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Selection and commentary by CER staff

The Balkans

  • Andrić, Ivo;
    Bridge on the Drina (1994)
    (from Amazon.com), (from Amazon.co.uk)
  • Kadare, Ismail;
    Broken April (1998)
    (from Amazon.com), (from Amazon.co.uk)
  • Kadare, Ismail;
    The Concert (1998)
    (from Amazon.com)
    One of Albania's best-known writers, who fled the country for Paris in the early 1990s, gives a chilling portrait of life under Communist rule as he describes crumbling relations between Albania and China in the mid-1970s and the resulting trauma to individual Albanian lives.
  • Kadare, Ismail;
    The File on H (1998)
    (from Amazon.com), (from Amazon.co.uk)
  • Kadare, Ismail;
    The Palace of Dreams (1998)
    (from Amazon.com)
    Echoes of Kafka and Borges meet the dystopia of recent Balkan history. An unusually complete vision of totalitarianism, the story is set in an Ottoman capital slightly beyond the reach of time.
  • Kadare, Ismail;
    The Pyramid (1998)
    (from Amazon.com)
    A haunting meditation on the matter-of-fact brutality of political despotism.
  • Kadare, Ismail;
    The Three-Arched Bridge (1998)
    (from Amazon.com), (from Amazon.co.uk)
    An Albanian monk chronicles the events surrounding the construction of a bridge across a great river in the 14th-century Balkan peninsula. The story itself parallels developments in modern-day Eastern Europe, with the bridge emblematic of a disintegrating economic and political order. See Micah Jayne's review in CER.
  • Kiš, Danilo;
    Early Sorrows (1998)
    (from Amazon.com)
    A set of connected short stories by the acclaimed Serbian novelist and essayist.
  • Kiš, Danilo;
    The Encyclopedia of the Dead (1997)
    (from Amazon.com), (from Amazon.co.uk)
  • Kiš, Danilo;
    Homo Poeticus: Essays and Interviews (1996)
    (from Amazon.com), (from Amazon.co.uk)
    A collection of the author's nonfiction writings and interviews. Edited by Susan Sontag.
  • Kiš, Danilo;
    Hourglass (1997)
    (from Amazon.com), (from Amazon.co.uk)
    Considered to be Kiš's masterpiece and one of the key works of East European literature, this novel recounts the final months of a man's life before he is sent to a concentration camp.
  • Mededović, Avdo;
    Serbo-Croatian Heroic Songs (1980)
    (from Amazon.com)
  • Ugresić, Dubravka;
    The Culture of Lies: Antipolitical Essays (1999)
    (from Amazon.com), (from Amazon.co.uk)
  • West, Rebecca;
    Black Lamb and Grey Falcon: A Journey through Yugoslavia (1995)
    (from Amazon.com), (from Amazon.co.uk)

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  • Gombrowicz, Witold; Hamilton, Alastair (trans) and Mosbacher, Eric (trans);
    Cosmos and Pornographia: Two Novels (1994)
    (from Amazon.com), (from Amazon.co.uk)
    Gombrowicz won the International Prize for Literature in 1967 for Cosmos, an absurd mystery centering on man's quest for order and meaning. Pornographia is a surrealist novel, which also demonstrates Gombrowicz's provocative prose, rebellion against literary traditions, his existential philosophy and preoccupation with the power of form over the human mind. The plot unfolds around two older men who become obsessed with a young girl and boy.
  • Herbert, Zbigniew; Carpenter, Bogdana (trans) and Carpenter, John (trans);
    Elegy for the Departure and Other Poems (1999)
    (from Amazon.com)
    This collection of Herbert's poems, published posthumously, includes works from his early, middle and later periods. Herbert often wrote about political and historical events in Poland using a style of terse prose, irony and precise images rather than sentimentalism. Herbert is one of Poland's most influential poets and regarded intellectuals.
  • Kochanowski, Jan; Baranczak, Stanislaw (trans) and Heaney, Seamus (trans);
    Laments (1995)
    (from Amazon.com), (from Amazon.co.uk)
    A 16th-century Renaissance poet, Jan Kochanowski broke away from literary norms of the time to write about the death of his baby daughter, Orszulo. Invoking both the tears of Heraclitus and the Christian God to help him mourn and overcome the death of his Slavic Sappho, Kochanowski brilliantly ties together images from Christianity and Greek mythology. Although they take poetic liberties in the translations, Baranczak and Heaney beautifully resurrect the spirit of Poland's great Renaissance poet.
  • Libera, Antoni;
    Madame (2000)
    (from Amazon.com), (from Amazon.co.uk)
    Libera's debut novel, a bestseller in Poland, took first prize in the prestigious literary competition sponsored by the Znak publishing house. See Christina Manetti's review in CER.
  • Miłosz, Czesław;
    Bells in Winter (1996)
    (from Amazon.com), (from Amazon.co.uk)
    In this poetry collection, Miłosz conveys an unsettling exploration of a wanderer struggling to understand the larger questions in life. After the horror of the Holocaust, many poets believed that old structures of poetry and language would no longer suffice, that the world demanded reinterpretation. Miłosz's hero treads various landscapes recalling deaths of men, nations and palaces while also recollecting a personal history. He questions the definition of man and earthly civilization. What is the value, purpose and calling of man who inherited the earth, sea and sun after forgotten destructions? These are just some of the questions afflicting Miłosz's wanderer.
  • Miłosz, Czesław and Zielonko, Jane (trans);
    The Captive Mind (1990)
    (from Amazon.com), (from Amazon.co.uk)
    Take the "Murti-Bing" pill of totalitarian ecstasy, or fight conformity with the risk of being destroyed—this was the irrevocable choice forced upon intellectuals during totalitarianism in Poland. By following the psychological transformations of four prototype intellectuals, alpha, beta, gamma and delta, Miłosz closely explains how each one, in his struggle to survive during totalitarian rule, chose a path quite unique from the others. Many believe the four prototypes portray four of Miłosz's contemporaries.
  • Miłosz, Czesław;
    Emperor of the Earth (1981)
    (from Amazon.com), (from Amazon.co.uk)
  • Szczypiorski, Andrzej;
    The Beautiful Mrs Seidenman (1997)
    (from Amazon.com), (from Amazon.co.uk)
    A Jewish widow, Irma Seidenman, escapes death at the hands of the Gestapo during the Nazi invasion of Warsaw in 1943, only to be exiled from Poland during a second round of anti-Semitism under Communism. This is just one of the stories told in this book about Jews who faced persecution in Poland. Known for his uncompromising elucidations of Polish-Jewish relations, and his philosophical meditations on the role of religion and history in Poland, Szczypiorski offers valuable insight into the history of Jews in Poland.
  • Szczypiorski, Andrzej;
    The Shadow Catcher: A Novel (1998)
    (from Amazon.com), (from Amazon.co.uk)
  • Szymborska, Wisława; Maguire, Robert A (illustrator); Krynski, Magnus J (trans)
    Sounds, Feelings, Thoughts: 70 Poems (1996)
    (from Amazon.com), (from Amazon.co.uk)
    After winning the Nobel Prize in 1996, Szymborska has gained world recognition for her poems which, through simple prose and a unique subtle style, focus on the many beautiful and tragic elements contained within perhaps a collective, yet intimate experience of life.
  • Wietkiewicz, Stanislaw Ignacy and Gerould, Daniel (trans);
    A Wietkiewicz Reader: His Life and Works (1991)
    (from Amazon.com), (from Amazon.co.uk)
    Wietkiewicz was a free-spirited author, playwright and photographer who helped give birth to Poland's absurd theatre. His plays, critical essays, personal letters, book excerpts, paintings and photographs contained in this reader were both selected and translated by Gould who, with an insider's perspective, portrays Wietkiewicz's main themes. Philosophically charged and full of megalomania, Wietkiewicz provokes his audience to hop on his wild journey and fight for individualism and self-awareness while emphasizing the fragmentation of the individual.

Selection and commentary by Charlene Caprio

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