Sunday, September 21, 2008

Nobody's Home by Dubravka Ugresic (a review)

4 out of 5: Nobody's Home is a collection of essays by a Croatian writer exiled in Amsterdam. After being declared a traitor, a public enemy, and a witch in 1991 because of her anti-nationalistic views, Ugresic was forced to leave her homeland. Not surprisingly, Nobody's Home focuses on themes of exile and dislocation. In a particularly poignant passage, Ugresic writes:
[E]xiles live submerged in trauma. ... The only way exiles are able to leave trauma behind is to not leave it behind at all, but to live it as a permanent state, to turn their waiting room into a cheery ideology of life, to live the schizophrenia of exile as the norm of normalcy and to revere only one god: the Suitcase!
The first part of this five-part collection contains brief, personal musings on topics ranging from flea markets to birdhouses. This part is the most charming of this collection because it is the most personal. Here is where Ugresic calls tourists "those industrious airline consumers" and remarks that "[h]istory and culture are the most reliable 'banks' for laundering a dirty conscience." Every page gives a new perspective.

The later parts of this collection are filled with insights into East-West cultural clashes and literary politics. In contrast to the first part, these parts are more strident and argumentative. There are plenty of interesting ideas here, but Ugresic becomes a bit more repetitive in the second half of the book. Overall, Nobody's Home is a worthwhile and thought-provoking read.

Nobody's Home is the first publication of Open Letter Books, the University of Rochester’s new non-profit publishing house for works in translation. For my post raving about this new press, go here.


Marie said...

Thanks for a great review. I really want to read this- I've been a big fan of hers for a while. :-) thanks!

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