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Danilo Kis (1935–89) was a Yugoslav novelist, essayist, poet, and translator whose work generated storms of controversy in his homeland but today holds classic status. Kis was championed by prominent literary figures around the world, including Joseph Brodsky, Susan Sontag, Milan Kundera, Philip Roth, Nadine Gordimer, and Salman Rushdie. As more of his works become available in translation, they are prized by an international readership drawn to Kis's innovative brilliance as a storyteller and to his profound meditation on history, culture, and the human condition at the end of the twentieth century.
A subtle analysis of a rich and varied body of writing, Birth Certificate is also a careful and sensitive telling of a life that experienced some of the last century's greatest cruelties. Kis's father was a Hungarian Jew, his mother a Montenegrin of Orthodox faith. The father disappeared into the Holocaust and the soncosmopolitan, anticommunist, and passionately opposed to the myth-drenched nationalisms of his native landsgrew up chafing against the hypocrisies of Titoism. His writing broke with the epic mode, pioneered modernist techniques in his language, fulminated against literary kitsch, and sketched out a literary heritage "with no Sun as its Center and Tyrant." Joyce and Borges were influences on his writing, which nevertheless is stunningly original. The best known of his works are Garden, Ashes; The Encyclopedia of the Dead; Hourglass; The Anatomy Lesson; and A Tomb for Boris Davidovich.
Over the course of nearly two decades, Mark Thompson studied Kis's papers and interviewed his family members, friends, and admirers. His intimate understanding of the writer's life and his sure grasp of the region's history inform his revelatory readings of Kis's individual works.More than an appreciation of an important literary and cultural figure, this book is also a compelling guide to the destructive policies which would, shortly after Kis’s death, generate the worst violence in Europe since World War II. Thompson’s book pays tribute to Kis’s experimentalism by being itself experimental in form. It is patterned as a series of commentaries on a short autobiographical text that Kis called "Birth Certificate." This unusual structure adds to the interest and intrigue of the book, and is appropriate for treating so autobiographical a writer who believed that literary meaning is always deeply shaped by other texts.
|Publisher:||Cornell University Press|
|Product dimensions:||7.20(w) x 10.10(h) x 1.30(d)|
About the Author
Mark Thompson is the author of A Paper House: The Ending of Yugoslavia, Forging War: The Media in Serbia, Croatia, and Bosnia-Hercegovina, and The White War: Life and Death on the Italian Front, 1915–1919. He lives in Oxford.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Great and Invisible
Birth Certificate (A Short Autobiography) by Danilo Kiš
1. Birth Certificate (A Short Autobiography)
2. My father
3. came into the world
4. in western Hungary
5. and was educated at the commercial college . . .
6. the birthplace of a certain Mr Virág . . .
7. by the grace
8. of Mr Joyce . . .
First InterludeThe Garret (1962)
9. I believe it was the liberal policy . . .
10. together with a desire for integration . . .
11. Many details of the family chronicle . . .
12. Among my ancestors on my mother's side . . .
13. The ethnographic rarity I represent . . .
14. In 1939, in my fourth year . . .
15. my parents had me baptised . . .
16. This saved my life.
17. I lived until my thirteenth year . . .
Second InterludeGarden, Ashes (1965)
18. I worked as a servant for rich peasants . . .
19. The 'troubling dissimilarity' that Freud calls . . .
Third InterludeEarly Sorrows (1969)
20. in my ninth year I wrote my first poems . . .
21. From my mother I inherited a propensity . . .
Fourth InterludeHourglass (1972)
22. And it was not without significance . . .
23. My mother read novels until her twentieth year . . .
24. In 1947 we were repatriated by the Red Cross . . .
25. Immediately after we arrived . . .
26. I had to wait a year or two . . .
27. For two years I learned violin . . .
28. At the secondary school I continued to write . . .
29. We were taught Russian by White Army officers . . .
Fifth InterludeA Tomb for Boris Davidovich (1976)
30. From the Gymnasium I entered the University . . .
Sixth InterludeThe Anatomy Lesson (1978)
31. As a lector for Serbo-Croatian . . .
32. For the last few years I have been living in Paris . . .
Seventh InterludeThe Encyclopaedia of the Dead (1983)