The Museum of Unconditional Surrender
Reviewed by Harvey Pekar, Fri., Feb. 11, 2000
The Museum of
Unconditional Surrenderby Dubravka Ugresic, translated by Cecilia Hawkesworth
New Directions, 238 pp., $24.95
In 1993, with war breaking out all over the former Yugoslavia, Croatian fiction writer Dubravka Ugresic went into self-imposed exile. The years of exile have taken a heavy toll on her; their impact is the subject of this book. In Berlin, her base of operations, she feels out of place: "No one is the same anymore. I myself have changed. I am quieter, sadder, more preoccupied, less resilient. My life has changed: I live in other cities and other countries; there are other people around me." Writing in a mosaic of styles, Ugresic moves back and forth between the past and present, describing her personal and family history and current mode of existence. Some of her chapters contain short, numbered sections à la the great Russian modernist Andre Bely. She quotes from her mother's diary, includes a newspaper article listing the contents found in the stomach of a walrus who died in the Berlin zoo in 1961, and describes an encounter which she and her girlfriends had with an angel named Andrew, as well as employing more conventional, straightforward prose.