Review by: Gerald Sabo, Slovo - January 1, 2004
SLOVAK BIOGRAPHICAL DICTIONARY
Reviewed by Gerald J. Sabo
The Slovak Biographical Dictionary (hereafter SBD) is a welcome addition to the publications in English about Slovaks and Slovakia, its history, culture, and society This 2002 publication is essentially an English rendition of the 1999 Slovak original Reprezentacn? biografick? lexicon Slovensha (The Representative Biographical Lexicon of Slovakia) in text and format. Missing from the 2002 English version are the illustrations for some of the prominent figures and 60-odd biographies. Still, the 2002 English version comprises 813 biographies, virtually all of which concern persons of Slovak ethnic background, along with some non-Slovaks crucial to understanding Slovak history and culture. The persons presented lived from the seventh through the 20th centuries and were active in the Slovak area as well as outside of it - primarily in America.
Among non-Slovaks in the SBD are the seventh-century chieftain/ruler Samo, various rulers of Great Moravia, the brothers SS. Cyril and Methodius and some of their disciples, the Magyar Renaissance poet Valentin Bala?a (Balasa Balint), the Magyar aristocrat and political figure Juraj Turzo (Georgius Thurzo), the Hungarian Primate and Cardinal, the Magyar Jesuit Peter Pázmán (Pázmány Peter) who founded the Jesuit University in Ttnava, and the Rusyn-American modern artist Andy Warhol, whose parents emigrated from Miková in eastern Slovakia. As in the six-volume Slovenshy biografichy slovník (Slovak Biographical Dictionary, 1986-1994, Matica slovenská), only deceased persons have been included - here, though, extended through the late 1990s to include such people as the Slovak philologist and translator Miloslav Okál (d. Feb. 22, 1997) and the literary specialist Jan ?tevcek (d. Sept. 26, 1996).
The SBD's introduction expresses well the conception of this work - its scope and aim, "to provide a condensed survey of the prominent personalities of Slovakia, those who have played a visible role in all spheres of creative work, whether artistic, scientific, technical, economic, or sociopolitical, from ancient times to the present. Thus, it is a dictionary of the Slovak national character, an attempt to disseminate knowledge to a wider cultural community both at home and abroad, to both the Slovak diaspora and interested readers in general." The figures presented in the SBD offer a wide-ranging verbal portrait of Slovaks, their activities, and their accomplishments, about which so few beyond Slovakia - even today - have heard. Through the SBD, then, Slovaks are making themselves known not by a pist'alka (fife) but a trumpet for all the world to hear.
Each SBD entry contains life data and a review of the main works and/or activities of the figure under consideration. Concluding each entry is a brief bibliography of the person's publication(s) and/or commentaries about him/her and his/her activity and works. Political, historical, and government figures mingle with writers and artists, scientists and clerical representatives.
Among the usual prominent persons in the Slovak area - the Catholic Anton Bernolák, the Lutheran L'udovit Stúr, and others like communist leaders Alexander Dubcek and Gustáv Husák - are the emigre poets like Salesian priest Gorazd Zvonick? (Andrej ?andor, d. Italy), Karol Strmen, the diocesan priest Mikulá? ?princ (both died in Cleveland), the Franciscan priest Rudolf Dilong (d. Pittsburgh), the sculptor Frico Moto?ka (d. Buenos Aires), who created the statue of the astronomer and political figure Gen. Milan Rastislav ?tefánik that still stands prominently in Cleveland today, the Lutheran Cleveland activist Ján Pankuch, the folk singer Janka Guzová-Becková (d. New York), and many others. Thus, through its many wide-ranging biographies, the Slovak Biographical Dictionary is helping Slovaks everywhere to affirm their place in the sun for others to appreciate.
Slovak Biographical Dictionary Augustin Mat'ovcik et al
Translated by Jana Kacerová et al
Martin, Slovakia and Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers, 2002
Available in the NCSML bookstore.