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By: Aleš Debeljak

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About This Title

Bilingual Edition | Translated from the Slovenian by Brian Henry

The poems in Smugglers move through rapid historical shifts and meditations on personal experience, exploring the depths and limits of comprehension through the people and geography of the Balkans. Ultimately, Aleš Debeljak's urban imagination creates a mosaic—intimate and historical—of a vanished people and their country. Every poem in Smugglers is sixteen lines long—four quatrains, a common form for Debeljak. This structural regularity is reinforced by a commitment to visual balance, with each poem working as a kind of grid into which the poet pours memories and associative riffs.


"Aleš Debeljak’s Smugglers is the type of poetry book that, once the reader establishes a relationship with it, is difficult to lend out or give away. I suggest this because not every book of poems is immediately understood, not every book is instantly appreciated. But Smugglers has a quiet, dazzling nature to it that I find palpable. And so a reluctance to share it is an act to protect its artistry, as if to say, ‘You may read it if only you promise to attempt feeling what I feel.’ A selfish notion, sure, but this is one of those books that came along (for me) when needed. I recommend Smugglers without question. I just can’t quite let you see my copy."

—Damon Marbut, The Rumpus

"...This is perhaps one of Debeljak’s most intimate and exciting collections. The picturesque architecture of Ljubljana evokes the timeless beauty of baroque art and the poet’s attachment to it. At the same time, in the dark deserted interiors reside the ghosts of the past, a past that is unfortunately more powerful than the future."

—Bojana Stojanović Pantović

"Aleš Debeljak is sensitive to the enormity and complexity of our historical and intellectual predicament."

—Charles Simic

"In Smugglers, Aleš Debeljak feeds himself and his readers with a delicious mixture of past, present and future, with tastes of reminis­cence and expectations of the world’s new savors."

—Jenko Prize

"[Debeljak] belongs to the group of prominent intellectuals and writers whose poetryas well as critical, theoretical, and philosophical practicemarked the former Yugoslav cultural and literary space. The author is internationally renowned as one of the major poets of central Europe."

—World Literature Today