4515 Willard Ave. #2210
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eniko.basa at verizon dot net
Mon, 15 Feb 2010 12:11:51 EST by admin, 111780 views
North dakota State University
Language and Literature paper by Cox, John K. (all papers)
The Hungarian Home of Danilo Kiš
My project focuses on the role played by Hungary and Hungarian literature in the life and writings of Serbian writer Danilo Kiš (1935-1989). Kiš, born in Subotica/Szabadka when it was part of Royal (interwar) Yugoslavia, had a Hungarian-speaking Jewish father, Eduard, and a Serbian-speaking Orthodox Christian mother from Montenegro, Milica Dragi?evi?. Kiš spent the years of World War II in Hungary, and his father was deported to Auschwitz from there and killed by the Nazis. For the rest of his life Kiš maintained an active engagement with Hungarian literature by writing essays about it (he especially admired Endre Ady) and publishing a large number of his own Serbian translations of Hungarian poetry. Wartime Hungary also figures prominently in his autobiographical novels, in some of his short stories, and in his play Night and Fog (an English translation of which I have just published in the journal Absinthe: New European Writing).
Not only do I analyze the image of Hungary in Kiš's fiction and non-fiction, but I also examine his essays in particular in order to home in on the regional identities that are of such great concern to cultural and intellectual historians. For instance, it can be argued that Kiš takes the "sting" out of the term Balkan by shifting discourse away from the traditional arrangement "Balkans--Central Europe--Eastern Europe--Europe" that has informed so much nationalism, state-building, and scholarship in the region. Kiš stresses global or pan-European cultural identity, and his refurbished vocabulary of regional associations focuses on "Mediterranean" and "Pannonian" characteristics. Kiš's overturning of invidious distinctions between sub-mentalities in Europe is a refutation of many fixed, registered, ascribed identities---even, to some extent, the venerable material of Central Europeanness, his commonalities with Konrád, Kundera, and Mi?osz notwithstanding. This emphasis on integration and commonality also predisposes him to keep the "big picture" in mind with regard to totalitarianism, a term he uses with equal readiness for both Stalinism and fascism.
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