Have a Nice Day: From the Balkan War to the American Dream

Overview

This is not a novel, a travelogue, or a memoir; it is not a volume of short stories, a diary, or a war report. It is simply a remarkable book. Dubravka Ugresic is one of the finest living writers to emerge from the former Yugoslavia. Invited to the United States as a lecturer, she finds herself in Middletown, Connecticut, a world away from the brutal Balkan war. In the form of a personal "dictionary," under headings like "Couch-Potato," "Coca-Cola," "Refugee," and "Harassment," Ugresic allows us to see American ...
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Overview

This is not a novel, a travelogue, or a memoir; it is not a volume of short stories, a diary, or a war report. It is simply a remarkable book. Dubravka Ugresic is one of the finest living writers to emerge from the former Yugoslavia. Invited to the United States as a lecturer, she finds herself in Middletown, Connecticut, a world away from the brutal Balkan war. In the form of a personal "dictionary," under headings like "Couch-Potato," "Coca-Cola," "Refugee," and "Harassment," Ugresic allows us to see American culture through the eyes of a writer whose country, culture, and identity are being destroyed by war. Dubravka Ugresic subjects the absurdities of our time to deadly, deadpan analysis in a tone of voice that is at once wry, sad, ruthlessly honest, and perceptive. Since Theodor Adorno and Vladimir Nabokov, few European writers have contrasted the two parts of the Western world to more intelligent effect.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Croatian novelist and journalist Ugresic's quirky, razor-sharp essays comprise a wry look at American life and a jolting, sensitive self-portrait in cultural dislocation. Fleeing wartorn Zagreb in late 1991, she went to Amsterdam, then spent most of 1992 in New York City and teaching at Wesleyan in Connecticut. Americans, in her view, constantly ``network,'' redesign their self-images and compulsively organize their lives, jobs and leisure. She writes that Americans aggressively work at being happy, imitating the synthetic images shown on films and television and in ads. Through a conversation, real or imagined, with her bleached-blonde psychiatrist, Ugresic deflates Western stereotypes of Balkan peoples' ``mythic, tribal thinking.'' Elsewhere she charges that Serbian and Croatian nationalists use patriotic and religious symbols, slogans and kitsch to seduce the masses. Ugresic, who now lives in Berlin, wrote these pieces as columns for an Amsterdam newspaper; though they vary considerably in quality, her nervous, precise prose is a pleasure to read. (Apr.)
Library Journal
Fleeing the strife of her Croatian homeland, Ugresic found a place to live, teach, and write at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. While her wry observations on Western culture are insightful and amusing, they reveal as much about this particular exile's internal life as they do about American society's shallow obsessions. Ironic and pointed, Ugresic's short essays "defining" such topics as couch potato-hood also illuminate the differences and similarities between two cultures as seen through the eyes of a refugee. While not difficult reading, this collection of essays may not attract the average library patron; those who enjoy commentary on the current international scene will, however, appreciate it.-Pamela R. Daubenspeck, Warren-Trumbull Cty. P.L., Warren, Ohio
Janet St. John
Part diary, part vignette, part frantic journal entry, part vocabulary for the country-less, "Have a Nice Day" addresses with sincerity, cynicism, and wit the effects of war on people, both as citizens who leave a war-torn country and those who remain. For Ugresic, America represents shelter, albeit foreign and bizarre, and reassurance. Her escape from Croatia is both a relief and a torment. Ugresic's perception, filtered through the lens of lost country, culture, and identity, is heartbreakingly real and perhaps a bit incomprehensible to the average American. She defines herself as exile, without a center, without a home. Yet, she is still a citizen of the human race, and we are all exiles in some way. The only center we have is nothing more than a compilation of memory, experience, and feeling, which is universal and ultimately a kind of home, a kind of country to believe in.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780670860166
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 3/12/1995
  • Edition description: 1st American ed
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 20.00 (w) x 20.00 (h) x 20.00 (d)

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