27 March 1949|
Kutina, SR Croatia, Yugoslavia
|Notable awards||Neustadt International Prize for Literature (2016), Vilenica Prize (2016)|
Background and education
Ugrešić majored in comparative literature and Russian language at the University of Zagreb's Faculty of Arts, pursuing parallel careers as a scholar and as a writer. After graduation she continued to work at the university, at the Institute for Theory of Literature. In 1993 she left Croatia for political reasons. She has spent time teaching at European and American universities, including UNC-Chapel Hill, UCLA, Harvard University, and Columbia University. She is based in Amsterdam where she is a freelance writer and contributor to several American and European literary magazines and newspapers.
Novels and short stories
Dubravka Ugrešić has published novels and short story collections. Her much loved “patchwork” novella is Steffie Speck in the Jaws of Life (Croatian: Štefica Cvek u raljama života), published in 1981. Filled with references to works of both high literature (by authors such as Gustave Flaubert and Bohumil Hrabal) and trivial genres (such as romance novels and chick lit), it represents a sophisticated and lighthearted postmodern play with the traditional concept of the novel. 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. The novel was made into a successful 1984 Yugoslav film In the Jaws of Life, directed by Rajko Grlić.
"Ugrešić is a "citizen of Literature". In all her fiction and essays Ugrešić expresses her belonging to Literature, the old and great family of books and their writers. 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 dialog with its literary, historical past”.
Ugrešić’s novels, all carefully crafted, differ from each other in structure, narration, style and themes.[clarification needed]
Her novel Fording the Stream of Consciousness received NIN Award in 1988, the highest literary honor in former Yugoslavia, whose winners include Danilo Kiš and Milorad Pavić; Ugrešić was the first woman to be awarded the prize. The novel is hilarious Bulgakov-like “thriller” about an international “family of writers” who gather at the conference in Zagreb in the “socialists”, “Yugoslav” era. Museum of Unconditional Surrender is a novel about the melancholy of remembrance and forgetting. A female narrator, an exile, surrounded by scenery of post-Wall Berlin and images of her war-torn country Yugoslavia, constantly changes the time zones of her life, past and present.
Set in Amsterdam, Ministry of Pain portrays the shattered lives of displaced people. It’s a novel about the trauma of language and the language of trauma.[clarification needed] In the novel Baba Yaga Laid An Egg, published in the Canongate Myth Series as "most inventive and most substantial volume", Ugresic draws on the legendary Slavic figure of Baba Yaga to tell us a modern fairy tale. It deals with beauty, magic and vigor, death, aging and gender inequalities and discrimination, but also the power of old women to settle the score.
Ugrešić’s “creative work resists reduction to simplified isolated interpretative models”. She is widely admired for her innovative approach to the essayistic literary genre. Her work is published in numerous European and American literary magazines and newspapers. Her collection Have A Nice Day: From the Balkan War to the American Dream (original title Americki fikcionar) consists of short dictionary-like essays on American everyday existence, seen through the lenses of a visitor whose country is falling apart. The Culture of Lies is a volume of essays on ordinary lives in a time of war, nationalism and collective paranoia. “Her writing attacks the savage stupidities of war, punctures the macho heroism that surrounds it, and plumbs the depths of the pain and pathos of exile”. Thank You For Not Reading is a witty and eye –opening collection of essays on “literary trivia”: the publishing industry, literature, culture and the place of writing in our “society of spectacle”. Nobody’s Home is a sharp and bittersweet volume on all things literary, from flee markets and “ostalgia” to the “global view on the world”. Karaoke Culture, with its long manifesto-essay of the same title, is a collection of profoundly insightful essays about our modern Internet times, and how technology and media change us all. Europe in Sepia, the latest volume, offers a melancholic view on (mostly) European cultural, political and everyday life landscapes. Dubravka Ugrešić received several major awards for her essays, including Charles Veillon Prize, Heinrich Mann Prize, Jean Amery Prize. In America, Karaoke Culture was shortlisted for National Book Critic Circle Award.
Dubravka Ugrešić is also a literary scholar who has published articles on Russian avant-garde literature, and a scholarly book on Russian contemporary fiction Nova ruska proza (New Russian Fiction). She has edited anthologies, such as Pljuska u ruci (A Slap in the Hand), co-edited nine volumes of Pojmovnik ruske avangarde (Glossary of Russian avant-garde), and translated writers such as Boris Pilnyak and Danil Kharms (from Russian into Croatian). She is also the author of three books for children.
Politics and exile
At the outbreak of the war in 1991 in former Yugoslavia, Ugrešić took a firm anti-war and anti-nationalist stand. She wrote critically about nationalism, the stupidity and the criminality of war, and soon became a target of parts of the Croatian media, fellow writers and public figures. She had been accused of anti-patriotism and proclaimed a “traitor”, a “public enemy” and a “witch”. She left Croatia in 1993 after a long lasting series of public attacks, and because she “could not adapt to the permanent terror of lies in public, political, cultural, and everyday life”. She wrote about her experience of a collective nationalist hysteria in her book The Culture of Lies, and described her “personal case” in the essay “The Question of Perspective" (Karaoke Culture). She continues to write about dark sides of modern societies, about the “homogenization” of people induced by media, politics, religion, common beliefs and the marketplace (Europe in Sepia). Being “the citizen of a ruin”  she is interested in a complexity of a “condition called exile” (J. Brodsky). Her novels (Ministry of Pain, The Museum of Unconditional Surrender) explore exile traumas, but also excitement of exile freedom. Her essay “Writer in Exile” (Thank You for Not Reading) is a small writer's guide to exile.
- 1988 – NIN Award (Annual prize for Best New Yugoslav Novel) (Yugoslavia)
- 1996 – Prix européen de l'essai Charles Veillon (Annual prize for Best European Book of Essays) (Switzerland)
- 1997 – Versetsprijs 1997, Stichting Kunstenaarsverzet 1942–1945 (Artists in Resistance Prize) (Netherlands)
- 1998 – SWF-Bestenliste Literaturpreis (Sud-West-Funk Bestlist Literary Award) (Germany)
- 1998 – Austrian State Prize for European Literature. (Austria)
- 2000 – Heinrich Mann Prize. Akademie Der Kunste Berlin (Germany)
- 2004 – Premio Feronia-Città di Fiano (Italy)
- 2006 – Shortlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize (UK)
- 2009 – Nominated for the Man Booker International Prize (UK)
- 2010 – James Tiptree Jr. Award for Baba Yaga Laid an Egg (USA)
- 2011 – Finalist of the National Book Critics Circle Awards (in the Criticism category, for Karaoke Culture: Essays) (USA)
- 2012 – Jean-Améry-Preis für europaische Essayistik (Austria/Germany)
- 2016 – Neustadt International Prize for Literature (USA)
- 2016 – Vilenica International Literary Festival Prize (Slovenia)
- Fording the Stream of Consciousness (1991)
- In the Jaws of Life (1992)
- Have A Nice Day: From the Balkan War to the American Dream (1994)
- The Culture of Lies (1998)
- The Museum of Unconditional Surrender (1998)
- Thank You For Not Reading (2003)
- Lend Me Your Character (2004)
- The Ministry of Pain (2005)
- Nobody’s Home (2007)
- Baba Yaga Laid An Egg (2009)
- Karaoke Culture (2011)
- Europe in Sepia (2014)
- Fox (2018)
- American Fictionary (sept 2018)
This biography of a living person needs additional citations for verification. (April 2010) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
- Lukic, Jasmina. "Trivial Romance as an Archetypal Genre".
- Boym, Svetlana. "Dubravka Ugrešić".
- Warner, Marina. "Witchiness. LRB".
- Svirčev, Žarka. "Ah, taj identitet". Beograd: Službeni glasnik 2010.
- Byrne, Richard. "Picking the Wrong Witch". The Common Review. Archived from the original on 10 May 2013.
- "Dubravka Ugresic Wins the Jean Améry Award for Essay Writing". rochester.edu. University of Rochester. 31 August 2012. Retrieved 24 March 2014.
- Ugresic, Dubravka (2003). Thank You For Not Reading. Dalkey Archive Press. p. 136.
- Williams, David (2013). Writing Post-communism, Towards A Literature of the East European Ruins. Palgrave. p. 33.
- Ugresic, Dubravka. "Writer in Exile".
- Strock, Ian Randall (21 March 2011). "2010 Tiptree Award Winner". SFScope.com. Archived from the original on 26 March 2011. Retrieved 26 March 2011.