Birth Certificate: The Story of Danilo Kis

Birth Certificate: The Story of Danilo Kis

by Mark Thompson
     
 

An engaging and experimental biography of Danilo Kis (1935–89), the Yugoslav novelist, essayist, poet, and translator whose work generated storms of controversy in his homeland but today holds classic status.See more details below

Overview

An engaging and experimental biography of Danilo Kis (1935–89), the Yugoslav novelist, essayist, poet, and translator whose work generated storms of controversy in his homeland but today holds classic status.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
With Thompson’s exhilarating feat of biography and literary criticism, English readers can finally gain an introduction to the cerebral and experimental works of Yugoslavian poet, novelist, and playwright Danilo Kis. Born in 1935, Kis came of age following WWII and the death of his father and other family members in concentration camps. With the rise of Tito’s dictatorship, Kis became a staunch antinationalist and anticommunist, an intellectual cosmopolitan who pioneered modernist prose experiments that were gently critical of Yugoslavian society and that turned Kis into a controversial figure. As his international reputation grew, Kis was championed by prominent authors such as Salman Rushdie and Susan Sontag, and was a contender for the Nobel Prize before his death in 1989. Appropriately for its subject, Thompson’s biography has an experimental flavor, structured as an extended gloss to a short autobiographical essay written by Kis. The biographical commentary is punctuated with extended “interludes” that offer interpretations of Kis’s most famous works, which include A Tomb for Boris Davidovich, The Anatomy Lesson, and The Encyclopedia of the Dead. Thompson (The White War), a graceful writer and storyteller in his own right, restores Kis to his rightful place in the pantheon of 20th-century writers in a biography that should appeal to any reader interested in contemporary world literature. (Mar.)
From the Publisher
"How can one restore justice to Danilo Kiš? That is the task for Kiš's future reader – and one way to begin, now that this reader has Mark Thompson’s comprehensive, erudite and stylish new biography, is to rehearse the basic outline of Kiš’s life and works. . . . [Thompson's] book is also remarkable for its attention to the detail of Kiš’s fiction. This is a great biography of the work as much as the life."—Adam Thirlwell, Times Literary Supplement (October 9, 2013)

"British writer Thompson pays homage to one of the 20th century's most innovative and difficult writers in the very form of this immense autobiography that simultaneously moonlights as an attempt to rekindle interest in Kis’s work and as a cultural history of Jews in south central Europe . . . he ultimately succeeds brilliantly by using this patchwork approach to put Kis and his works into a wide range of contexts. Given that translations of Kis’s work are vanishing from print, this study makes a compelling plea to reverse that trend. Summing Up: Recommended."—Choice (October 2013)

"Mark Thompson's biography of Danilo Kiš takes its cue from Hourglass. . . Thompson interrogates Kiš’s rather misleading autobiographical fragment, 'Birth Certificate,’ phrase by phrase, to generate an exemplary account of his life and works. . . . Thompson is more than equal to these tasks. . . I can hardly speak too highly of this biography. Its organization is impeccable: a great deal of information must be imparted to make Kiš’s circumstances clear, and this is done in relatively short chapters with impeccable lucidity and many helpful cross-references. . . . This is a fascinating and comprehensive introduction to the life and work of Danilo Kiš and an excellent book in its own right."—Chris Miller, PN Review (April 2014)

"Mark Thompson's biography of Danilo Kiš is a beautifully written work of connoisseurship and homage."—Peter Craven, The Australian (April 2014)

"[An] invigorating biography of Kis—a spirited interweaving of life, literary championing, and critical analysis. . . . Thompson's book, lovingly researched, stimulatingly constructed, subtly and passionately written, panoptically reflecting Kis's contradictions, is a resurrection of (Kundera's words) a 'great and invisible' talent."—Julian Evans, The Independent (London)

"With Thompson's exhilarating feat of biography and literary criticism, English readers can finally gain an introduction to the cerebral and experimental works of Yugoslavian poet, novelist, and playwright Danilo Kis. . . . Thompson, a graceful writer and storyteller in his own right, restores Kis to his rightful place in the pantheon of 20th-century writers in a biography that should appeal to any reader interested in contemporary world literature."—Publishers Weekly (17 December 2012)

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"Yugoslav writer Danilo Kiš (1935-1989) may not be well-known to American-Jewish readers, but this ambitious biography at least offers a context for understanding Kiš's very real contributions to Jewish/Serbo-Croatian letters. . . .Anyone interested in modern Eastern European literature, particularly the role of Jewish writers, will find this biography important reading."–Jewish Book Council

"This is the genre of biography transformed. Mark Thompson is equal to the great elusive task of creating the life of an unclassifiable genius, Danilo Kis."—Nadine Gordimer

"This is a fascinating biography: retracing the life of the great European writer Danilo Kis and rereading his prose has led to a volume that can be viewed as an indispensable—and very well written—book about the complex relationship between history and literature in Central and Eastern Europe. Mark Thompson's competence in this field is breathtaking."—Adam Zagajewski

"In Birth Certificate, Mark Thompson explores, with perseverance and an exquisite sense for detail, the rich and complex world of the great man and great writer, Danilo Kis, with passion, respect, and loyalty to its subject."—Dusan Makavejev, director of WR: Mysteries of the Organism and Montenegro

"Mark Thompson's erudite and engaging study is a biography and a literary exploration imbued with the formal playfulness that Danilo Kis loved. Clearly the product of an enduring personal obsession, this Birth Certificate is a fitting and long overdue English memorial to a great writer."—Vesna Goldsworthy, author of Chernobyl Strawberries and Inventing Ruritania

"Mark Thompson's creative procedure is unexpected: taking on his journey only one document, a sort of literary visa—Kis's short text, "Birth Certificate"—he treats it as hypertext, linking not only to Kis’s own work but to cultural history, regional studies, politics, geography, mentalite, etc. Opening new semantic boxes one after another, Thompson’s reading of this great European writer becomes excitingly rich."—Dubravka Ugresic, author of The Culture of Lies and Thank You for Not Reading

"Mark Thompson has settled our collective debt to Danilo Kis, the great Central European writer, who belonged to many cultures and traditions and whose life was itself literature. Nuanced, wise, and poetic, Birth Certificate just might reawaken interest in Kis, whose story is paradigmatic and important as a signpost in contemporary chaos."—Ivo Banac, Yale University

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780801448881
Publisher:
Cornell University Press
Publication date:
03/19/2013
Pages:
368
Sales rank:
1,424,378
Product dimensions:
7.20(w) x 10.10(h) x 1.30(d)

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