An ever-changing witches' wheel festooned with anecdote and critique, fact and fabrication, and enough cantankerous wisdom to out-bluster even the most devout cynic. Fox is a showcase for Ugrešić's polymathic indignation, covering everything from back pain to minesweeping to the membership rolls of avant-garde art sects with assured antagonism, letting no one — least of all the reader — off the hook. This is a masterpiece plaited with dexterous invention, a demystifying reconnaissance of the writing life, and a bitter pill on the state of exile rolled into one bestial package. Recommended By Justin W., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
Fox is the story of literary footnotes and "minor" characters — unnoticed people propelled into timelessness through the biographies and novels of others. With Ugresic's characteristic wit, Fox takes us from Russia to Japan, through Balkan minefields and American road trips, and from the 1920s to the present, as it explores the power of storytelling and literary invention, betrayal, and the randomness of human lives.
"Another tricky treasure from an internationally renowned author. Ugresic has been in exile from her native Croatia since the region emerged as a country after the breakup of Yugoslavia. A vocal critic of nationalism, she was, she says, branded a "whore, a witch, and a traitor." It's that second slur that is most intriguing when it comes to reading the author's work. In Baba Yaga Laid an Egg (2010), she used a magical crone from Slavic folklore as a lens through which to view contemporary women's lives. Here, she takes inspiration in the vulpine creature who gives this new book its name. As a mythic figure, the fox takes on and sheds attributes as he — or she — travels across cultures, but one characteristic seems to remain constant: The fox is an ambivalent type. By making the fox a sort of mascot to the first part of her novel, a section called "A Story about How Stories Come to Be Written," Ugresic is creating an affinity between the writer and the trickster. Even at her most straightforward, Ugresic is a sly storyteller, and here she is using every trick in the postmodernist playbook. Indeed, there are moments when it seems like she's pulling a fast one even when she isn't. For example, a reader who isn't knowledgeable about early-20th-century Russian literature might be forgiven for thinking Okay! An American Novel by Boris Pilnyak is an invention simply because that title is just too perfect. If Okay! is Ugresic's creation, it's a clever one. But the reader who bothers to Google is in for the delightful discovery that both Pilnyak and his "American novel" are real. Then we're left to wonder what true and false mean in fiction anyway, a question Ugresic complicates by using a first-person narrator and autobiographical detail. The translators deserves special mention, too. "The fox meets frequently with affliction, and is thus consigned to loserdom, its personal attributes preventing contiguity with higher mythological beings." The juxtaposition of "loserdom" and "contiguity" is not only funny; it also captures the high-low essence of Ugresic's style.Brilliant and laugh-out-loud funny." COPYRIGHT(2018) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
"Ugresic's soaring, incisive novel uses the shape-shifting avatar of the fox to explore story-making. The linked narrative structure is reminiscent of her novel The Museum of Unconditional Surrender, as an unnamed narrator in exile from the former Yugoslavia struggles with the complications of 21st-century writing. There are six sections, tonally varied save for the inevitable appearance of a fox in each, that cascade together in the thrilling climax, which merges the emotional — the narrator's love for her niece — and the practical — the narrator's disappointing visit to a Holden Caulfield-themed MFA program in Italy (it's named Scuola Holden). Two sections take on the form of essays, with some factual material and some invented by the writer. One examines a Japanese narrative by the Russian writer Boris Pilnyak; the other is a sketch of Dorothy Leuthold, a minor figure in the Nabokov cosmos. Two sections are set in Europe's literary community, as the narrator suffers the minor indignities of life as an "economy-class writer" while she is taught lessons about storytelling by two older women who are each associated with obscure Russian authors named Levin. In the remarkable third section, "The Devil's Garden," the narrator inherits a house in Croatia and forges a surprising connection. "The urge for home is powerful," she writes; "it has the force of primal instinct.... The greatest feat of every emigrant seems to be making a new home." Ugresic's novel is a wonder; it's essential reading for writers and lovers of writing alike." (Apr.)
Copyright 2018 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.
A Best Book of 2018 at Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, and the New Statesman
Fox is the story of literary footnotes and "minor" characters--unnoticed people propelled into timelessness through the biographies and novels of others. With Ugresic's characteristic wit, Fox takes us from Russia to Japan, through Balkan minefields and American road trips, and from the 1920s to the present, as it explores the power of storytelling and literary invention, betrayal, and the randomness of human lives.
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 Wars. She now resides in the Netherlands. In 2016, she was awarded the Neustadt International Prize for Literature for her body of work.
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.
David Williams did his doctoral research on the post-Yugoslav writings of Dubravka Ugresic and the idea of a "literature of the Eastern European ruins." He is the author of Writing Postcommunism, and translated Ugresic's Europe in Sepia and Karaoke Culture.