Posted by: koolwine | June 28, 2017

Slovenia: Forbidden Bread

In this fish-out-of-water memoir, an American woman and a Slovenian poet fall madly in love. She makes a rash decision to accept his marriage proposal and move to Slovenia, a brand new country that has just gained its independence from communist Yugoslavia.

Country Focus: Slovenia

Forbidden Bread
By Erica Johnson Debeljak
Published by North Atlantic Books, 2009.
281 pgs.

Genre: Memoir

About the author: Debeljak grew so proficient in Slovenian that she has published six books in her adopted language. Her beloved husband Aleš, one of Slovenia’s most celebrated poets, died in a car crash in 2016.

World Lit Up Rating:
(On a scale of 1-5, with 1 book = turned off and 5 books = lit up)

Erica Johnson Debeljak


Stepping into the foyer of Tanja’s apartment, I am shocked to discover no discernible difference in air temperature between inside and out. The building lacks central heating, a not unusual state of affairs in Slovenia in 1993 and certainly not a sign of poverty or hardship, still less a reason for complaint. Only the living room is heated, by a tall wood-burning ceramic stove in the corner that needs to be loaded and stoked from time to time. The door between the kitchen and living room remains open, at least while cooking is underway; otherwise all the doors in the two bedroom apartment are kept firmly shut to prevent the passage of cold air into warm rooms, warm air into cold. A basket of fuel and small kindling nestles between the ceramic stove and the couch. Aleš, shoes and parka off, guest slippers on, assumes the pasha position on the couch, his eyes drifting slowly closed, weary after his exertions with his snowwoman. I step into the unheated bathroom for a pee and can hardly get up again, the cheeks of my bare bottom adhering momentarily to the frigid toilet seat.


  1. A vivid excerpt recalling some personal experiences in ‘cold’ flats; but that was decades ago!


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