Aleš Debeljak, Slovenian writer, Died at 54

Aleš Debeljak was born on December 25, 1961, and died on January 28, 2016.

He was a Slovenian cultural critic, poet, and essayist.

Aleš graduated from comparative literature at the University of Ljubljana in 1985.

Debeljak resumed his studies in the United States, obtaining a Ph.D in sociology of culture at Syracuse University in 1989.

Later he was a Senior Fulbright fellow at the University of California, Berkeley.

His next job was at the Institute for Advanced Studies Collegium Budapest, the Civitella Ranieri Center and the Bogliasco Liguria Study Center for the Arts and Humanities.

During the mid-1980s onwards, Debeljak took an active part in civil society movements.

Aleš Debeljak decided to return to Slovenia at the time of the cessation of Yugoslavia as, he said, he did not want to be a “Balkan-observer” from abroad, but preferably take part directly in those moments.

Like everyone else he had come to accept the idea of Slovenian independence as a second-best option due to the lack of better choices, as every plan for reforming Yugoslavia while conceding more autonomy to Slovenia and Croatia had failed.

Ales still maintained and appreciate his double identity as a Slovene and as a Yugoslav, and thought that independence had actually limited Slovenia’s cultural references: “we lost our attachments to the people of the South, and at the same time we did not gain the same type of emotional attachment to Austria and to other European countries”.

In 1991, Debeljak toiled as an interpreter for foreign media during the Ten-Day War and witnessed first-hand the Yugoslav-Slovene armed clashes at the Austrian border in Gornja Radgona.

Mr.Debeljak described the experience as something that changed his point of view, as something that had been deemed impossible was actually taking place, “as if we were in a movie”.

He was one of the co-editors of the critical alternative journal Nova revija.

He also participated in the social liberal think tank Forum 21, led by former President of Slovenia Milan Kučan.

Ales was also a professor of cultural studies at the Faculty for Social Studies of the University of Ljubljana.

Since 2001, he began the journal Sarajevo notebooks, in order to re-establish communication and connections between intellectuals and activists throughout former Yugoslavia, and create regional public forums of reconciliation.

Aleš Debeljak wife was a columnist, translator, and American-Slovenian writer Erica Johnson Debeljak, with whom he had three children.

Aleš Debeljak passed away at 54 yrs old due to a car crash.