at Ljubljana Town Hall
Born (1939-01-01) 1 January 1939
Maribor, Slovenia
Occupation Writer, poet, actress, illustrator and chanteuse
Nationality Slovenian

Svetlana Makarovič (born 1939) is a Slovenian writer of prose, poetry, children's books, and picture books, and is also an actress, illustrator and chanteuse. She has been called "The First Lady of Slovenian poetry."[1] She is also noted for borrowing from Slovenian folklore to tell stories of rebellious and independent women.[2] She is well-known adult and youth author. Her works for youth have become a part of modern classic and youth canon, which both hold a special place in history of the Slovenian youth literature. She won the Levstik Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2011.[3]


Makarovič finished secondary school for pre-school teachers in Ljubljana. In the early 1960s she began with study of various humanistic sciences (psychology, pedagogics, ethnology and foreign languages), she played piano in various cafes and for a short period she was a secretary and teacher for children with special needs. In 1968, she finished her study at Academy for Theatre, Radio, Film and Television. She was an actress in the Ljubljana city Theatre and the Slovene National Theatre. She is a freelance writer since 1970.[4]


Adult works

Makarovič started publishing her works in magazines and newspapers in 1957. Her first poem, In the Black Pavement (Slovene: V črnem tlaku) was published in the magazine Mlada pota ("Young Paths"; 1952–1962). Other poems and magazines, in which she published, were: Naša sodobnost ("Our Contemporaneity"; 1953–1963),[5][6] Tribuna ("The Tribune"; 1951–),[7] Problemi ("Problems"; 1962, 1963),[8] Perspektive ("Perspectives"; 1960–1964), Sodobnost ("Contemporaneity"; 1963–)[9] and Dialog ("The Dialogue").

Her first poem collection, called Somrak ("Twilight"), was published in 1964. This one, as well as her all other works in the second half of the 1950s and early 1960s, follows the predominant path of the Slovenian lyric poetry from Intimism to Modernism. In the collection Kresna noč ("The Midsummer Night"; 1968), she expressed her personal poetics based on traditional poetic forms. Her folk poetry-based poems present a new expression of existential crisis of modern man. In the beginning of the 1970s, her poetry became more harsh in terms of form. Tragical and balad mood was the prevailing one. An example is the collection of poems Bo žrl, bo žrt ("Will Eat, will be Eaten"; 1998). Creative peaks came with her collection Srčevec ("The Heart Potion"; 1973) and the anthology Izštevanja ("Count Out"; 1977). Her poem anthology, Samost ("Aloneneness") was self-published in 2002.

In February 2012, Svetlana Makarovič published a ballad fairy tale, titled Sneguročka ("Snegurochka"), which was inspired by the Russian fairy tale character Snegurochka. Makarovič has had great passion for Russian tradition since childhood.[10]

Youth poetry

Makarovič started releasing her youth works after 1970. In her prose works, she developed her own individual style, which is known for its original naming of characters: the witch Sophie (coprnica Zofka, the hen Emily (kokoška Emilija, the baker Mišmaš (pek Mišmaš and others. These characters have premeditated character with archetypical motive of leaving home, hurt child, orphan child.

Svetlana Makarovič writes predominantly modern animal stories (picture books Pekarna Mišmaš ("Mišmaš Bakery"; 1974)[11] and Sapramiška ("Sapramouse"; 1976), collections Take živalske ("Such Animal Ones"; 1973), Mačja preja ("Cat Yarn"; 1992) and Veveriček posebne sorte ("A Special Kind of Squirrel"; 1994)), with primarily myth-based main characters, as well as fantastic fiction (Haramija; 2005). The protagonists are animals, living in a special world and who have similar characteristics as human (they talk and act like them). The reality in the stories is not idealised. It includes cruel, selfish, envious people; gossips, grown-ups who limit children's playfulness – the reasons why these animals go through moments of loneliness, despair and sadness. Noticeable innovation of her works are taboos (e.g. sex and elimination)[12] Škrat Kuzma dobi nagrado ("Kuzma the Gremlin Wins a Prize"; 1974) and Coprnica Zofka (1989) are regarded as stories with primarily myth-based main characters. Her stories point out, in its very core, non-understanding and non-acceptance of difference. Representative fantastic stories are Kosovirja na leteči žlici ("Cosies on the Flying Spoon"; 1974), Kam pa kam kosovirja? ("Where to, Oh Where to, Cosies"; 1975) and Mi, kosovirji ("We, Cosies"; 2009). The storyteller is taking the side of free being and opposes rules and demands of authorities. Some of her works were tape recorded (Pekarna Mišmaš (1976), Sapramiška (1986), Čuk na palici ("Owl on the Stick"; 1988), Mali kakadu ("The Little Cockatoo"; 1989), Sovica Oka ("Oka the Owl"; 1992) and others).

Curriculum for Slovenian language at schools

Her works have been recommended in Curriculum for Slovene language[13] (2011): Jaz sem jež ("I'm a Hedgehog"), Čuk na palici, Pismo ("A Letter"), Sovica Oka, Papagaj in sir ("The Parrot and the Cheese"), Zajček gre na luno ("The Bunny Goes to the Moon"), Razvajeni vrabček ("Spoilt Little Sparrow"), Pod medvedovim dežnikom ("Under the Bear's Umbrella"), Jazbec in ovčka ("The Badger and the Sheep"), Prašičkov koncert ("The Pig Concert"), Pekarna Mišmaš, Coprnica Zofka, Kosovirja na leteči žlici, Miška spi ("The Mouse Sleeps"), Volk in sedem kozličkov ("The Wolf and the Seven Little Goats"), Kam pa kam, kosovirja, Jutro ("The Morning").

Music participation

She has published some books of chansons, e.g. Krizantema na klavirju ("Chrysanthemum on Piano"; 1990), and has performed her own works on musical recitals before invitation-only audiences. The subjects of her chansons are very like those of her poems - the lyrics address the fields of modern family upbringing, social habits, moral norms and social conventions. A difference is that in her chansons there is more humor.

She has recorded albums of her interpretations of her own chansons: Nočni šanson ("Night chanson" - 1984); Dajdamski portreti ("Dajdamski Portraits" - 1985); Pelin žena ("Poison Woman" - 1985, with Dennis González); Namesto rož ("Instead of Flowers" - 1999).[4]

She also wrote lyrics for some standards: Mesto mladih , Na na na (Neca Falk), V Ljubljano (Marjana Deržaj)[14] and an intro song for the movie Sreča na vrvici (Marjeta Ramšak).

Cooperation with the Ljubljana Puppet Theatre

Her work named Sovica Oka was introduced in 1972 on the stage of Ljubljana Puppet Theatre.[15] Sapramiška is a puppet show which was played most times. It was first performed on 17 October 1986. Svetlana Makarovič cooperated with LGL in many ways – she wrote and put music to lyrics; wrote and adapted text, made the designs for puppets and sets; she even performed sometimes. She played a part in 31 shows; she was a host in Italy, Austria, Mexico, Australia, and Croatia.

Selection of stage acts from Svetlana Makarovič

Criticism of Slovenian society

Svetlana Makarovič quit the Slovene Writers' Association, because she disagreed with the standards for allocation of membership. She believed that the main criterion should be quality, not quantity. She defied official publishers, claiming they only exploit authors. Besides that, she strived for social rights of freelance artists. She stood up for the founding of a new, opened to pluralism and only-literature dedicated magazine (1980), but did not cooperate with Nova revija, which started to come out in 1982. Current political and ideological issues supposedly pushed out the art. She forbade publishing of her works in any anthologies or school books, based on her belief that her black and deathlike poetry would be a big reason that young people hate literature. She regards her works not as national goods but as a protected author property. She opposes communist saying that art is for all people. She declined her placement in the Anthology of Slovenian female writers, because the criterion was gender and not quality.[4]

She expresses her criticism of her social environment through columns.[16] In 2000, she declined the public reception of the Prešeren Award.


Makarovič perceives image of Slovenes as cold-hearted, primitive, hypocritical and servile. She contemptously calls them Slovenceljni.[10] In her satirical poems Pesmi o Sloveniji za tuje in domače goste ("Poems about Slovenia for Domestic and Foreign Guests"; 1984), she disintegrated mythicised self-image of Slovenes using quite witty irony. She portrayed them as narcissistic, primitive, aggressive on the inside, naive on the outside through travesty of popular tale of Martin Krpan and through allusion on Holy Bible. She mocked the same image in her chansons, collected in Krizantema na klavirju (1990)[4]

Anti-Catholic stance

In January 2012, Svetlana Makarović caused a controversy with her statement: "In my opinion the Catholic Church in Slovenia is something one must hate. I feel it as my civic duty." The statement was part of an interview published by the Planet web portal.[17]

The Council of Lay Catholics of Slovenia designated the statement "crooked, primitive and unacceptable", and in contradiction with the Constitution of Slovenia.[18] The office of the Human Rights Ombudsman in Slovenia as well as the Slovenian police have received several initiatives for intervention. The office did not take a stance in this particular case, but has denounced all forms of publicly expressed hatred and intolerance pointed towards individuals and individual groups due to their personal circumstances. Zdenka Čebašek Travnik, the ombudsman, explained: "For me as a person and the human rights ombdusman, it is unacceptable that the artist used her gift in such a harsh way, which hurts and wounds people." Nataša Pirc Musar, the Information Commissioner of the Republic of Slovenia, did not study the case as it was out of her jurisdiction, but condemned the statement. Aleš Gulič, the director of the Office for Religious Communities, explained that he does not see the statement as a call to lynch and added: "It's not nice what the poet said, but actually, she was just angered due to the acts that are really controversial, and due to the concealement of these acts. From her statements, I've only read her personal stance towards the Catholic Church as an institution."[19]


Adult poetry

Adult prose

Youth literature

Prose and poetry works

Storytelling for youth

Fairy tale collections

Author translations and adaptions




Recognition awards



  1. Segel, H.B. (2008). The Columbia Literary History of Eastern Europe Since 1945. Columbia University Press. p. 241. ISBN 9780231508049. Retrieved 2 August 2015.
  2. Juvan, M. (2008). History and Poetics of Intertextuality. Purdue University. p. 159. ISBN 9781557535030. Retrieved 2 August 2015.
  3. "STA: Makarovic Wins Lifetime Achievement Award for Literature". Retrieved 2 August 2015.
  4. 1 2 3 4 (Novak Popov: 2006)
  5. Pesem Midva, Naša sodobnost (1959)dLib
  6. Pesem Nokturno, Naša sodobnost (1959) dLib
  7. Makarovič, Lirika mladih, Tribuna: list slovenskih študentov, 1963, letnik 13, št. 19, Tribuna str. 6 dLib
  8. Makarovič, Pesmi, Problemi: revija za kulturo in družbena vprašanja, 1962/1963, letnik 1, št. 2, str. 156 dLib
  9. Pesem Mlinska vešča, Sodobnost (1963–) dLib
  10. 1 2 "Svetlana Makarovič o temni lepoti, ki se rodi iz gorja" [Svetlana Makarovič About a Dark Beauty, Which is Born from Woe] (in Slovenian). MMC RTV Slovenia. 16 February 2012.
  11. Retrieved 23 June 2011. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  12. (Novak Popov: 2006).
  13. "Učni načrt za slovenščino" (PDF). Retrieved 2 August 2015.
  14. Intervju, Irena Pan, Jana, 6. 1. 2009
  15. "Lutkovno gledališče Ljubljana". Retrieved 2 August 2015.
  16. Recenzija knjige S krempljem podčrtano, zbirke časopisnih kolumn iz Naših Razgledov (1992–1993), Jane (1994) in Sobotne priloge Dela (2004).
  17. Stojiljković, Gordana (6 January 2012). "Nekatere stvari je treba sovražiti" [Some Things Must be Hated]. Planet (in Slovenian). TSmedia, medijske vsebine in storitve, d. o. o.
  18. "Makarovičin sovražni govor: Pirc Musarjeva ne bo podala ovadbe" [The Hate Speech of Makarovič: Pirc Musar will not File a Criminal Complaint] (in Slovenian). MMC RTV Slovenia. 25 January 2012.
  19. "Varuhinja: Svetlana Makarovič je talent uporabila na način, ki prizadeva in rani ljudi" [The Ombudsman: Svetlana Makarovič Used her Talent in a Way that Hurts and Wounds People] (in Slovenian). MMC RTV Slovenia. 25 January 2012.
  20. "Makarovičevi in Sepetu naziv častni meščan , Delo, 2011". Retrieved 2 August 2015.
  21. "Sterijino pozorje". Retrieved 2 August 2015.
  22. Predsednik odlikoval Svetlano Makarovič, 5. 5. 2009
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