22. ilb 07. - 17.09.2022

Dubravka Ugrešić

Portrait Dubravka Ugrešić
© Ali Ghandtschi

Dubravka Ugrešić was born in 1949 in Kutina, Yugoslavia (now Croatia). She studied Comparative Literature and Russian Language and Literature at the University of Zagreb, and worked for over 20 years at the Institute for Literary Theory. Dubravka Ugrešić has translated into Croatian works by Daniil Kharms and Boris Pilnyak, and in 1980 she published a study of the Russian avant-garde. She was already famous for her novels and short stories in Yugoslavia. In 1993 Ugrešić, who rejected the rising nationalism, moved to Berlin, and later the USA, where she taught at various universities, before settling in Amsterdam. Her experiences in exile and her views on the collapse of Yugoslavia were dealt with in two essay collections and in her novel »Muzej bezuvjetne predaje« (Engl: »The Museum of Unconditional Surrender«, 1998), which was an international success.

Her most recently published book, »Baba Jaga je snijela jaje« (2008; Engl. »Baba Yaga Laid an Egg«, 2009), combines elements of autobiography, the novel and scholarly study, and focuses on the mythical figure of Baba Yaga: »Baba Yaga is an evil, ugly crone, who is said to eat small children. […] And yet Baba Yaga is one of the oldest archetypal images in the history of humanity, deeply rooted in all of us, in men as well as in women.« Ugrešić tells in the first part the story of an ageing mother, and then moves on to the story of three old ladies on holiday in a Czech spa: Beba, who is drawn into a roulette game when she exchanges currency and wins half a million Euros; Kukla, who accidentally kills an American wellness guru whilst playing golf; and Pupa, for whom the luxury hotel will prove to be the last stop in her journey through life. The elderly ladies are tormented by society’s obsession with youth and by the commercialisation of wellness, torments they confront with their robust seniors’ humour. In the book’s third section the reader learns more of the mythology of Baba Yaga in the Slavic linguistic and cultural world. These explanations clarify just how much the female characters in the book embody traits drawn from the Baba Yaga myths, traits which the centuries that have passed since the age of witch burnings have attempted to drive out of women.

Dubravka Ugrešić has won numerous prizes, including the Austrian State Prize for European Literature (1999) and the Heinrich-Mann-Prize of the Berlin Akademie der Künste (2000). She lives as a writer and literary scholar in Amsterdam and writes for various European newspapers and journals (including »Lettre International« and »Die Zeit«).