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European Tribune - Diaries
Dubravka Ugre,i, (born 27 March 1949, Kutina) is a noted Yugoslavian/Croatian writer who lives in the Netherlands.
Ugre,i, was born in 1949 in former Yugoslavia, now Croatia.
She studied Comparative Literature and Russian Language and Literature at the University of Zagreb, pursuing parallel careers as a scholar of the humanities and as a writer.
best-known novel in former Yugoslavia was ,tefica Cvek u raljama ,ivota (Steffie in the Jaws of Life), an ironic postmodernist novel freely playing with clich,s and stereotypes of trivial literature and culture.
,i, lives in Amsterdam as a freelance writer.
She occasionally teaches at American and European Universities and writes for some European newspapers and literary journals.
I could spend this whole diary writing about her
life of exile as a person from the former Yugoslavia who lives in Amsterdam and treks about your continent like a one-woman show of European cosmopolitanism and literary tradition.
But a lot of people have done that.
"You can Google me," she
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UCL SSEES: News from the Department of East European Languages and Culture
Tuesday, 9 October 2007: An Evening with Dubravka Ugre,i,, at 17:15,
Dubravka Ugre,i,, an internationally renowned Croatian writer, will be coming to the Department to talk to staff and students . Ugre,i, is the recipient of numerous literary awards, including the Charles Veillon Essay prize (1996) and the PEN writers in translation prize (2005).
Her last novel, The Ministry of Pain, was shortlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction prize 2006.
She has also been nominated for the Man Booker International prize.
In her kaleidoscopic tour de force, Nobody's Home, Dubravka Ugre,i, addresses everything from flea markets and communist souvenirs to celebrity life and our modern obsessions.
Ugre,i,'s essays offer humorous perspectives and insights on everyday life, literature, politics, and fame and its foibles.
Originally from Croatia, Ugre,i, went into self-imposed exile in the early 90s after her anti-nationalist stance led to her being labeled as a "traitor" and a "public enemy" in the nationalistically-charged media.
She now lives in the Netherlands where she works as a freelance writer and university lecturer.
The Ministry of Pain - Dubravka Ugresic
...Dubravka Ugre,i, was born in 1949, in Yugoslavia (now Croatia).Her
writing has been translated into numerous languages.She
was awarded the prestigious Heinrich Mann Prize in 2000.
Dubravka Ugresic at the Complete Review
say about Dubravka Ugre
Dubravka Ugre,i, is a Croatian writer who is very conscious of the global stage.
First published when Yugoslavia was still whole (and socialist), her
writing has kept close track of the changing role of the writer in the changing societies of the 1980s and 1990s.
A writer in exile, an (in many ways) old-style European living outside her
language and culture -- and a frequent visitor on campuses and at international conferences --, she
has proved particularly adept at showing the transformations the world of the modern intellectual has undergone.
Fact and fiction are joined in many of her books, even the early fictions: drawing on experiences (often those of being a writer and academic), she uses these for her stories or essay-pieces.
relates events and discusses issues in a light, often amused tone, rarely bogging down in argument or overwhelming the reader.
books -- even the novels -- tend to be very episodic: a cumulation of bits and pieces.
writes engagingly, and we are sympathetic to her
themes -- though the focus especially on the writer and his
role in the world can, on occasion, get tiresome.
Nobody's Home - Dubravka Ugresic
The other sections contain longer essays -- though, as usual, Ugre
,i, manages to fill them with all sorts of examples, digressions, and stories.
,i, does much better when she's
given space to let her
arguments and examples unfold, and the collection could easily have done without the first section.
More tightly focussed, on a single subject or theme, illustrated or discussed with the help of an anecdote or experience or two, the pieces in this first group often feels too constrained by the space-limit.
Still, there are some nice pieces here as well, such as 'Bird House', in which she
describes some of the consequences of her
Ever since I left home, the whole world has become my home.
The trite appeal of that old Croatian pop-song line has become my life.
There is a secret geography of the things I leave behind me.
I conduct a clandestine occupation, leave my mark, drop my secret anchor.
My belongings -- coffee pots, plates, bedspreads, shoes, sheets, sweaters -- are scattered through European and American cities, to the four winds.
Much of the book deals with home and abroad, with Ugre
,i, both embracing a kind of internationalism but also often reveling in the very national -- traits, customs, food.
Confused, collapsed (former) Yugoslavia is, understandably, a favourite, and there are, for example, some amusing riffs on the local attitudes and how they manifest themselves, as in a piece on the use of the word 'shit' by her
countrymen, who find it applicable to essentially everything ("My countrymen don't give much credence to the benefits of a larger vocabulary.
Stingy people, stingy language").
But it's the longer pieces, where she
has the space to unfold her
ideas more fully and make more extensive connexions, that make Nobody's Home worthwhile.
The first section may have it's entertaining bits, but can practically be skimmed across; it's when she
settles down that the collection really perks up and gets going, starting with an essay on 'Europe, Europe', loosely based on her
trip on the Literature Express 2000, "in which 100 writers from some forty-three countries covered 7000 kilometres and visited eighteen European cities".
It's this sort of thing -- with its mix and variety of observations, the contrast of this "exercise in homelessness.
All you do is travel, you don't think about a thing" with the impressions of both the places (from the well-rooted to the rapidly changing) and the writers -- that is most appealing.
In the third section several essays focus specifically on world literature -- 'What is European about European literature ?' for example, as well as 'Literary Geopolitics'.
Identity is an issue that keeps getting raised, and even though in the first section there is a piece in which she
explains how she
has become allergic to the concept ("I have no idea how I picked up this allergy.
I must have been overly exposed to identity") she
finds that varieties of national identity prove nearly inescapable.
Writers, especially, are categorised by national origin -- even as that has once again become more confusing in this day and age: what is one to make of English-writing Ugandan Moses Isegawa, who lives in Holland (as does Ugre
,i,), for example, she
worries about labels -- these sorts of labels, in particular -- but can see how they've caught on:
Suddenly, success in the global arena is only possible with a different kind of identity -- something Eastern European writers have had difficulty taking on (as Ugre
,i, has repeatedly effectively shown, in these essays and elsewhere).
A carrier and transmitter of culture, Ugre
,i, is also wary of it:
Culture can be a tourist-instructional gift packet offering a smattering of history, a touch of folklore, and a line or two of verse; culture can serve as an identity help-kit; as a shadowy point of self-respect and mutual regard; as a blank surface onto which meaning may be inscribed and read.
values culture, but is concerned about it being devalued (or at least re-valued, in a perverse way) in the marketplace, becoming a commodity that obeys market-rules, leading to a bland uniformity, a sameness that succeeds because it is recognisable by consumers, and feels familiar.
Dubravka Ugre,i, was born in 1949, in Yugoslavia (now Croatia).
writing has been translated into numerous languages.
was awarded the prestigious Heinrich Mann Prize in 2000.