27 March 1949 |
Kutina, SR Croatia, SFR Yugoslavia
|Notable award(s)||Austrian State Prize for European Literature (1999)|
Background and education
Ugrešić was born in Kutina, SR Croatia, SFR Yugoslavia. Her mother is a Bulgarian from Burgas who emigrated to Yugoslavia at age 19, in the wake of World War II. Ugrešić studied Comparative Literature and Russian Language and Literature at the University of Zagreb, pursuing parallel careers as a scholar of the humanities and as a writer, and continued to work there in the Institute for Theory of Research on Literature for twenty years. She later moved to Amsterdam to write. She has spent time teaching at some European and American universities, including UNC Chapel Hill, UCLA, and Harvard. Currently, she lives in Amsterdam where she is a freelance writer and contributor to some European newspapers and literary journals.
Ugrešić has written on a variety of topics from nature to the question of identity and exile. At first she wrote children's books, including Mali Plamen (1971) and Filip I screca (1976). Another of her early works, Stefica Cvek u raljama zivota (1981), is included in her postmodern poetic category of writings. U raljama zivota was immediately popular and soon adapted into a film for which Ugrešić wrote the screenplay. Her best-known novel in former Yugoslavia was Štefica Cvek u raljama života (Steffie in the Jaws of Life), an ironic postmodernist novel freely playing with clichés and stereotypes of trivial literature and culture. It follows a young typist named Steffie Speck, whose name was taken from a Dear Abby column, as she searches for love, both parodying and being compelled by the kitschy elements of romance. Ugrešić called the novel her "biggest literary achievement ... because of the way in which the hero of the novel defeats its author." The novel was made into a 1984 movie U raljama života directed by Rajko Grlić.
Ugrešić calls her highly referential style "patchwork." In her view,
... great literary pieces are great because, among other things, they are in permanent polemics with their readers, some of whom are writers, and who are able to themselves express creatively their sense of this literary affair. Great literary pieces have that specific magical quality of provoking readers to rewrite them, to make a new literary project out of them. That could be the Borgesian idea that each book should have its counterpart, but also a Modernist idea of literature which is in constant dialogue with its literary, historical past.
In her writing, Ugrešić attempts to «de-tone» herself or remove tone from her writing, as she believes writing in first person leads the audience to think she is both omniscient and critical. Ugrešić does not regret her past writings because they too align with her previous and current beliefs and what she does. Ugrešić admits that her literary territory is not limited by national boundaries or language, though she continues to write in Croatian. In works such as The Confiscation of Memory, another book comprising several essays, Ugrešić expands upon the ease with which she communicates with Easteners as opposed to Westerners and the connections she makes with others. She writes about the past and how Easterners fear the past and would rather «sink into the compliant and indifferent present.» She comments on the destruction of the former Yugolsavia and how its change in history has effected a change in identity. Through this work, she expresses her belief that ruling elites and intelligentsia in post-Yugoslavia manipulate history and memory to suit their purposes. Ugrešić has also created various artisitc exhibitions based on her writings including an exhibit called «A primer for the illiterate» a series of essays she wrote in the early 1990s, demonstrating the dissolution of the country through metaphors. In her 1996 work, The Culture of Lies, Ugrešić searches for an explanation for what happened in Yugoslavia and who is to blame. She explores the role and status of the intellectual, whether such a person can join the nationalists or forever be apart from society. Ugrešić eliminates the various options for intellectuals until she is left with the idea that one must abandon ethnic and national identity altogether. Ugrešić finally concludes that every intellectual should be blamed because they did not do enough or nothing to stop the war in Yugoslavia. Ugrešić's latest work, Attack on the Minibar, is a collection of essays written on a number of topics, including personal and universal battles with fear and frustration,politics, migration, and art. Through her essays, such as "A Little Story about Remembering and Forgetting,” “In the Country all Lies are Truth,” Toys for Boys,” and "Patriotism,” Ugrešić expresses her fear for the future of children and that they are only taught important moments in history rather than history as a true chronology, such education, Ugrešić laments, can easily sway children toward nationalism.
Politics and exile
In 1989, Ugrešić joined the Association for Yugoslav Democratic Initiative becoming the member of its board. Association supported reform of Yugoslavia and opposed the idea of Croatian independence. After the outbreak of the war in 1991 in former Yugoslavia, Ugrešić took a firm anti-war and anti-nationalistic stand. She wrote critically about nationalism and the stupidity and criminality of war, and soon became a target of state controlled media. She was accused of anti-state activities and proclaimed a “traitor”, a “public enemy” and a “witch”. She left Croatia in 1993 after a series of public media attacks and has attributed her exile from the Croatian literary community to the current political mood of the majority. Although political circumstances in Croatia changed a couple years after her exile, she rejects the idea of returning to Croatia. She feels that Eastern Europeans fear the past and would rather "sink into the compliant and indifferent present." She emphasizes that there has been no effort to conserve the past but rather a willingness to destroy anything related to Yugoslavian culture, including literature. She recognizes that this rapid change in history has caused individuals ("being born in one country, living in a second, and dying in a third") to quickly change identities and in many cases to embrace nationalism. She believes that citizens of the former Yugoslavia have become deprived of their common past. She desires to look forward but believes that the importance of those years as a period of solidarity in the Balkans should not be overlooked.
In her most recent book, The Attack on the Minibar, she details her victimization by the media, among other topics. She has recently started to travel to Croatia more and to speak to the media, admitting that she has begun to reconcile with certain people, but not with the state. Furthermore, though she has not ruled out the possibility of returning to live in Zagreb, she believes that residing abroad gives her a different perspective on the places she has lived, explaining it in terms of a “mental game” that helps her to discover more about herself and others. Another reason that she prefers to live outside of Croatia is that she believes most people think that literature serves to promote national identity, but she would prefer to be expelled from the national community than conform to this idea.
Ugresic has received several literary awards and international recognition for her writing.
In the former Yugoslavia she was awarded the NIN Prize in 1988 for Forsiranje romana reke, being the first female writer (out of four in total, as of 2010[update]) to win this prize since it was established in 1954.
International Literary Awards
- 2010 Tiptree Award for Baba Yaga Laid an Egg
- 2006 Shortlisted for Independent Foreign Fiction Prize. UK.
- 2004 Premio Feronia – Citta di Fiano. Italy.
- 2000 Heinrich Mann Preis (Heinrich Mann Prize). Akademie Der Kunste Berlin. Germany.
- 1999 Osterreichischen Staatspreis fur Europaische Literatur 1998 (Austrian State Prize for European Literature). Vienna, Austria.
- 1998 SWF-Bestenliste Literaturpreis (Sud-West-Funk Bestlist Literary Award). Germany.
- 1997 Versetsprijs 1997, Stichting Kunstenaarsverzet 1942–1945 (Artists in Resistance Prize). Netherlands.
- 1996 Prix Europeen de l’ Essai Charles Veillon (Annual prize for the best European book of essays). Switzerland.
- Napad na minibar (2010)
- Baba Yaga Laid an Egg (2007; translated into English 2009)
- Nobody’s Home (2007)
- The Ministry of Pain (2005)
- Lend Me Your Character (2004)
- Thank You For Not Reading (2003)
- The Museum of Unconditional Surrender (1998)
- The Culture of Lies (1998)
- Have A Nice Day: From the Balkan War to the American Dream (1994)
- In the Jaws of Life (1992)
- Fording the Stream of Consciousness (1991)
||This biographical article needs additional citations for verification. (April 2010)|
- University of Oklahoma (2001). World Literature Today, Vol. 74. University of Oklahoma Press. p. 99.
- Крапачева, Искра (8 November 2006). "От романи вече не се печели" [One cannot earn money from novels anymore]. Стандарт (in Bulgarian) (“Стандарт нюз” АД). Retrieved 10 December 2011.
- Keller, Ursula (2004). Writing Europe: What Is European About the Literatures of Europe? Essays from 33 European Countries. Central European University Press. p. 326.
- "Dubravka Ugrešić". Interview.
- Sencar, Anela. "Dubravka Ugresic". Personal interview. Retrieved 4 May 2004.
- Anela Sencar, “Dubravka Ugrešić,» Booksa.HR, 2 May 2008, http://www.booksa.hr/dossier/40.
- Boym, Svetlana. "Dubravka Ugrešić", BOMB Magazine, Summer 2002. Retrieved on 3/9/11.
- Soja Ćirić, “Interview Dubravka Ugrešić-Our landscapes,» http://www.vreme.com/cms/view.php?id=950375
- Milan Milana Vuković Runjić, “Interview with Dubravka Ugrešić talks to Milan Vuko.» http://www.dzepna.com/ugresic.htm
- Dubravka Ugrešić, The Confiscation of Memory, p. 29
- Dubravka Ugrešić, personal interview 10 January 2012
- Žarka Radoja: “I do not reconcile with the state, but with certain people.” http://www.dw.de/dw/article/0,,6000178,00.html
- Dubravka Ugrešić, The Culture of Lies. 1996.
- Žarka Radoja, “I do not reconcile with the state, but with certain people.” http://www.dw.de/dw/article/0,,6000178,00.html
- Asja Bakić, Dubravka Ugrešić: Napad na minibar. February 2010. http://www.mvinfo.hr/izdvojeno-kritike-opsirnije.php?ppar=4988
- Radoja, Žarka. "Ne mirim se s državom već s određenim ljudima". Retrieved 16 March 2012.
- Ugrešić, Dubravka (1998). The Culture of Lies: Antipolitical Essays. Pennsylvania State University Press. ISBN 0-271-01847-X.
- "Dubravka Ugrešić". Vuković & Runjić Umjetnička organizacija. Retrieved 16 March 2012.
- Ugrešić, Dubravka. The Confiscation of Memory.
- Boris Beck (4 May 2004). "Dubravka Ugrešić - književna zvijezda u amsterdamskom egzilu" [Dubravka Ugrešić - a literary star exiled in Amsterdam]. Nacional (in Croatian) (442). Archived from the original on 4 July 2012. Retrieved 10 June 2012.
- Strock, Ian Randall (21 March 2011). "2010 Tiptree Award Winner". SFScope.com. Archived from the original on 26 March 2011. Retrieved 26 March 2011.
- Official Homepage
- Dubravka Ugrešić at the complete review
- Dubravka Ugrešić interview by Svetlana Boym in BOMB Magazine, 2002
- Ugrešić at Open Letter Books