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Nobody's Home


Series of incisive essays from Dubravka Ugresic explores the full spectrum of human existence. From bottled-water drinking tourists with massive backpacks to the Eurovision song contest, Ugresic's unfailingly sharp critical eye never fails to reveal what has been hidden in plain sight by routine, or uncover the tragic, and the comic, in the everyday.
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Series of incisive essays from Dubravka Ugresic explores the full spectrum of human existence. From bottled-water drinking tourists with massive backpacks to the Eurovision song contest, Ugresic's unfailingly sharp critical eye never fails to reveal what has been hidden in plain sight by routine, or uncover the tragic, and the comic, in the everyday.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

In her long career, Ugresic has published several novels (e.g., The Ministry of Pain), but she made her name with her essay collections, which have caused controversy and earned her the admiration of writers and critics abroad. In these latest musings, written over the course of several years, Ugresic leaves no stone unturned and no thought contained, doing what she does best: writing about the human condition through her own experience. Refusing to establish a central theme, she touches upon a wide range of topics: the paradox of multiculturalism, metaphors as our "defense against nightmares," the eerie similarities between capitalism and communism, and ways in which we try to rise hopelessly above our less-than-perfect existence. Along the way, she pays homage to the works of literature that have influenced her own creative process, in an effort to pay "a symbolic literary tax on narcissim" because "writing is not the humblest of vocations." Perhaps not, but Ugresic certainly knows how to balance being a critic with being criticized. Recommended for all libraries collecting cultural criticism.
—Mirela Roncevic

Kirkus Reviews
Croatian novelist/essayist Ugresic (The Ministry of Pain, 2006, etc.), now a resident of Amsterdam, offers discerning, sometimes grumpy commentary on a rapidly changing Europe-and a rapidly changing world. The author admits that she "bickers" throughout this collection composed largely of previously published newspaper columns-and so she does. She rails against the globalization of sex slavery and notes wryly that a former Yugoslav prison for political enemies is now a favorite setting for gay-porn films. She marvels at the vapidity of popular culture: Britney Spears et al., do not come off well; those who care about them come off worse. She chides the Catholic Church for its corruption and wonders, in an essay that begins with the provocative image of Vladimir Putin kissing a fish, at the human yearning for the limelight. She comments continually about the dislocation of people. More than 200,000 Poles populate Ireland; people from the Balkans have scattered everywhere; Amsterdam swells with immigrants from the Middle East. Ugresic finds the flea market a perfect metaphor for a world whose borders are evanescing, and she cites the now-ubiquitous Vietnamese nail salons as evidence of global population shifts. Everywhere, she notes, current residents complain about the influx. The author sprinkles her text with literary allusions, as well. Surprised that a ten-year-old acquaintance has never heard of Anne Frank, she promptly takes him to the family's hiding place in Amsterdam-but notes that many Dutch were eager to turn in Jews for cash. In a very fine essay she explores that recent publishing phenomenon, the memoir, calling it "a kind of literary karaoke." She describes, too, the oddnostalgia that many feel for old communist Europe. Taut, timely pieces by a writer who sees the cosmic in the quotidian.
The Barnes & Noble Review
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 [1991 -- when the former Yugoslavia descended into war], 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, 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 factors 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. --Christopher Byrd
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781934824009
  • Publisher: Open Letter
  • Publication date: 8/26/2008
  • Pages: 297
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Dubravka Ugresic is the author of several works of fiction and several essay collections, including the NBCC award finalist, Karaoke Culture. She went into exile from Croatia after being label a "witch" for her anti-nationalistic stance during the Yugoslav war. She now resides in the Netherlands.
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Table of Contents

A Global View of the World 5

Flea Market 8

A Suitcase 11

The Basement 14

A Right to Misery 17

Stereotypes 20

Ostalgia 23

The Tamils 26

Birdhouse 29

Gardening 32

My Hometown 35

Old Age - New Craze 39

Ah, That Rhetoric! 42

Little Dog - Big Bark 44

Time and Space 46

The Natives 49

History and Culture 51

Shit 54

Sobs 56

The Heart 59

Identity 62

Pavlik Morozov 65

Happiness 67

Celebs 70

Rise Up, Ye Proletarians! 72

Beauty Killed the Beast 75

Europe, Europe 81

Amsterdam, Amsterdam 100

USA Nails 129

What Is European about European Literature? 139

Literary Geopolitics 152

Transition: Morphs & Sliders & Polymorphs 162

Opium 175

The Stendhal Syndrome 199

Leaving It to Lolita 204

Let Putin Kiss a Wet Slippery Fish 209

A Little Story about Remembering and Forgetting 213

All Foreigners Beep 218

The Underclass 223

A Requiem for the Yugoslav Guest Worker 228

A Monument to the Polish Plumber 233

Marlene 237

Go, Burekana, Go! 242

The Alibi of Cultural Differences, or: How I Got the Picture 249

The Souvenirs of Communism 259

A Postcard from My Vacation 273

Nobody's Home 286

Author's Note 295

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