Fox

Dubravka Ugrešic´, trans. from the Croatian by Ellen Elias-Bursac´ and David Williams. Open Letter, $16.95 trade paper (308p) ISBN 978-1-940953-76-2
Ugrešic´’s soaring, incisive novel uses the shape-shifting avatar of the fox to explore story-making. The linked narrative structure is reminiscent of her novel The Museum of Unconditional Surrender, as an unnamed narrator in exile from the former Yugoslavia struggles with the complications of 21st-century writing. There are six sections, tonally varied save for the inevitable appearance of a fox in each, that cascade together in the thrilling climax, which merges the emotional—the narrator’s love for her niece—and the practical—the narrator’s disappointing visit to a Holden Caulfield-themed MFA program in Italy (it’s named Scuola Holden). Two sections take on the form of essays, with some factual material and some invented by the writer. One examines a Japanese narrative by the Russian writer Boris Pilnyak; the other is a sketch of Dorothy Leuthold, a minor figure in the Nabokov cosmos. Two sections are set in Europe’s literary community, as the narrator suffers the minor indignities of life as an “economy-class writer” while she is taught lessons about storytelling by two older women who are each associated with obscure Russian authors named Levin. In the remarkable third section, “The Devil’s Garden,” the narrator inherits a house in Croatia and forges a surprising connection. “The urge for home is powerful,” she writes; “it has the force of primal instinct.... The greatest feat of every emigrant seems to be making a new home.” Ugrešic´’s novel is a wonder; it’s essential reading for writers and lovers of writing alike. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 01/22/2018
Release date: 04/17/2018
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