Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Quincy Jones

Croats would eat their kruh, while Serbs would eat their hleb, Bosnians their
hljeb: the word for bread in the three languages was different. Smrt, the word
for death was the same.

I read the above passage from Dubravka Ugresic's Ministry of Pain to my wife the other night. Not only did she assist in my pronunciation, she related that as a child, she learned to ask for kruh at the store by her grannie's (Pakrac, Croatia) but to ask for hleb at the market by her flat (Belgrade).

Thus, the book has an awkward relevance for me. The protagonist holding fort over a peer group of myriad refugees in late 90s Amsterdam. Ugresic explores the haunted ease of speaking in a third language, avoiding the implications with one's expatriates. I am midway through the book, the protagonist returns to Zagreb and finds herself in that peculiarly Kunderan displacement, the haggard non-state status relegated to the exile returning home.

I need to climb back on board in Moby Dick. Facilitating such may be a challenge as the NBA Finals begin tomorrow night and my inclinations appears geared towards Balkan history at the moment.


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