Aleš Debeljak

    is a Slovene cultural critic, poet, editor, translator and essayist, based in Ljubljana. He is a professor at the Cultural Studies Department of the University of Ljubljana, and a member of the European Council on Foreign Relations. A poet and social analyst, he has published nine collections of poetry, thirteen volumes of essays and edited several anthologies, including Dictionary of Silence; The City and the Child; Reluctant modernity: the institution of art and its historical forms; Literary Metaphors of the Nation and The Hidden Handshake: National Identity and Europe in The Post Communist World. “Central European identity should be seen as layers of identities. It is not exclusive and neither is it all-embracing; it is very much akin to the Scandinavian, Mediterranean, Iberian, Balkan identities. It is a supplementary identity that militates against the exclusive character of the national, or nationalist identity that we acquire by dint of birth and by the vicissitudes of citizenship. However, this is not to say that Central European identity, the Central European landscape – a mental landscape, which might be the most accurate term as it is the least well-defined – is a figment of the imagination but neither is it enshrined in documents other than works of literary art and critical reflection. And in that regard I dare say that while Central European identity was a hot topic of intellectual debates in the past, with the benefit of hindsight, we can see that Central Europe was seized upon by the intellectual, cultural and – much later – political elites in order to distance the land they claimed to represent from both Russia and Germany.“