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The Cabinet for Sentimental Trivial Literature

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Shortlisted for the Predrag Matvejević Award 2021, longlisted for the Fric Award 2019 Sanja Lovrenčić’s books draw into her net a reader who is ready for adventure, for whom reading is not merely following a linear plot and a pastime, but recognition and acceptance of a game that, when joined, becomes infinitely meaningful, subtle and even fun. Her new novel, entitled Cabinet for Sentimental Trivial Literature, in which is its set, but which is also an indicative determinant of what will be told, is certainly one of the “more readable” of her novels, i.e. one in which there are no traps for readers, unless they themselves want to fall into them. Also, as is often the case with this author, its structure is built somewhat conceptually, by changing the epistolary form, which makes up the main flow of narration, with inserted stories that form a rounded and meaningful whole it. There has been a crisis in the Cabinet, which is a kind of small, private and non-profit museum that houses the legacy of “sentimental and trivial literature”. The curator, who writes letters to the late founder Rosa, realizes that not only does the Cabinet need a “cash injection”, but also a new guardian to replace him. Since this is not just an ordinary job but also has a specific emotional and, of course, sentimental value, neither is easy to perform, and a job advertisement that includes one of the key sentences of the novel: “Your story is more important to us than your qualifications”, will further complicate matters. (…) Ten candidates apply to the ad that had inadvertently implied that candidates should also be writers, and they bring with them stories about their professional and private lives, sometimes completely bizarre, but also stories that make up an integral part of the novel. While the curator, who is becoming more and more desperate and sceptical, fills letters to Rosa with fragments from his own and the Cabinet’s everyday life, as well as those concerning the past, origin and meaning of her and his museum, an unusual and “soft” legacy that seems to have been run-over by a time of different imperatives  and priorities, the candidates succeed one another before him, with their experiences, but above all with the stories they enclose, enabling the novel to emerge from the closed space of the Cabinet into the outside, towards modernity and its peculiarities and problems. This “opening” – placed in stories within the story – subtly positions the novel towards recent reality, because it indirectly deals with the themes of art and artistic activism, social responsibility, commercialization and the entry of capital into unprofitable spheres of human activity, feminism. science and technology, but also love, which is one of the shared motives and concerns both interpersonal relationships and the preservation of some past values. (Jagna Pogačnik)