Berta Bojetu Boeta

Berta Bojetu (detail). Photo Rudi Španzel, Center for Slovenian Literature

Born in 1946 in Maribor, died in 1997 in Ljubljana. Actress and one of the most prominent post-war literary figures.

When she was young, Berta Bojetu Boeta expressed her love of poetry by authoring the first known graffiti in Maribor on the walls of the Slavija underpass. The verse “Green, how I want you green” by Federíco Garcia Lorca written in green spray paint left an impression on the minds of the people and became such an important urban legend that it was recreated many years later by the mayor himself after the underpass underwent a much-needed renovation in 2013.

Poet, author, film actress (When I Close My Eyes, 1993) and, most notably, theatre actress Berta Bojetu Boeta worked at the Ljubljana Puppet Theatre and Koreodrama, an avant-garde theatre she helped found. It was at Koreodrama that her poetic play Pogovori v hiši Karlstein premiered in 1984. At the 1986 Maribor Theatre Festival, the most prominent professional theatre festival in Slovenia hosted by the Slovenian National Theatre Maribor since 1966, her play received a special certificate of recognition from the jury.

Her curious and restless poetic soul explored various genres of art, always in search of a deep, symbolic meaning of everyday life. As a librarian at the Maribor Library where she worked between 1970 and 1971, she stayed in touch with the belles-lettres, developing her own poetic style. Today, it is thanks to her style that she is more known for her modest, but pioneer literary oeuvre than her acting career.

Filio ni doma shows the suffering as well as the hope of women trapped in a patriarchal society.

She caught the critics’ attention with her very first poetry collection Žabon (1979), stepping into the limelight of the Slovenian literary scene at the time. Its female lyrical subject openly makes erotic advances at a man, a novelty in Slovenian poetry that raised many eyebrows and caused quite a scandal in literary circles upon its publication. Today, Žabon is considered a ground-breaking work and has become part of the canon.

The author evolved her original, post-modern language abound with symbols in the poetry collection Besede iz hiše Karlstein (1988), in which a woman courts another woman. In 2017, on the 20th anniversary of her untimely death, the Maribor Puppet Theatre put on a puppet play based on this collection. The programme read: “In the poetry and the whole poetics of Berta Bojetu, words resound with symbols building a world in which every individual is marked and helpless before their destiny and the higher power that manages their pain and grace. With Eros and Thanatos. With love and death.”

Love and death also feature in her works of prose, most prominently in her anti-utopian debut Filio ni doma (1990) and its sequel Ptičja hiša (1995), which experts consider to be one of the highlights of 1990s Slovenian narrative prose. In the novel Filio ni doma, marked by a rhythmic style, a fragmented storyline and shifts in narrative perspective, the woman is reduced to a uterus and considered a baby-making machine. Much like the world-famous Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, this feminist dystopia shows the pain and suffering as well as the hope and persistence of women trapped in a patriarchal society, while probing the question of their share of the blame for the status quo.

Her longest book of prose, Ptičja hiša, continues the poetic but brutal story of women and men, and the circle of violence in which they are caught. It won her the 1996 Kresnik Award for best novel, the first female author in history to be awarded this Slovenian literary prize. Ptičja hiša has been the subject of several treaties and studies in the field of literary history, including a study on post-war East-European literature published by the renowned Columbia University in New York. Two of the author’s works were published posthumously: Rozalija (2016), a text written as a TV script, which is yet to be performed, and Zbrane pesmi (2017) which contain two extensive, never-before-published cycles, namely Uri and Druge pesmi.

Slavija underpass

The walk around the centre of Maribor and along the paths connected with the life and work of Berta Bojetu Boeta is a good kilometre long. It leads from the Slavija underpass (under Titova cesta) to the Slovenian National Theatre Maribor (Slovenska ulica 27) and the Maribor Library (Rotovški trg 9) and ends outside the Maribor Puppet Theatre (Vojašniški trg 2a), located in a beautiful Minorite monastery in the oldtown. With the exception of the underpass, the path is accessible for persons with reduced mobility.