February 8th is a national holiday in Slovenia, honoring the great national poet France Preseren. During the holiday, museums and cultural institutions traditionally offer free admittance. Cultural awards are also conferred on outstanding Slovenian artists.
The British writer John Ardagh once remarked that, to Slovenes, Preseren is like "Shakespeare, Burns, Bolivar, Dante and Joan-of-Arc rolled into one." Indeed, no other Slovene enjoys such reverence as the Romantic poet, who died in 1849. (Unlike many other holidays, Preseren Day is celebrated on the day of the poet's death instead of his birthday.)
The devotion to Preseren is unmatched outside of the country. Indeed, popular bookseller Amazon.com only lists two English-language books of Preseren's poetry - both are out of print.
This week, though, a group of foreigners gathered at the birthplace of Preseren, in the small village of Vrba in the region of Upper Carniola, to read his poetry in a variety of languages. No doubt the poet himself would have been pleased to see his works recited in a wide variety of languages.
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