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The Culture of Lies: Antipolitical Essays

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A funny and cynical collection of essays, observations, and sketches denouncing the perversions of political and cultural life in Croatia.


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A funny and cynical collection of essays, observations, and sketches denouncing the perversions of political and cultural life in Croatia.

30 review for The Culture of Lies: Antipolitical Essays

  1. 5 out of 5

    Szplug

    Great stuff. Greatly powerful, painful, poignant, piercing, peppery, pithy, polemical and personal stuff. An expatriate Croat reviled by a considerable portion of her fellow Dinaric Alpine Slavs in that oddly configured republic for opting to publicly air these stinging rebukes and accusations, Ugrešić grew up within an ethnically, linguistically, and religiously diverse Yugoslavia embracing a Titoist cult of Brotherhood and Unity of which, even then, dark and disturbing undercurrents occasional Great stuff. Greatly powerful, painful, poignant, piercing, peppery, pithy, polemical and personal stuff. An expatriate Croat reviled by a considerable portion of her fellow Dinaric Alpine Slavs in that oddly configured republic for opting to publicly air these stinging rebukes and accusations, Ugrešić grew up within an ethnically, linguistically, and religiously diverse Yugoslavia embracing a Titoist cult of Brotherhood and Unity of which, even then, dark and disturbing undercurrents occasionally left their ozone traces in the forested air, parents staring blankly at an anxious future and muttering softly as they tried to shake dim premonitions of storm clouds. When the country collectively shrugged off its heavy, moth-eaten and cumbersome communist overcoat, it seemed the restraints upon long-standing ethnic, religious, and political hatreds slipped away with it—though the evil deeds were always committed by a malefic other weighted with all the animosities and grievances and oppressions dredged or cooked up from slumbering historical memory and anted up repeatedly by the cynical operators newly playing for and with the levers of power. Ugrešić writes of this, how it came to be, how it played out, how it will likely affect her distant homeland in the future, with an intelligent, pungent, and playfully bitter prose—loaded with snap but also a melancholic tang—appalled and yet unsurprised by the sordidly violent turn all of that promise took. Well worth a look.

  2. 5 out of 5

    MJ Nicholls

    I found myself trapped reading this book of essays on Serb-Croat pickles and peccadilloes. Plucking it idly from the library, based solely on my previous four sit-downs with Dubravka, I found the content not in my purview. And yet, her engaging voice kept me returning for more until—lo and behold!—all 288pp were completed, and I emerged 1% more knowledgeable about Balkan history (I have, of course, forgotten it all already). This is why reading is imperative for spongeheads like me: while we’re I found myself trapped reading this book of essays on Serb-Croat pickles and peccadilloes. Plucking it idly from the library, based solely on my previous four sit-downs with Dubravka, I found the content not in my purview. And yet, her engaging voice kept me returning for more until—lo and behold!—all 288pp were completed, and I emerged 1% more knowledgeable about Balkan history (I have, of course, forgotten it all already). This is why reading is imperative for spongeheads like me: while we’re booking it we’re in possession of facts and opinions only a privileged few have access to. We are cranial conquistadors in our armchairs! For comment on the content, as ever, absent friend Chris has it covered and Harry has quotes in boldface, so you don’t forget, for the world is a sponge.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Doris Pandžić

    Ova knjiga, kako autorica kaže "antipolitičkih eseja" nagrađena je 1996. godine nagradom Charles Veillon za najbolju europsku esejističku knjigu godine, ali u Hrvatskoj je dobila većinom loše kritike. Izdanje koje sam pročitala, iz 1999., na poleđini je namjerno imalo istaknute loše kritike iz hrvatskih časopisa. Pitate se zašto? Pročitajte eseje pa ćete saznati. Ova knjiga, kako autorica kaže "antipolitičkih eseja" nagrađena je 1996. godine nagradom Charles Veillon za najbolju europsku esejističku knjigu godine, ali u Hrvatskoj je dobila većinom loše kritike. Izdanje koje sam pročitala, iz 1999., na poleđini je namjerno imalo istaknute loše kritike iz hrvatskih časopisa. Pitate se zašto? Pročitajte eseje pa ćete saznati.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Harry Rutherford

    The Culture of Lies by Dubravka Ugrešić is a book of essays written between 1991 and 1996 — that is, during and just after the wars that resulted from the collapse of Yugoslavia. It is my book from Croatia for the Read The World challenge, although there is a slight awkwardness to that choice. This is from the ‘Glossary’ which Ugrešić includes at the back of the book: Identity: A few years ago my homeland was confiscated, and, along with it my passport. In exchange I was given a new homeland, far The Culture of Lies by Dubravka Ugrešić is a book of essays written between 1991 and 1996 — that is, during and just after the wars that resulted from the collapse of Yugoslavia. It is my book from Croatia for the Read The World challenge, although there is a slight awkwardness to that choice. This is from the ‘Glossary’ which Ugrešić includes at the back of the book: Identity: A few years ago my homeland was confiscated, and, along with it my passport. In exchange I was given a new homeland, far smaller and less comfortable. They handed me a passport, a ’symbol’ of my new identity. Thousands of people paid for those new ‘identity symbols’ with their lives, thousands were driven out of their homes, scattered, humiliated, deprived of their rights, imprisoned and impoverished. I possess very expensive identity documents. the fact often fills me with horror. And shame. My passport has not made me a Croat. On the contrary, I am far less that today than I was before. I am no one. And everyone. In Croatia I shall be a Serb, in Serbia a Croat, in Bulgaria a Turk, in Turkey a Greek, in Greece a Macedonian, in Macedonia a Bulgarian… Being an ethnic ‘bastard’ or ’schizophrenic’ is my natural choice, I even consider it a sign of mental and moral health. And I know that I am not alone. Violent, stubborn insitence on national identities has provoked a response: today many young citizens of former Yugoslavia, particularly those scattered throughout the world, stubbornly refuse any ethnic labels. So, although Ugrešić was born in what is now Croatia, and so her book counts for my purposes as a book from Croatia, I should be careful not to label her as a ‘Croat writer’. But then it was never the intention for this challenge that the books and writers chosen should be taken as representative of those countries — or not in a straightforward way. In the context of this challenge, that dynamic between books and countries is quite interesting, but I think it needs a post of its own. The essays are fascinating. They communicate a sense of an overwhelming cultural trauma, not just because of the war itself but because of the whiplash speed of the changes as all the ex-Yugoslavs created new identities for themselves. Streets were renamed, history rewritten, the literary canon divvied up. And it wasn’t simply an assertion of a new positive identity for, for example, Croatia, it was necessarily a rejection not just of Serbia and Bosnia but of Yugoslavia. So the country where all of them had lived their whole lives, and which had been an imperfect but functional state for over 80 years, became a ‘prison of nations’, and anyone who questioned this was suffering from the dangerously subversive ‘Yugo-nostalgia’. This is from the title essay: I know of a writer colleague who claimed to a foreign journalist that he was ‘the victim of repression’ under Yugo-communism, that his books were banned, and that he had been in prison. That colleague was never in prison nor was he ‘the victim of repression’ and all his books were regularly published. I do not believe that he was lying. Exposed to media brainwashing, terror by forgetting and collective compulsion, my colleague had simply forgotten his personal history, he carried out an unconscious mental touching-up, and in the general context the spoken lie became an acceptable truth. And after all, the foreign journalist had come to hear just such a story, in his Westerner’s head he already carried such a stereotype: the story of a repressed writer in the former communist regime and a happy end in the new, democratic one. I know of a Zagreb Japanologist who terrorised the whole Yugoslav cultural scene for years with — Japan! Throughout the whole of former Yugoslavia there sprang up haiku circles, haiku poets, ikebana courses, anthologies of Japanese poetry, twinnings between Osaka and Varaždin, festivals of Yugoslav haiku poets. Thanks to the activity of the aforementioned Japanologist, the inflation of haiku poetry during ‘totalitarianism’ had given us all a ‘pain in the neck’. Today the famous Japanologist claims that under the ‘Tito regime’ he was exposed to repression because of … haiku poetry! We have always been at war with Eastasia. The essays approach this central subject from various directions — the metaphor of cleanness and cleansing, the relationship between eastern and western Europe, the kitschiness of nationalist aesthetics, pop music — and they are all well-written, thought provoking and rather quotable. But instead of typing out long extracts I’ll just suggest you read it yourself.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Nicole Cushing

    Ugrešić is my favorite living essayist. This 1998 translation addresses the breakup of the former Yugoslavia. Ugrešić suffered during the war. Her books were burned, she was branded a "public enemy" and "witch", and she went off into self-imposed exile. That said, she never descends into self-pity. Rather, she's a social critic. Her essays employ dry gallows humor to elucidate the failure of Croatian institutions in the early '90s. The media caved to nationalism. Academia caved to nationalism. C Ugrešić is my favorite living essayist. This 1998 translation addresses the breakup of the former Yugoslavia. Ugrešić suffered during the war. Her books were burned, she was branded a "public enemy" and "witch", and she went off into self-imposed exile. That said, she never descends into self-pity. Rather, she's a social critic. Her essays employ dry gallows humor to elucidate the failure of Croatian institutions in the early '90s. The media caved to nationalism. Academia caved to nationalism. Colleague turned on colleague. Authors became mere political instruments. Historians rewrote history. Reality stopped being reality. Propaganda displaced truth. I was jarred by the similarity of early '90s Croatia and Trump's U.S. The deception and self-deception, the posturing, the cowardice. Highly recommended.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Andreas S.

    Sjajna knjiga, i toliko tužna...

  7. 5 out of 5

    Aleksandra

    "Danas sam nitko. Ili svatko. U Hrvatskoj ću biti Srpkinja, u Srbiji Hrvatica i Albanka, u Sloveniji Bosanka, u Bugarskoj Turkinja, u Turskoj Grkinja, u Grčkoj Makedonka… Kulturni bastardizam, etnička “shizofrenija”, multiplicirani, transkulturni identitet – moj su prirodni izbor. I nisam usamljena." "Danas sam nitko. Ili svatko. U Hrvatskoj ću biti Srpkinja, u Srbiji Hrvatica i Albanka, u Sloveniji Bosanka, u Bugarskoj Turkinja, u Turskoj Grkinja, u Grčkoj Makedonka… Kulturni bastardizam, etnička “shizofrenija”, multiplicirani, transkulturni identitet – moj su prirodni izbor. I nisam usamljena."

  8. 5 out of 5

    Simona

    A collection of a thought provoking politically critical texts/essays which were written during the collapse of Yugoslavia, war (1991-1995) and in the post-war period, are author’s reflections - focused mainly on a new identity (with the new state you also get new identity-and in many cases also new personality), role of intellectuals-writers and media, nationalism and criminality of war. This thoughts led to the fact that Ugrešić was declared in Croatia as a state enemy, traitor, whore and witc A collection of a thought provoking politically critical texts/essays which were written during the collapse of Yugoslavia, war (1991-1995) and in the post-war period, are author’s reflections - focused mainly on a new identity (with the new state you also get new identity-and in many cases also new personality), role of intellectuals-writers and media, nationalism and criminality of war. This thoughts led to the fact that Ugrešić was declared in Croatia as a state enemy, traitor, whore and witch. My only complaint: repetition.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Andi

    As someone with both Croatian and Serbian heritage, and having lived in a few of the countries that make up Former Yugoslavia, I was eager to get Ugrešić's feelings on her former country falling apart. This collection of essays is full of longing, bitterness, betrayal, anger, and a strange tenderness for a past that clearly still brings our author pain. This area of the world has been and still is largely ignored, and many people I've talked to about Yugoslavia's breakup can never come to a conc As someone with both Croatian and Serbian heritage, and having lived in a few of the countries that make up Former Yugoslavia, I was eager to get Ugrešić's feelings on her former country falling apart. This collection of essays is full of longing, bitterness, betrayal, anger, and a strange tenderness for a past that clearly still brings our author pain. This area of the world has been and still is largely ignored, and many people I've talked to about Yugoslavia's breakup can never come to a conclusion about whether that was a good thing or not. In my mind, the breakup of Yugoslavia had been equated with the fall of Communism, and combining that with the longing of many natives I've spoken with for the days of Tito, I had unwittingly begun to think that the breakup was, in itself, a step. But after encountering victims of the horrors of the siege on Sarajevo and of Srebrenica, as well as learning of the tragedies that tore my own family in half with the onset of the wars, this book has brought me to believe that there simply was no winning with the situation, and I find myself sharing Ugrešić's frustration to my own, small degree. I read this book with the original Croatian and the English translation side-by-side. The writing in both is lovely, and each essay is as unexpected, detailed, and personal as the last. Ugrešić aquaints us with the culture of lies that rejected her and betrayed her, that stumbled on into an uncertain future using uncertain and possibly unknown motivations, beyond ignorance and lies. My reasoning for the 4-star rating instead of 5 is due simply to the lack of a usable conclusion. We are presented with a tragedy, a problem and a cold case gone unsolved and half-forgotten, but little else. It leaves a bitter taste in the mouth, but that is also the nature of the genre. Many classic works from the Former Yugoslavia lay out the tragedies and the sadnesses, and that is that - no plan for the future. A great read - detailed, informative, full of raw emotion.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Tina Smalcelj

    This book is priceless source of information and thoughts about disappearance of one country, multiple identities, and uncountable memories and histories. Dubravka Ugrešić's essays are anti-political in a sense that they are against the multitudes of systems we know and have to live in, but there is a strong political thought standing behind it all. She opposes all kinds of fascisms and talks about history that most people decided to forget, offering the reader opportunity to think for himself/h This book is priceless source of information and thoughts about disappearance of one country, multiple identities, and uncountable memories and histories. Dubravka Ugrešić's essays are anti-political in a sense that they are against the multitudes of systems we know and have to live in, but there is a strong political thought standing behind it all. She opposes all kinds of fascisms and talks about history that most people decided to forget, offering the reader opportunity to think for himself/herself with a bit of help from the proud "witch" living in exile.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Dominik Golob

    205. Odlično delo, o naivnosti in še vsem drugem.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Lazarus-II

    3.5/5 or 7/10

  13. 4 out of 5

    Cheryl

    4.5 stars

  14. 4 out of 5

    Ola Loobeensky

    Świetna pozycja. Uważam przy tym, że jest to książka "o Bałkanach" mniej więcej na tyle, na ile "Ryszard III" jest książką "o królu" - to wszystko prawda, ale szkoda byłoby czytać ją tylko przez taki pryzmat. Pani Ugrešić w zacytowanym w opisie fragmencie stwierdza, że to po prostu pozycja o nacjonalizmie - i to stwierdzenie wydaje mi się wyczerpujące. "Kultura kłamstwa" to dowód na to, że ludzie wszędzie zachowują się mniej więcej tak samo. Świetna pozycja. Uważam przy tym, że jest to książka "o Bałkanach" mniej więcej na tyle, na ile "Ryszard III" jest książką "o królu" - to wszystko prawda, ale szkoda byłoby czytać ją tylko przez taki pryzmat. Pani Ugrešić w zacytowanym w opisie fragmencie stwierdza, że to po prostu pozycja o nacjonalizmie - i to stwierdzenie wydaje mi się wyczerpujące. "Kultura kłamstwa" to dowód na to, że ludzie wszędzie zachowują się mniej więcej tak samo.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Chris Landry

    Sardonic to the max describing the heartbreak of civil war and conflict and eventually exile in the former Yugoslavia. What was most eye opening was Ugresic's description of how the worst, most reactionary forms of nationalism is reproduced at every level of society, not just in the military, police, political systems, or media but more insidiously, in road signs, maps, libraries, and school textbooks. Sardonic to the max describing the heartbreak of civil war and conflict and eventually exile in the former Yugoslavia. What was most eye opening was Ugresic's description of how the worst, most reactionary forms of nationalism is reproduced at every level of society, not just in the military, police, political systems, or media but more insidiously, in road signs, maps, libraries, and school textbooks.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    Dubravka Urgresic writes thoughtful, interesting essays about how the fall of communism destroyed Yugoslav society. I really enjoy her, but I imagine that people without my same niche interests would not be so fond of her writing.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

    This book has come up a lot in my research for my senior seminar paper that I am doing on her. The more I read about this book in my research, the more I want to read it. One day when I have money.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Nina

    apparently my life isn't depressing enough, so i figured that reliving the happy happy joy joy times of the nineties was a good idea. *headdesk* apparently my life isn't depressing enough, so i figured that reliving the happy happy joy joy times of the nineties was a good idea. *headdesk*

  19. 4 out of 5

    Suzanne

  20. 5 out of 5

    Adam Klein

  21. 5 out of 5

    Nerul

  22. 4 out of 5

    Alma Obradović

  23. 4 out of 5

    Crotijak

  24. 5 out of 5

    Kaliya

  25. 4 out of 5

    Nataliya Deleva

  26. 5 out of 5

    Katerina

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jasna Kovo

  28. 5 out of 5

    Natasa Brunec

  29. 5 out of 5

    Semir

  30. 5 out of 5

    Milana

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