European studies blog

17 April 2020

Slovenian gay poetry in translation: Tracing the Unspoken by Milan Šelj

Recently while cataloguing, amongst donations I came across a Slovenian gay poetry book Tracing the Unspoken by Milan Šelj (2019). I found it so intriguing that I was compelled to read it right through to the end without a break.

This is the first English language translation of the Slovenian original Slediti neizgovorjenemu (2018), translated by Harvey Vincent, a New York director, actor and teacher based in Paris, and a founding member of the American Theater Group of Paris. It is published by the American-based A Midsummer Night’s Press in their Body Language imprint devoted to LGBT voices. 

Cover of Tracing the Unspoken with a portrait by Stefano Cipollari

Cover of Milan Šelj, Tracing the Unspoken, (New York, 2019). Awaiting shelfmark

Šelj is an award-winning Slovenian poet and translator. He was born in 1960 and has lived and worked in London since 1992. He is the author of four poetry collections of which the first, Darilo (Gift), published by ŠKUC-Lambda in 2006, was described as ‘one of the most explicitly homoerotic poetry books in Slovenia thus far’. The essence of the book Tracing the Unspoken, as Gregory Woods describes it, is about ‘the individual who tries to make sense of desire’. It is not surprising that it is the unspoken that lures the reader; the emotional and sexual tension created by the universal language of desire, obsession and love. The writing is explicit and virile. Page after page, the compact stream of thoughts captures and guides through fragments of narrative that give meaning to words we would not be able to voice ourselves.

Page from Tracing the Unspoken

Excerpt from Tracing the Unspoken, p. 45. Awaiting shelfmark

An excerpt that caught my attention and resonates with the current times of lockdown will hopefully offer some comfort or escape in bridging distances with loved ones.

You have no idea how small this town is. Desperation is stifling and centuries old. Why don’t you cut off your shirtsleeves and send them to me? I’ll embrace myself with them when I’m not able to shorten your absence. To save myself, I’ll search for consolation between the scraps of fabric and let your scent linger on the cuffs.

Lora Afrić, Languages Cataloguing Manager

References/Further reading:

Milan Šelj, Slediti neizgovorjenemu (Ljubljana, 2018) YF.2019.a.11088

Milan Šelj, Gradim gradove (Ljubljana, 2015) YF.2016.a.15174