Oton Župančič

8. 7. 2014

07_Oton Zupancic

Oton Župančič (23 January 1878, Vinica – 11 June 1949, Ljubljana) was born in a merchant’s family in the Slovenian region of White Carniola, but later moved to Ljubljana. In 1896, he enrolled at the University of Vienna to study history and geography. He returned to Ljubljana in 1900 without completing his studies and initially found employment as a substitute teacher. He soon left his homeland again and after a short stay in Paris became a private tutor in Germany. After returning to Ljubljana in 1910, he accepted the position of stage director at the Drama Theatre. He was appointed director of the City Archive in 1913, but returned to his position of stage director in 1920. He later became manager of the National Theatre in Ljubljana.

Župančič began his literary career in secondary school in Ljubljana as a member of the literary society Zadruga, along with future major Slovenian authors Ivan Cankar, Josip Murn and Dragotin Kette. In 1899, he published his first poetry collection entitled Čaša opojnosti, a highly personal work which stirred up considerable controversy because of its decadent influences and marked the beginning of Slovenian modernism (along with Cankar’s collection Erotika). In later poetry collections (Čez plan (1904), Samogovori (1908), V zarje Vidove (1920), Zimzelen pod snegom (1945)), Župančič also turned to social and national issues. Today, he is perhaps best known for his children’s poetry, especially the collection Ciciban (1915). Furthermore, he was a prolific translator––especially his 16 translations of Shakespeare’s plays are canonised. He also translated works from other important authors, including Gustave Flaubert, Charles Dickens, Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Molière, Friedrich Schiller, Voltaire, Joseph Conrad, Stendhal, Honoré de Balzac, George Bernard Shaw (Mahnič 2001: 383–386; Štefe n.d.). Župančič considered translations to be beneficial and of great importance for the development of the Slovenian nation:

Each nation has to attain spiritual freedom and expand its horizon by means of the literatures of other nations; in fact, by means of the culture of all humankind. /…./ Quality translations from world literature will also encourage our own writers’ work and educate them; they will deepen psychologically and sharpen aesthetically. (Župančič 1918; qtd. in Mahnič 1981: 176–177)

He was a proponent of target oriented translation, which is pointed out in some reviews of his translations (e.g., Copeland 1922: 163; Leben 1930: 631; Moder 1957: 130), and which he professed in a lecture on Shakespeare:

My translations are not academic translations; Shakespeare worked for the stage, and in all conscientiousness––and I have to say that each of Shakespeare’s words is sacred to me––I also always want to ask myself: how would Shakespeare say this if he was Slovenian? I want my Shakespeare to be easily pronounceable for the players and to go straight into the audience’s ears and hearts. (Župančič [1928] 2013: 233)

Župančič influenced the Slovenian language not only with his original works, but also through his many translations (Šturm 1935: 154; Bajec 1967: 5; Klopčič 1980: 81); the literary historian Joža Mahnič (1981: 177) even pronounced him the “founder of modern and quality Slovenian translating”.

by Janko Trupej


Bajec, Anton, 1967: Jezik v Župančičevi prevodni prozi. Jezik in slovstvo 12 (1). 5–15.

Copeland, Fanny Susannah, 1922: O Župančičevih prevodih Shakespeara. Ljubljanski zvon 42 (3). 161–170.

Klopčič, Mile, 1980: O treh Župančičevih verznih prevodih. Moder, Janko (ed.): Oton Župančič v prevodih. Zbornik Društva slovenskih književnih prevajalcev. Koper: Lipa. 81–87.

Leben, Stanko, 1930: Pedro Calderon De La Barca: Sodnik Zalamejski. Ljubljanski zvon 50 (11). 629–632.

Mahnič, Joža, 1981: Župančič kot prevajalec. Jezik in slovstvo 26 (5). 175–177.

Mahnič, Joža, 2001: Župančič, Oton. Enciklopedija Slovenije 15: Wi-Ž. 383–386.

Moder, Janko, 1957: Župančičev Tartuffe. Jezik in slovstvo 3 (3). 130–131.

Štefe, Tomaž, n.d.: Oton Župančič – pesnik in prevajalec. http://www.kam.si/veliki_slovenci/oton_zupancic_pesnik_in_prevajalec.html. Accessed: 23. 2. 2014.

Šturm, Fran, 1935: Honoré de Balzac: Oče Goriot; Moliere: Tartuffe. Ljubljanski zvon 55 (3). 154–161.

Župančič, Oton, 2013: Shakespeare pri Slovencih. Stanovnik, Majda (ed.): Prevajalci o prevodu: od Trubarja do Župančiča. Ljubljana: Založba ZRC SAZU. 231–233.

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