time periodJuly 2020 - August 2020
Jana Beňová (born 1974) is a Slovakian poet and novelist. She studied at the Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts in Bratislava, graduating with a degree in dramaturgy in 1998. She wrote for a number of local publications, including Dotyky, Fragment and Slovenské Pohľady. She also worked for the daily newspaper SME under a pseudonym. At present, she works at the Theatre Institute in Bratislava.
Her first book of poems Svetloplachý came out in 1993, followed by further collections Lonochod and Nehota. She wrote a novel called Parker (2001), and a collection of short stories, Dvanásť poviedok a Ján Med (2003). In 2008, she published Plán odprevádzania (Seeing People Off), subtitled Café Hyena. This book won the EU Prize for Literature. She has written another novel called Preč! Preč! (Get off! Get off!).
Finishing the new novel I have been working on. The working title of the book is “Sola,“ which has an implicit reference to solitude. It is therefore a novel about love and loneliness, as well as an experimental enquiry of how the use of different languages can alter the mind, discourse, and the story itself. In addition - I will write a monthly column for one of the most influential daily newspapers in Slovakia N, which stands for Nezavislé (Independent) Newspaper. Usually the columns are connected with the places I travel to, and the experiences from my journeys, and meetings with inspirational people.
The Q21 Writer-in-Residence program in Vienna has allowed me to fully focus on my work. During the spring 2020 I have changed the idea of my work in progress and decided to rewrite the supposed novel into a collection of short stories.
I have been inspired by reading and re-reading writers who had a strong impact on my life and writing like Raymond Carver, Lucia Berlin or Alena Wagnerova.
Coming back to reading short stories made me realize that I myself (because of the pressure of times which just accept novels (as the commodity) and ostracize short stories) started to avoid possibly writing them.
Alena Wagnerova in her book "Cestou životem" which is a very simple title (something like On life journey) wrote in an afterword that it is precisely the form of a short story which allows prose writers to get closest to poetry. And I think for her and for me too, this is a decisive factor.
So I spent two months in Vienna working on my collection of short stories. The title of the book is Vandala. After I spoke to editor Jessica Beer from Residenz Verlag in August, she suggested that I send the almost finished work to my German translator Andrea Koch Reynolds who works on translating an excerpt from the manuscript and will also write a review to give the publisher a broader idea of the whole book.
My work on Vandala will be finished in the end of spring and I plan to publish it in Slovakia in June 2021.
To spend two months in Vienna and specially in a space of MuseumQuartier was for me as a writer very pleasant. Being so close to museums and art is inspiring and comforting for the spirit as well as meetings and discussions with young contemporary artists like Natalia Papaeva and Petra Mrša.