Mária Ferenčuhová

- Slovakia -

Mária Ridzoňová Ferenčuhová was born in Bratislava. She graduated in film Screenwriting and Dramaturgy from the Film and TV Faculty of the School of Dramatic Arts in Bratislava (FTF VŠMU). She completed her postgraduate studies in film history and theory and Sciences du Langage at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences sociales in Paris. Currently, she lectures on the history of world film at FTF VŠMU. She is the editor of the film journal KINO-IKON and translates from French (Paul Virilio, Amélie Nothomb, Philippe Brenot). She published three books of poems Skryté titulky (Hidden Subtitles, Bratislava: Drewo a srd, 2003), Princíp neistoty (The Uncertainty Principle, Bratislava: Ars Poetica, 2008) and Ohrozený druh (Jeopardised Species, Bratislava: Ars Poetica, 2013). Her stories, poetry and translations were published in multiple periodicals and anthologies. Her poems were translated into French and English.

In Mária Ferenčuhová’s debut collection Skryté titulky/Hidden Subtitles, the method of the ‘eye of the camera’ has been modified to being that of the ‘eye of the camerawoman’. Ferenčuhová recognises spaces and objects around her and within the self in their detail, yet she also has an emotional distance. Openness (psychologisation and honesty) is carefully placed, and before the coherent object, preference is given to the fragment, perspective, sensual/sensory impulse and experiential reflection; there is a micro-story which speaks adequately but does not reveal everything. The defining framework is space: the urban and public exterior of the big city, which interweaves with one’s private space: ‘In two countries there lives one who is silent and one who is screaming / The reality: the right and left profile of banality: / And between them is a face belonging to no one.’ The thematic preoccupation of the collection is extensive; its driving element is seen and experienced even though this is done through partial accounts. Emotionality emerges as a possible result of what has been written. It is an indication of the subject’s secret, which is hidden (in words and verbs without an agent – in infinitives and participles). Unexpectedly, it irregularly appears in the reflection of a ‘face in the mirror’.    


The accessibility between these spaces is caught in the motifs of contact and communication. The subject reads from the faces and bodies of others and notices the non-verbal information presented in discourse, which paradoxically is transformed into a verbalised poetic record. The authorial method is based upon observation ‘as a complete act’ (Franz Kafka) and is a starting point for Ferenčuhová’s two subsequent collections of poems and poetic cycles Princíp neistoty/The Principle of Insecurity and Ohrozený druh /Endangered Species.


Along with The Principle of Insecurity’s precise thematic focus, the fragmentary nature of expression gives way to a broad focus (an exact macro-composition divided into cycles of the same length) as well as on a more specific scale; perspectives are lengthened, the micro-stories are more complex and the experiential reflections are more direct (with the standard polarisation of subject vs. object). The theme of the collection remains that of a person’s lived experience in four dimensions of time and space, which pass by gradually just like life itself. Banality, something which is interrupted only occasionally by exceptional events (e.g. pregnancy, significant encounters and so on), is not avoided by Ferenčuhová in this collection. She does not wait for some opportunity but rather thematically discusses that what really takes place. In this endeavour, she uses an impressionistic method of selecting spaces and objects which carry individual associations. For the sensitive subject, she presents the ordinariness of a lot of impulses; these are strengthened by an existential ‘principle of insecurity’, which is formulated as an experience transcending the individual. In an analytically classified and evaluated activity of thought – as the basis of the poetic record – the thing most highly appreciated here is that which aids the subject to overcome insecurity and through regular rituals and supporting points in space to cross ‘in small steps across the whole land’ (the poem Princíp neistoty, I./The Principle of Insecurity I).


For Ferenčuhová, poetry is a sort of diary. She consistently dates her travels, her pregnancy, and, in the collection Endangered Species, also her motherhood. This broadens the originally singular theme into binary considerations regarding herself and her son. This form of description reaches a new level of specificity and concentration, and allows the subject to once more outwardly fade away, allowing the poetic records to speak on his behalf. With a new intensity, Ferenčuhová’s ‘anaesthetic precision’ (Derek Rebro) is updated with a guiding characteristic of accuracy in description and emotional distance. This appears as something untypically cold on certain occasions, particularly in the description of the mother’s relationship with her child. Ferenčuhová sometimes surprises the reader with flashes of nihilism, and with regularity she selects images which evoke the demise of civilisation. Alongside Ferenčuhová’s poetic dispositions, the concluding multi-part eponymous poem in Endangered Species creates a very convincing anti-utopia, and a description for children of the future full of pictures of destruction for which we at the present time are responsible: ‘We have destroyed almost everything./ Moved, deflected, smashed, worn out, / Filled up, dirtied - / And now we are sealing it, / Quickly, the trigger / We are pouring concrete over it.’ Among other things, this collection clearly shows that Ferenčuhová is concerned about the ethical dimension in her writing (she uses the first-person plural ‘we’) and the confrontation of good and evil, wherein the victor is not known beforehand.