The Houses of Belgrade (Writings from an Unbound Europe) Paperback – 31 Mar 1994
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About the Author
Borislav Pekic was born in 1930 in Podgorica, Yugoslavia. Arrested in 1948 for terrorism, armed rebellion, and espionage after the theft of a few typewriters and mimeographs, Peki spent five years in prison, where he began to write. He worked as a screenwriter and editor of a literary journal before publishing his first novel at age thirty-five. Constant trouble with the authorities led him to emigrate to London in the early 1970s. His novels include The Houses of Belgrade (1994) and The Time of Miracles (1994), both published by Northwestern University Press. He died of cancer in 1992 in London. Stephen M. Dickey is an assistant professor of Slavic linguistics at the University of Virginia. He co-translated Mesa Selimovi 's Death and the Dervish (Northwestern, 1996).Bogdan Rakic is a visiting associate professor of Slavic Literature at Indiana University. He co-translated Mesa Selimovi 's Death and the Dervish (Northwestern, 1996) and edited In a Foreign Harbor (Slavica, 2000). He is currently working on Borislav Peki 's literary biography."
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Borislav Pekic, one of the most prolific serbian authors after the World War II, and more importantly, the greatest serbian intellectual in that period, uses his unsurpassed observation skills, sharp cinicism and self sarcasm to both critice and explain the unfortunate turn of events that placed Serbia in the jaws of communism. This book as well as the whole Pekic's opus had an decisive impact on the generations of Serbs. Furthermore, his opus is a must for all people interested in the history and national mentality of Serbs.
Pekic tells the story in the first-person; the character is a landlord of several houses in the city. Arsenie Negovan is losing his sanity. What better character to relate the tale of a city half-heartedly embracing communism: a landlord, losing his mind, recalling his houses when they were young, lamenting their loss. Here is a sample: "For just as people who have done nothing at all wrong are got rid of simply because they stand in the way of something, so houses too are destroyed because they impede somebody's view, stand in the way of some future square, hamper the development of a street, or traffic, or of some new building." Again, on being a landlord and a man of commerce, "...the very act of possession would be so completely reciprocal that sometime, perhaps in some perfect world, it would become one with the act of self-perception."
With this ironic tone, the deranged voice of a once decent man of property, the history of human struggle in the city unfolds. Buildings are talked about as beings. People are inanimate. Yet human action transforms the place. The loss of the old city is tragic. The grand old houses decay. Present buildings are inferior to their predecessors-- a succinct way to measure the progress of a society. Within this narrative about property and architecture, Arsenie explains his motives, wonders about his soul, and spouts what he has learned during a lifetime of accumulation.
The book was exactly what I was looking for when I plucked it off the remainder shelf: a new direction in my reading. I will look for others in the series, and I recommend "Houses" to readers looking for something different. (My apologies to more knowledgable readers of Pekic.) I will be reading other titles in the "Writings from an Unbound Europe" series.