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Fording the Stream of Consciousness [Paperback]

Dubravka Ugresic , Michael Henry Heim


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Book Description

November 1993 Writings from an Unbound Europe (Book 5)
Ironic, playful, and multilayered, winner of three major prizes for the best Yugoslav novel of 1988, this beguiling novel-about-a-novel is set at an international literary conference in Zagreb. It begins with the death of an anti-Franco poet who slips into the pool of the intercontinental Hotel and continues with a rapid and entertaining chain of events involving espionage, sexual intrigue, murder, and a good deal of one-upmanship among the assembled academics. In the style of David Lodge, the novel is filled with colorful characters and hilarious scenes; but amid the lighthearted action Ugresic provides a serious and doubly outsidered perspective on the differences between the worlds of Eastern Europe and the West. Through the eyes of her Yugoslav and Russian characters Ugresic expresses the incredulity that many in Eastern Europe felt at the Western tendency to romanticize the "communist" world; simultaneously, through her American character, she explodes many of the myths of the West in the minds of Eastern Europe. In addressing issues of mutual cultural misunderstanding without attempting to impose artificial solutions to the problems, Ugresic has produced a truly successful multicultural novel.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 225 pages
  • Publisher: Northwestern University Press (November 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0810110997
  • ISBN-13: 978-0810110991
  • Product Dimensions: 20.2 x 12.1 x 1.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 204 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,801,511 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From the Back Cover

A New York Times Book Review Notable Book of the YearUgresic

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Amazon.com: 3.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars "We prefer them because they are senseless" April 8 1999
By Richard R - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Ugrešic aptly cites Voltaire's Ulug asking, "How can you prefer stories that are senseless and mean nothing?" to preface her novel about a literary conference in Zagreb. The novel is a good one, winning prizes in Yugoslavia when it was first published in 1988. But it is not a great one. It weaves together smartly the stories of sundry writers and critics, each with idiosyncrasies and human foibles. It ruminates on the contrasts between westerners and eastern Europeans, a theme that provides grist for both insightful humor and sad cynicism.
Ultimately, the book answers Voltaire's question. It is senseless, but it is amusing and has plenty of clever scenes. Prša explaining how he sprained his finger while giving a silly artistic performance and had to go on half-pay and accept a larger state-subsidized apartment; the Russian Troshin's scathing musings about western visitors to eastern Europe, "What was the lure of Moscow? A love of fear?... How quickly they adapted to paranoia as a way of life."; the Croatian critic sizing up an American and concluding, "America's out. Has been for ages.... Europe is in! Mitteleuropa!"; the Czech writer of a stolen manuscript who struggles when the police ask him for a description of the stolen goods, because he can't possibly give a good plot summary in a few lines on a police report.
There are some fun plot twists at the end as the role of the Flagus the pompous Frenchman is clarified. The British sensibility of Michael Henry Heim's translation occasionally jars an American reader, particularly when Marc, the prototypical American, speaks with British usages. Ugrešic opens and closes the book with a series of real-life journal entries, chronicling her back problems, her travels, and her struggle with writer's block. She is interesting, and she seems to love writers and being a writer. It is this playful joy that carries the book and makes it fun to read, but in the end, it is a bit senseless.

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