Dubravka Ugrešić: Fashioning the Post-Modern Post-Socialist Dissident

Sibelan Forrester, Swarthmore College


Even before the break-up of former Yugoslavia, Dubravka Ugrešić was living a double life in print, as an author of highly respected academic works and increasingly popular fiction, including the “pattern novel” Štefica Cvek u raljama života (1983?) and the mocking description of a literary conference, Forsiranje romana reke (1988).  For more than a decade now she has crafted a third literary identity, that of Croatian or former Yugoslav public intellectual, living in the Netherlands and as an academic gypsy sometimes in the United States.  Three of her most recent books have appeared roughly simultaneously in translation and in the original language (Američki Fikcionar/Have a Nice Day, Kultura laži/The Culture of Lies, and Muzej bezuvjetne predaje/The Museum of Unconditional Surrender, all translated into English by Celia Hawkesworth).

This paper traces the refinement of Ugrešić’s authorial persona through these three volumes, moving from the peevish tone of the alienated visiting professor in Američki fikcionar, with a scorn often reminiscent of Vladimir Nabokov’s or Tatiana Tolataya’s for the intellectual level of American undergraduate students or New York editors, through the polemical passion and partisan revelations of fact about former colleagues who remained at home of the essays collected in Kultura laži, to the intense recreation of personal revelation in Muzej bezuvjetne predaje, which both mourns the past and moves the authorial self into residence in a trans-national space reminiscent of the tone and observations of long-time semi-emigré writers such as Irena Vrkljan.  I argue that as she shifts into writing for a largely uninformed Western intellectual market, part of which tended at least initially to expect information and analysis in the style of a socialist-era dissident, Ugrešić develops a stronger and more significant authorial persona which both exemplifies and complicates her post-modern position and aesthetic.




Celia Hawkesworth, “Dubravka Ugresic:  The Insider’s Story,” Slavonic and East European Review, July 1990 , 68(3), pp. 436-446.

Tatjana Pavlović, “Remembering/Dismembering the Nation:  The Archeology of Lost Knowledge,” in Rada Iveković and Julie Mostov, eds., From Gender to Nation (Ravenna:  Longo, 2002), pp. 131-152.

Ellen Handler Spitz, “Lost and Found:  Reflections on Exile and Empathy,” American Imago, 2000 (Summer), 57(2), pp. 141-155.

Dubravka Ugrešić, The Culture of Lies, translated by Celia Hawkesworth (University Park, PA:  Penn State University Press, 1998).

Dubravka Ugrešić, Have a Nice Day:  From the Balkan War to the American Dream, translated by Celia Hawkesworth (New York:  Viking, 1995).

Dubravka Ugrešić, Kultura laži [antipolitički eseji], drugo, dopunjeno izdanje (Zagreb:  Arkzin, 1999).

Dubravka Ugrešić, The Museum of Unconditional Surrender, translated by Celia Hawkesworth (New York:  New Directions, 1999).

Dubravka Ugrešić, Muzej bezuvjetne predaje (Zagreb:  Konzor; Belgrade:  Samizdat B92, 2002).