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Mira Kalan

Ivan Tavčar's first published work Meine Schwester Elisa was a narrative essay written in school

It is a well-known fact that Ivan Tavčar's last and most famous work is the Visoko Chronicle. The novel was first monthly published in 1919 as a feuilleton in the Ljubljanski zvon newspaper, and two years later, it came out in the form of a book in volume 6 of Tavčar's collected writings. However, a less known fact is that Tavčar published his first piece of writing at the tender age of 17 as a Year Six student of the Ljubljana Classical Gymnasium (secondary school focusing on classical studies). On 29 December 1868, the Laibacher Tagblatt newspaper published his narrative essay, i.e. a school assignment given in his German language class –Meine Schwester Elisa: Eine ländliche Erinnerung.

It was not Tavčar himself who had sent his piece of writing to the newspaper to be published, it was actually his form teacher and teacher of German, geography and history, Anton Heinrich (1830–1888), who was also the author of a secondary school German grammar. Laibacher Tagblatt published Tavčar's essay as a feuilleton with the following comment by the editorial board: "We have received this description from a 16-year-old lad as a memory from his youth. A warm breath of a noble sense of nature permeating this simple story gives us a reason to publish it without any changes whatsoever."

The fact that this Tavčar's piece of writing in German had been published was pointed out by the also Poljane-born headmaster Lovro Perko (1865–1948). He published an article entitled Unknown Tavčar's Prose in German (Volume 53, 1933, No. 5, pp. 317–318) in the Ljubljanski zvon, stating that the work of young Tavčar was "linguistically and stylistically so perfect that it was welcomed even by a newspaper as German-oriented as the Laibacher Tagblatt ".

If you are interested in reading how Tavčar described his birthplace and how he remembered his childhood years and his little sister Špelca, you can read Perko's article on the www.dlib.si web portal. Or you can read it in the Ljubljanski zvon, a copy of which is available in the museum's library. If you are skilled in the Gothic alphabet, you can read Tavčar's essay in the original on the aforementioned portal www.dlib.si, where you can also access the Laibacher Tagblatt.

Photo: Ivan Tavčar as a secondary school student. In the possession of the Ljubljana Historical Archives – Škofja Loka Unit. Photo: Ivan Tavčar as a secondary school student. In the possession of the Ljubljana Historical Archives – Škofja Loka Unit.