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Nobody's Home by Dubravka Ugrešić
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Nobody's Home

by Dubravka Ugrešić

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Showing 5 of 5
Embedded within a rushing narrative is a short story with the same theme, presenting a fictional variation the protagonist is reading on the [fictional] story that comprises the novel. It works to have these two narratives interwoven, though the inset one is very short and its conventional form highlights the internal monologue stream of the larger narrative. One eventually gets used to this stream, but it all gets to have a redundant feeling, needing editing to focus the larger narrative.

The translation is invisible and the work poetic in its rush, in sharp contrast to the subject matter, which is painful and keeps piling up. The rating reflects the fact that it somehow doesn't all hang together in the way it might have. Nevertheless it was somehow satisfying to read, and will require further consideration over time.
  V.V.Harding | Apr 21, 2015 |
This is a collection of essays from an author who considers herself to be a "nobody", and the collection is a treatise on what a nobody's home is like. Ugresic, from the former Yugoslavia writes intelligently, with healthy doses of humor, cynicism, and poignancy. I am left with a powerful feeling of sorrow. Sorrow for what? I am not entirely certain. Perhaps I feel sorrow for: exiles, locals, foreigners, people whose birthplace is now referred to starting with the word, "former". Major themes: exile, ethnic identity, cultural identity, being a foreigner, the new "transnational" literature.....and so much more. ( )
  hemlokgang | Apr 10, 2011 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I really liked the book, Ugresic has a great sense of humor and is a penetrating observer.

My favorite essay in the book is a long one called “Amsterdam, Amsterdam.” The city is Ugresic’s adopted home. In this essay is a delightful section about the Dutch and their bicycles that both awed me and made me laugh. The Dutch have such a close relationship with their bicycles, she says, that she is “surprised the Dutch flag doesn’t have a bicycle on it,” and vexed by there not being a verse in the Dutch national anthem about the bicycle. She’s seen Amsterdammers carry people, TVs, bureaus and bookshelves on their bicycles. While she clearly admires them she is also annoyed with them. Apparently, the majority of cyclists do not follow traffic rules and if you are a pedestrian your chances of being run over by a bike are high, even if you are walking on the sidewalk. I have never been particularly interested in going to Amsterdam, but after this essay I think it would be fun to go if only to watch the cyclists.

One of the things I enjoyed about Ugresic is that she doesn’t hold anything back; she calls it as she sees it and makes no apologies. She is a writer who believes that pretending things didn’t happen or don’t exist is more dangerous than speaking out about it, even if you are vilified for it by your own government. In her author’s note at the end of the book she says that being judgmental has become a negative trait along with pessimism. We are supposed to be optimistic, politically correct, tolerant, things that in themselves aren’t necessarily bad, but taken too far can mask a myriad of wrongs far worse than being judgmental.

I think that is what I like about this book. Ugresic dares to bicker. And oh, how refreshing that is!

See also: http://somanybooksblog.com/2009/06/07/nobodys-home/ ( )
  wellred2 | Nov 7, 2009 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Another success from Open Letter, which looks like it's tapped into an endless stream of little-known (in America) and intriguing authors writing outside of English. Ugresic is a literary intellectual with highbrow credibility to burn, and she can trade ideas with the best of them, but this collection is most interesting for its smaller personal essays, feuilletons if you will, many of which touch on Ugresic's dislocation as an emigre whose country of origin is gone. Is she Serb or Yugoslav or just some kind of post-national pan-European ghost?
  lucienspringer | Aug 27, 2009 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
4 out of 5: Nobody's Home is a collection of essays by a Croatian writer exiled in Amsterdam. After being declared a traitor, a public enemy, and a witch in 1991 because of her anti-nationalistic views, Ugresic was forced to leave her homeland. Not surprisingly, Nobody's Home focuses of themes of exile and dislocation. In a particularly poignant passage, Ugresic writes:

[E]xiles live submerged in trauma. ... The only way exiles are able to leave trauma behind is o not leave it behind at all, but to live it as a permanent state, to turn their waiting room into a cheery ideology of life, to live the schizophrenia of exile as the norm of normalcy and to revere only one god: the Suitcase!

The first part of this five-part collection contains brief, personal musings on topics ranging from flea markets to birdhouses. This part is the most charming of this collection because it is the most personal. Here is where Ugresic calls tourists "those industrious airline consumers" and remarks that "[h]istory and culture are the most reliable 'banks' for laundering a dirty conscience." Every page gives a new perspective.

The later parts of this collection are filled with insights into cultural clashes and literary politics. In contrast to the first part, these parts are more strident and argumentative. There are plenty of interesting ideas here, but Ugresic becomes a bit more repetitive in the second half of the book. Overall, Nobody's Home is a worthwhile and thought-provoking read.

Nobody's Home is the first publication of Open Letter Books, the University of Rochester’s new non-profit publishing house for works in translation. For my post raving about this new press, go here. This review also appears on my literary blog Literary License. ( )
  gwendolyndawson | Sep 22, 2008 |
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