BOOK TALK. FOX, BY DUBRAVKA UGREŠIĆ WITH TRANSLATOR ELLEN ELIAS-BURSAC
Please join the Njegoš Endowment for Serbian Language and Culture and the Harriman Institute for a book launch and discussion of Dubravka Ugrešić’s recent novel Fox, translated by Ellen Elias-Bursac and David Williams, with the author Dubravka Ugrešić and translator Ellen Elias-Bursac. The conversation will be moderated by Aleksandar Bošković (Columbia).
With characteristic wit and narrative force, Fox takes us from Russia to Japan, through Balkan minefields and American road trips, and from the 1920s to the present, as it explores the power of storytelling and literary invention, notions of betrayal, and the randomness of human lives and biographies. Using the duplicitous and shape-shifting fox of Eastern folklore as a motif, Ugrešić constructs a novel that reinvents itself over and over, blending nuggets of literary trivia (like how Nabokov named the Neonympha dorothea dorothea butterfly after the woman who drove him cross-country), with the timeless story of a woman trying to escape her hometown and find love to magical effect. Propelled by literary footnotes and “minor” characters, Fox is vintage Ugrešić, recovering the voices of those on the margins with a verve that’s impassioned, learned, and hilarious.
Over the past three decades, Dubravka Ugrešić has established herself as one of Europe’s most distinctive novelists and essayists. From her early postmodernist excursions, to her elegiac reckonings in fiction and the essay with the disintegration of her Yugoslav homeland and the fall of the Berlin Wall, through to her more recent writings on popular and literary culture, Ugrešić’s work is marked by a rare combination of irony, polemic, and compassion. 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. In an exile that has in time become emigration, 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. Ugrešić lives in Amsterdam.
Ellen Elias-Bursac translates fiction and non-fiction from Bosnian, Croatian, and Serbian. Her translation of David Albahari's novel Götz and Meyer was given the 2006 ALTA National Translation Award. Her book Translating Evidence and Interpreting Testimony at a War Crimes Tribunal: Working in a Tug-of-War was given the Mary Zirin Prize in 2015. She is the vice-president of ALTA.