cover image My Family's Role in the World Revolution: And Other Prose

My Family's Role in the World Revolution: And Other Prose

Bora Cosic. Northwestern University Press, $58 (250pp) ISBN 978-0-8101-1367-1

First published in Yugoslavia in 1969, the comic title novella of this story and essay collection won acclaim and popularity as a play and, in its film version, got Cosic's works banned for more than four years during the 1970s. It chronicles the absurd efforts of a dysfunctional Belgrade family to participate after WWII in the communist ""World Revolution"" under Marshal Tito. Since the beginning of the recent war, Cosic and his writing have abandoned Belgrade for the Croatian town of Rovinj: he devotes two essays (the last and the longest) to an extended comparison between philistine Parisian attitudes toward WWI as reported by Proust in Time Regained and the attitudes that prevail in his own, equally philistine Rovinj. Forced bravura, labored wit and (possibly the culprit) a terribly stilted translation weigh down these essays, and the other nine pieces in the collection. And even though Proust's last, most savage satire on the Verdurins makes a clever starting point for this modern-day portrait of the artist during wartime--and a handy showcase for Cosic's francophone erudition (the allusions fly, from Gide to Sartre to Foucault to Paul de Man)--in the end his easy identification with Proust makes Cosic look a little naif, or perhaps overconfident of his powers as an autobiographer. Until better translations come along, the general reader will have to make do with this version of Cosic's fiction; in the meantime, his essays can wait. (Sept.)