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This report is taken from PN Review 199, Volume 37 Number 5, May - June 2011.

Letter from Slovakia James Sutherland-Smith
I'm not sure whether the landscape round Prešov provides an environment for the recovery of being or is simply consoling. In spring I like to walk up the low range of hills at the back of the section of the city where I live. The south-eastern end of the range slopes towards a Calvary where the Stations of the Cross wind up the side of the hill to a small chapel. I prefer a direct assault on the steeper section through the last houses on the hill. The gardens all have fruit trees in blossom in spring - cherry, plum and apple. One house has a courtyard and a fearsome dog of the Šarplanina breed from Serbia. With its jowls and white hair it resembles a portrait of a forgotten Austro-Hungarian colonel of hussars. As I go beyond the houses cultivation gives out to half-tended rows of beans and cabbages and then to tussocks of grass interspersed with clumps of hazel, damson and the early flowers: lungwort, stitchwort, bugle, cowslip, and meadow clary. In patches of woodland there is wood cranesbill, a flower of a delicate burgundy recalling a colour of a fashionable Victorian silk ballgown.

From the ridge on a clear day the peaks of the High Tatra can be seen in the west over a rolling landscape of fields and cart tracks, reminiscent in their colours of the work of the Slovak national painter, Martin Benka (1888-1971), who moved to a post-impressionism of his own using folk ...


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