Dubravka Ugrešić

    is a Croatian novelist and essayist. Following degrees in Comparative and Russian Literature, Ugrešić worked for many years at the University of Zagreb’s Institute for Theory of Literature, successfully pursuing parallel careers as both a writer and as a scholar. In 1991, when war broke out in the former Yugoslavia, Ugrešić took a firm anti-war stance, critically dissecting retrograde Croatian and Serbian nationalism, the stupidity and criminality of war, and in the process became a target for nationalist journalists, politicians and fellow writers. Subjected to prolonged public ostracism and persistent media harassment, she left Croatia in 1993. Her books have been translated into over twenty languages. She has taught at a number of American and European universities, including Harvard, UCLA, Columbia and the Free University of Berlin. She is the winner of several major literary prizes (Austrian State Prize for European Literature 1998; finalist of Man Booker International Prize 2009; Jean Améry Essay Prize, awarded for her essayistic work as a whole, 2012; while Karaoke Culture was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism 2011). In 2016 Dubravka Ugrešić has been awarded Vilenica Prize and Neustadt International Prize for Literature. “That time [of the wartime in former Yugoslavia] changed me a lot. It was a unique experience that shattered my old political and moral beliefs, views and references, and my current perspective those events remains the same as it was then. Some of my former contemporaries remain dedicated fascists, and others are just a little bit fascist as it suits them. It turns out that nationalism benefits some people very well, which I think is an insight into some of the political rhetoric we’re seeing on the rise again now. Given this, I would not alter a word in my book of essays ‘The Culture of Lies’ – the book I published twenty years ago about the dismantling of Yugoslavia, nationalism, and the war. Today’s reality just proves that I was right back then. Very little has changed. My greatest challenge as a writer has been to find the proper words to reach not only those who share similar experiences, but to have those who do not also come to identify with my work. My concerns are often “aesthetic” it seems: how to write about such dark times while avoiding the traps of journalistic pamphleteerism – of false moralism and false emotions – as well as simplifications. I want my readers to understand what I am talking about in a real way, with all the complexities of the issue good and bad. The story of refugees is a basic story of the human condition. It’s the oldest tale of mankind that constantly repeats itself throughout history, the tale that has been told and retold zillions of times. In a world structured by Christianity, the very first story is that of Adam and Eve – man’s first exiles. Mankind has always been on the move, traversing far and wide in a search of a more secure shelter, a better life. They say that being uprooted is an exceptional condition, but I dare to claim the opposite. From an historical point of view, being ‘rooted’ is, in fact, the exceptional condition. The sad thing is that many Europeans today, stricken by the ‘refugee crises,’ are not in a position to accept that fact. And so the stories repeat themselves again.”