The article analyses and interprets the first published piece of literary prose by the Slovak author Margita Figuli. Its aim is to investigate and determine the prose's genre, thematic and semantic structure, as well as to establish its aesthetic and historical value. The methods and procedures used in the study derive primarily from the methodological tradition of Slovak and Czech structuralism. They represent a further development of those semiotic research principles and methods, which the author defined on a theoretical level and put to practice in his books 'Romany a myty' (The Novels and myths) (1982) and 'O epickom diele' ( On epics) (1999). The plot of the novelette 'Piesen otrokov' ( The song of slaves) (1930) is rooted in the popular literary tradition of adventure calendar fables, which were based on the genre of the historical legend. Into a neo-romantic interpretation of the story of family revenge, which is modulated as 'high' on the level of language and style, the author inserts social motives in a naive manner. The resulting text and its semantic ambiguity are therefore the result of an artificial contamination of several different paradigmatic sources: 'low' genre base, 'high' verbal presentation, and a naive interpretation of fragments of utopian social beliefs and ideologies of the time. The analysis of the novelette's characters, topos and several key points of the plot shows a number of semantic contradictions as well as incoherencies in the plot and composition. These are partly attributable to a writer still learning her craft, but also point to some longer term characteristics of Figuli's writing, which can be detected also in the literary prose of her mature and classical periods. The study of 'Piesen otrokov' demonstrates how from the very start of Figuli's career her writing contained assumptions about the elementary and leading role of genetic determination and implications that her characters' actions were 'naturally' predestined in certain different ways, so that different ideologies (ethical, social, religious) gain precedence over those features of the plot which might be generated by substance, characters and surroundings.
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
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