Prešeren Prize-winning translator Kajetan Gantar dies

Ljubljana, 17 June - Kajetan Gantar, an acclaimed translator of classical literature and philosophy who won the 2022 Prešeren Prize, the highest national accolade for lifetime achievement in culture and arts, died on Thursday at the age of 91.

He was one of the greatest intellectuals of his generation, and was internationally recognised, the Slovenian Academy of Sciences And Arts (SAZU) said as it announced the news of Gantar's death.

Gantar produced an impressive body of translation work, including translations of Homer, Hesiod, Pindar, Sappho, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Aristotle, Plutarch, Procopius, Plautus, Terence, Horace, Ovid and several books of the Bible.

He also wrote extensive preface studies to most of his translations, as well as to older translations by Anton Sovre (1885-1963).

A member of the SAZU since 1997, Gantar won the Sovre Prize for translation for his anthology and translation of the Ancient Roman lyric poetry in 1969 and the Prešeren Fund Prize for his translation of two comedies by Plautus in 1972.

After graduating in classical philology at the Ljubljana Faculty of Arts in Ljubljana, he worked for some time as a secondary school teacher in Ptuj and as a clerk for scientific institutes at the Secretariat for Culture (1958-62).

In 1958, Gantar earned the title of a doctor of literary sciences, and he continued his scientific studies in Paris, Geneva, Heidelberg and Vienna, says the SAZU website.

He was full professor and head of the department of classical philology of the Ljubljana Faculty of Arts, and lectured on Greek literature in Slovenia and at many European universities and attended many international congresses and symposia.

Gantar was also a member of Academia Latinitati Fovendae, a Rome-based organisation for the promotion of Latin, a regular member of the European Academy of Sciences and Arts, and a vice-president of SAZU in 1999-2005.

As Gantar was awarded the 2022 Prešeren Prize in February, the jury praised him his "priceless contribution" to Slovenian knowledge of classical literature and philosophy, and for bringing it closer to modern readers and making them readable.

Gantar said he saw the award as a recognition of his belief and efforts that a good translation is not just a result of linguistic expertise but also "a supreme literary work of art".

He believed translation must not become a routine. "It's not just imitation, it's a competition with the original in the intensity of creative inspiration of words," he told the STA in an interview.