Dubravka Ugrešić (born 1949), Yugoslavia, The Netherlands, Germany, Croatia.
Ugrešić is another author with a second life as a scholar; she has numerous and very respected publications on the literary culture of the Russian avant-garde and similar topics, plus some well-received literary translations (of Russian absurdist poet Daniil Kharms, and others). Born in Croatia, then Yugoslavia, in an ethnically mixed family, she worked for many years at the Institute for the Theory of Literature at the University of Zagreb. In 1993 she left Croatia for political reasons, objecting to the nationalist turn of the government, and has divided her time since then between Europe (Holland, Berlin) and a variety of academic or creative writing positions in the United States (at Wesleyan University, UCLA, Harvard, UNC Chapel Hill…).
Ugrešić’s first book of creative prose was Poza za prozu (A Pose for Prose); her delightful “pattern-novel,” Štefica Cvek u raljama života (which Celia Hawkesworth's translation renders elegantly as Steffie Speck in the Jaws of Life), was adapted for the stage and made into a very popular Yugoslav film. Forsiranje romana reke (Fording the Stream of Consciousness, originally published in 1988) is the last major work in what one might call Ugrešić’s “pre-war” style: it is playful and light despite its erudition and thoughtfulness. This reader notes that Ugresic always seems to have foreseen every possible reaction of her reader - or at least to be several steps ahead. (In this I would compare her to Vladimir Nabokov.) Since 1991 and Americki fikcionar (literally “An American Fictionary,” published in Celia Hawkesworth’s translation as Have a Nice Day, 1995), Ugresic has developed different authorial personae, some of them much less intellectuallyplayful or flippant, and some drawing on the familiar and effective position of the Socialist-era dissident. In this role she has been even more prolific than before, and her creative prose and journalism are now widely published in translation.
Some of the publication dates for Ugrešić are misleading, since after 1991 she might have published her journalistic pieces first as individual features in Dutch newspapers, and some of her English translations appeared before the “original” editions in Zagreb or Belgrade.
In The Museum of Unconditional Surrender (Muzej bezuvjetne predaje) Ugrešić follows on a large body of passionately engaged journalism with a strong autobiographical bent, sometimes revisiting very similar stories, but weaving together the many parts into a moving novel.
The Museum of Unconditional Surrender is translated by Celia Hawkesworth.
Questions for reading:
Other books by Ugrešić:
Works about Ugrešić or with a connection to her:
This time, just for fun, let me know which books or authors you think would be interesting to compare or contrast with Ugrešić’s Museum or any of her other books.