Yugoslav author Dubravka Ugrešić may well be the smartest, wittiest, most captivating author you’re not (yet) reading. With more than a dozen fiction and nonfiction works available in English translation, Ugrešić's brilliance is amply displayed. American Fictionary (rendered from the Croatian by Celia Hawkesworth and Ellen Elias-Bursac) — first published in 1993 and revised and republished 25 years later — is a collection of keen, sagacious essays originally written for a Dutch daily newspaper during an invited stay in the U.S., in a column she called “My American Dictionary." Whether expounding upon American culture, American idiosyncrasies, American excess, or the objective superiority of bagels to either muffins or donuts, Ugrešić's observations are consistently thoughtful, engaging, and generously wry. From the prosaic to the profound, Ugrešić's critical eye offers an outsider’s view of who we are on the inside. Recommended By Jeremy G., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
In the midst of the Yugoslav wars of the early 1990s, Dubravka Ugresic — winner of the 2016 Neustadt International Prize for Literature — was invited to Middletown, Connecticut as a guest lecturer. A world away from the brutal sieges of Sarajevo and the nationalist rhetoric of Milosevic, she instead has to cope with everyday life in America, where she's assaulted by "strong personalities," the cult of the body, endless amounts of jogging and exercise, bagels, and an obsession with public confession. Organized as a fictional dictionary, these early essays of Ugresic's (revised and amended for this edition) allow us to see American culture through the eyes of a woman whose country is being destroyed by war, and forces us to see through the comforting veil of Western consumerism.
“Ugrešić’s wit is bound by no preconceived purposes, and once the story takes off, a wild freedom of association and adventurous discernment is set in motion... Ugrešić dissects the social world.” World Literature Today
”A genuinely free-thinker, Ugrešić's attachment to absurdity leads her down paths where other writers fear to tread.” The Independent
”It takes a stranger to see how dark this world is: Dubravka Ugrešić is that stranger.” Joseph Brodsky
”Like Nabokov, Ugrešić affirms our ability to remember as a source for saving our moral and compassionate identity.” John Balaban, Washington Post
”Dubravka Ugrešić is the philosopher of evil and exile, and the storyteller of many shattered lives.” Charles Simic
About the Author
Dubravka Ugresic is the author of six works of fiction, including The Museum of Unconditional Surrender, and six essay collections, including the NBCC award finalist, Karaoke Culture. She went into exile from Croatia after being labeled a "witch" for her anti-nationalistic stance during the Yugoslav war. She now resides in the Netherlands. In 2016, she was awarded the Neustadt International Prize for Literature for her body of work.
Celia Hawkesworth is the translator of numerous works of Serbian, Croatian, and Bosnian literature, including Dubravka Ugresic's The Culture of Lies for which she won the Heldt Prize for Translation in 1999.
Ellen Elias-Bursac is a translator of South Slavic literature. Her accolades include the 2006 National Translation Award for her translation of David Albahari's novel Götz and Meyer. She is currently the Vice President of the American Literary Translators Association.