"The Situation" II - Ljubljana

...and yes, we still don’t know what to do with the elderly...

Marjan Strojan has published eight poetry collections and many translations of English and American classics into Slovenian. His recent publications include the 2019 volume Marjan Strojan: Hribi, oblaki, lepe pozdrave  [Marjan Strojan: Hills, Clouds, Kind Greetings] and a translation from the Russian, Boris Pasternak: Petindvajset pesmi  (2020). 


I live a mere 35 minutes’ drive from the Italian border. In view of that country’s recent tragedy I cannot but recall Boccaccio in the Introduction to Decameron during the pestilence in Florence, the corpses were so numerous that before the calamity nobody would have thought so many people were dwelling in the city.  

In real terms, there’s no comparison with what we have today – roughly one third of the world’s population died in the pandemic of 1348 – but the fears, the pain, and the prohibitions are the same. For example, my son’s young family live in Strunjan, on the Slovenian side of the Bay of Trieste. There, their daughter was born in February, and last week, almost three months later, I still could not go visit my first grandchild.  

Separations are the most common affliction in any upheaval. The obvious case in point concerns a former footballer, Raymond Rambert, caught up in the quarantine after a plague hits the Algerian port of Oran in Albert Camus’ La Peste (1947). Rambert feels that unlike Dr. Rieux and his helping hand Jean Tarrou, he has no real connection to the city, and is constantly scheming to return to his spouse. But when he learns that Dr. Rieux is also separated from his wife – not by chance but simply by the fact of his profession – he decides to stay put and assist Rieux and Tarrou fight the disease. Meanwhile the elderly civil servant M. Grand is also separated from his wife who left him. He tries to write her a letter but never gets past the first line. By the time the quarantine is lifted, Tarrou and Dr. Rieux’s wife are dead, Rambert and his wife are united--and yes, we still don’t know what to do with the elderly at the time of crisis.