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Revision as of 15:21, 14 June 2013

Pavlina Pajk, Slovenian author, 1854-1901

By Tanja Badali?, University of Nova Gorica

Pavlina Pajk (née Doljak) was born in Pavia (Italy) in 1854 to Slovenian parents. Nevertheless, in her childhood she received an Italian education. After the death of her parents, she moved to her uncle in Solkan (Slovenia) which was then a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. There she started learning Slovene at the age of sixteen. Her Slovenian national consciousness was influenced by the scholars who frequented her uncle’s house, thus she started appearing very soon in the reading societies. Then she moved to her brother’s home who was not favourable to Slovenian culture and language, therefore she had to read and write in secret. Beside Slovenian literature she also read foreign authors, especially Dante, Petrarca, Goethe and Shakespeare. In the meantime she wrote some poems and in 1873 she published her first lyric work Prva Ljubezen [First Love]. The editor of the literary newspaper Zora [Dawn] and professor of Slovenian language Janko Pajk supported her talent in writing. They fell in love by writing letters without seeing each other and they got married when she was 22 years old. She followed him to Maribor, from where they moved abroad (Graz, Brno,Vienna). She spent twenty years abroad but all this time she kept publishing her texts in Slovenian newspapers. They moved to Ljubljana in 1899 where she died in 1901.

In her letter to a friend from 1875 she tells how she started writing: she fell in love with a Slovenian man so she wanted to express her feelings towards him in Slovene because she could not write down such intimate feelings in Italian language. At first she made big efforts writing poems in Slovene, but soon she had a good command of the language and thus she started to write even prose works. Her poems are therefore a true reflection of her emotions, especially love, while her prose work was strongly criticized by the literary critics. She had been reproached with triviality, weeping, unreal plots and happy ending. Nevertheless she did not give up and she wrote and published more than twenty prose works (six novels among them). Her novels usually follow these rules: the main character is a beautiful young lady, mostly a poor orphan, with high moral values who falls in love with a young man of a higher social class. The relationships frequently evolve into a love triangle but in the end the young couple gets married.

Pavlina Pajk published some articles and discussions. In 1876 she wrote a very long obituary of George Sand describing the author and her work. This proves that Pajk knew very well the French author and presumably for this reason Sand’s work had some influence on her literary work. Besides, in 1898, after the death of the Empress Elisabeth of Austria, she published a short obituary of the empress followed by her Slovene translation of three poems of the empress. She also summarized Constantine Christomanos' biography of the empress Elisabeth of Austria in the article Diaries about Empress Elisabeth where she also mentions the Romanian author Carmen Sylva.

Pavlina Pajk was also the first Slovenian author who started writing publicly about the female condition. In 1884 she published an article entitled Nekoliko besedic o ženskem vprašanju [Some words about the woman question] and in 1894 she gave a lecture on the same topic entitled Aforizmi o ženstvu [Aphorisms about women] at Slovenian club in Vienna. Nevertheless she did not claim a radical emancipation of women, but she adapted the feminist demands to Slovenian conditions. She wanted to disprove the wrong statements about women’s capacities which arose from different education and she strived for equal elementary education for women of all social classes. In spite of all that, in her opinion, women should master all housework and education of their children because their natural vocation is to become a mother.

Her living abroad so much time had some consequences for her work. Namely, some critics affirm that for this reason she remained distant from the real Slovenian way of life which she barely knew. Even though Pavlina Pajk spent more than half of her life living abroad and had to change several different cultural territories, she remained true to Slovenian culture and at the same time she mediated to Slovenian readers cultural and literary ideas that came from foreign cultures and countries.



  • Odlomki iz ženskega dnevnika (1876)
  • Roka in srce (1881)
  • Blagodejna zvezdica (1881)
  • Ma?eha (1882)
  • Pripovestnik v sili (1883)
  • O?etov tovariš (1884)
  • Arabela (1885)
  • Dora (1885)
  • Doma?ija nad vse (1889)
  • Najgotovejša dota (1892)
  • Prijateljev sin (1894)
  • Obljuba (1894)
  • Najdenec (1894)
  • Planinska idila (1895)
  • Roman starega samca (1895)
  • Igra s sre?o (1895)
  • Spomini tete Klare (1895)
  • Dušne borbe (1896)
  • Judita(1896)
  • Slu?aji usode (1897)
  • Življenja križi (1903)


  • Erjavec, Fran in Flere, Pavel, 1926: Starejše pesnice in pisateljice. Ljubljana: U?iteljska tiskarna.
  • Slovenski biografski leksikon (SBL), (ed. F. K. Lukman), 6. Zvezek (1935). Ljubljana: Zadružna gospodarska banka.
  • Šelih, Alenka et al., 2007: Pozabljena polovica. Portreti žensk 19. in 20. stoletja na Slovenskem. Ljubljana: Založba Tuma in SAZU.

AsK June 2013

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