Truth and lie in literature: Slovene writers sued for slander

2018-04-09T04:47:59Z (GMT) by Aleksander Bjelčevič

In 1999 novelist Breda Smolnikar was sued for defamation in her novel Ko se
tam gori olistajo breze (When the Birches Up There Are Greening) by certain family
Nakrst. Smolnikar received broad public support. In public defence different
arguments were in play, the most frequent were trying to prove that the novel does
not speak about the family Nakrst because (a) all literature is fiction and all literary
characters are fictional beings; (b) similarity between literary character and a real
person is always a coincidence; (c) all literature is a possible world and refers to
people’s counterparts which are connected to real people only by transworld identity
relation. In article I try to show that these arguments are false: (a, b) literature
sometimes refers to real people and thus the question whether a certain character
is fictious or real is an empirical question and not a question of poetic principle,
can in the case of Smolnikar be resolved empirically (she published all judicial documentation with detailed descriptions of the family Nakrst); c) the possible
world argument is contradictory because it blends two opposite interpretations
of possible worlds (the Transworld identity interpretation and the Counterpart
interpretation). Dealing with these argument I define fiction as follows: a) literary
work becomes work of fiction when it contains at least one fictional being; b)
Fictional being is a non-existent being which is intentionally created as such; c)
whether or not a character is fictional is on author to decide (not the reader). In B.
Smolnikar’s case the similarities between characters and the portrayed family are
so numerous that no coincidence is possible. In the year 2007 Slovene Constitutional
Court decided that the defamation was not deliberate and Smolnikar was
declared innocent.