The Birdcage Archives

Friday 17 March 2023

Dubravka Ugrešić, Dies at 73

Hello Gentle Reader,

In another shocking event, the Dutch-Croatian writer, Dubravka Ugrešić has died at the age of 73, ten days before her 74 birthday. In a manner similar to the death of the Spanish master, Javier Marias, the world is shocked and confounded by the surprising news of Dubravka Ugrešić, who like Marias was a internationally renowned writer and often considered a perennial candidate for the Nobel Prize in Literature. Dubravka Ugrešić was born in a town in the former Yugoslavia (now Croatia), in a ethnically diverse family, her mother being a Bulgarian. She would go on to study at the University of Zagreb, majoring in comparative literature, where she would pursue parallel careers as both literary scholar and writer. As the Soviet Union disbanded and the Iron Curtain collapsed during the late 1980’s and 1990’s, the thread bare fragile adhesive that held the former Yugoslavia together also came undone. In 1993, Dubravka Ugrešić left what was then Croatia for political reasons. She remained an ardent opponent to the rising nationalism of the Balkan nation and its neighbours as they tore themselves apart and marched towards war, slaughter, and eventual genocide. Becoming one of the worlds newly minted exiled and borderless writers who resolutely opposed nationalism as it replaced the Soviet eras brand of socialism. IN her remaining life in exile, Dubravka Ugrešić taught at numerous European and American universities, including Harvard, UCLA, and Columbia University. As a writer, Dubravka Ugrešić was a consummate postmodernist, capable of soldering both high cultural allusions and references with the pastiche of low pop culture references and mass consumerist allusions, which crafted a renewed and reinvented form of the novel, encompassing the high components of postmodern literature, with its pastiche techniques, fragmentation, and sense of humour, creating a sophisticated chimeric literary production. Yet, her novels increasingly gained more gravitas with both political and sociological concerns. “The Ministry of Pain,” tangos with the violent divisions of the former Yugoslavia, and the despondency of exile, the realities and difficulties of making a life away from home. Beyond fiction, Dubravka Ugrešić was an accomplish and prolific essayist, once again employing her postmodernist perspective to both disarm readers while engaging in a political dialogue and dissertation. “Have A Nice Day: From the Balkan War to the American Dream,” is made up short essays in a dictionary-like format that recount the everyday existence in America, but through the lens of someone whose homeland is being destroyed. Each of her essay collections proved that Ugrešić was a remarkably versatile writer, one who could engage both with the palpability of political discourse, the anchoring realities of the mundane, and the curious treaties on literary subjects. In 2016, Dubravka Ugrešić won the Neustadt International Prize for Literature.

With the death of Dubravka Ugrešić, the world has lost a resounding literary and moral figure, one who was able to provide both insight and criticism into nationalism, while also exploring politics through a literary lenses without becoming polemic in nature. Her literary accomplishments were postmodern gems, a hybrid unity reflecting and refracting the human experience, both in terms of high poetic perspectives and the vertigo of mass consumerist culture.

Rest in Peace, Dubravka Ugrešić.

Thank-you for Reading Gentle Reader
Take Care
And As Always
Stay Well Read

M. Mary

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