‘Letters without Envelopes’ by Suzana Tratnik, translated from Slovene by Špela Bibič

This story from Slovenian writer Suzana Tratnik tells of a go-between in a lesbian love affair between Mara – who describes herself as the only lesbian in 1980s Yugoslavia – and Ana, her secret lover. In the era before email, the narrator is the conduit through which the two lovers correspond. This is a touching account of war and its many manifestations, and the resourcefulness of the truest human feelings.

Mara’s first letter came in the autumn of the late 1980s. The fact that she had gotten my address in Switzerland, as she explained at the beginning, seemed incredible to me, almost mysterious. She lived in Dalmatia, in a town I had never been to. She wrote me a two-page letter, mentioning more than once that she was a lesbian, probably the only one in Dalmatia, if not the whole of Croatia. For a number of years, she had been visiting her uncle in Zurich and particularly her friend Uli, whom she had met at the city’s lesbian center. Uli was therefore the only lesbian she knew. But on her last visit to Zurich, her Swiss friend had assured her that she was no longer the only lesbian in Yugoslavia.

First published in translation in Words Without Borders, June 2013, and available to read online here