Nobody’s Home

By DUBRAVKA UGRESIC

In Nobody’s Home (her fourth work of nonfiction to be published in this country) Dubravka Ugrešić writes, “I have been on the road ever since , changing countries like shoes.”With hardly a touch of jetlag, Ugrešić’s essays latch onto matters of ethnic, national, and transnational identity. In surveying topics such as her former countrymen’s wont to line their conversations with curse words, or the condescension she has met with as a Croatian woman, Ugrešić lays into an assortment of au courant stereotypes (e.g., “?I put up with it when people explain to me how to use an iron, or when waiters in restaurants deliberately avoid setting my place with a knife?. I usually write ‘cleaning lady’ in the box under OCCUPATION; it’s what is expected of me. Because my cosmopolitan countrywomen are known far and wide as excellent housekeepers in EU apartments, houses and public lavatories.”) Abreast with this endeavor, she also looks into how globalization has affected what the stalwarts of the Frankfurt School termed the culture industry. For instance, in the essay “Transition: Morphs & Sliders & Polymorphs,” she notes, “Only in times ruled by firm, frozen values — political, religious, moral aesthetic, has the writer enjoyed?a special status?. Today, in?market-oriented cultural zones — an intellectual is simply a ‘player’?a performer, a circus performer, an entertainer, a vendor of ‘cultural’ souvenirs.” Following this idea to its logical endpoint, one wonders, does the author factor herself into her own indictment? She does. While tallying the ills of civilization, Ugrešić avoids coming across as remote or above the fray. Indeed, alongside engaging in forceful cultural readings, she discourses on things like gardening and the pleasure of having one’s nails done. In sum, her provocative bent is not cheapened by her unmitigated desire to please.