Writer Dubravka Ugrešić’s debut, Steffie Speck in the Jaws of Life, emerged as a cultural touchstone in Yugoslavia, casting a satirical yet tender gaze on the quest for love amidst the cloying tropes of romance. Its adaptation to the silver screen in 1984 by Rajko Grlić, featuring a stellar Yugoslav cast, received the Pula Film Festival’s Golden Arena for Best Director, alongside the adulation of audiences.
Dubravka Ugrešić, heralded by Susan Sontag as a writer ‘to follow and to be cherished’ and by Arnon Grunberg for her incisive intellect, possessed a narrative voice that resonated with vivacity and wit. Her storytelling – fluid, fervent, yet tinged with an enchanting oddity – has fascinated readers and critics alike.
This programme is an homage to a voice that has profoundly shaped the literary world and continues to inspire dialogue and introspection.
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With a literary style that melded the elegance of Flaubert and the inventiveness of Borges with the accessibility of popular fiction, Ugrešić’s work defied genre confines. This fusion of literary artistry secured her the NIN Award in 1988, marking the first time that the most prestigious literary award of Yugoslavia was awarded to a woman.
As war fragmented Yugoslavia, Ugrešić’s staunch anti-nationalist stance invoked the ire of nationalist factions. Despite being ostracized and vilified by the media, her exile only sharpened her commentary on nationalism in ‘The Culture of Lies’ and personal narratives in ‘Karaoke Culture’. Her Dutch period birthed incisive critiques on societal conformity and discussions on gender and discrimination, exemplified by ‘Baba Yaga Laid An Egg’.
With her passing in Amsterdam on March 17, 2023, Ugrešić’s legacy remains as poignant and influential as ever. We commemorate her life and works with a special screening of the freshly restored copy of ‘In the Jaws of Life’, accompanied by a reflective session exploring her remarkable life story, her challenging yet insightful perspectives on humanity, and the indelible mark she left on literature and society.
This program is created with the financial support of the
Croatian Audiovisual Centre (HAVC) and
Nijgh & Van Ditmar, the publishing house of Dubravka’s books in the Netherlands.