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Tomb for Boris Davidovich (Eastern European Studies (Paperback)) Paperback – June 1, 2001

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Editorial Reviews


“Kis's book is a collection of sleek, semi-biographical stories that, like microscope slides, slice from large events one squirming sliver . . . Much here is cast-iron and memorable.” (Kirkus)

“Kis slices into the essence of revolutionary spirit.” (Booklist)

A Tomb for Boris Davidovich bears traces of Orwell's 1984 and Koestler's Darkness at Noon, but it has its own special flair.” (New Leader)

“An absolutely first-rate book, one of the best things I've ever seen on the whole experience of communism in Eastern Europe, but more than that, it's really a first-rate novel.” (Irving Howe)

“A portrait of a country and a people in turmoil, a portrait of how Communism both creates and devours its sons.” (Publishers Weekly)

“A stunning statement on political persecution.” (World Literature Today)

“In Kis's case . . . it is the consistent quality of the local prose that counts. It is how, sentence by sentence, the song is built, and immeasurable meanings meant. It is the rich regalia of his rhetoric that leads us to acknowledge his authority. On his page, trappings are not trappings, but sovereignty itself.” (New York Review of Books)

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Serbo-Croation

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Product Details

  • Series: Eastern European Studies (Paperback)
  • Paperback: 136 pages
  • Publisher: Dalkey Archive Press; Reprint edition (June 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1564782735
  • ISBN-13: 978-1564782731
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #232,655 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Lonya VINE VOICE on June 17, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
he shall live no longer in monument than the bell rings and the widow weeps. Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing.

Danilo Kis was born in Serbia in 1935 to a Hungarian Jewish father and Montenegrin Serbian mother. His father perished in the Holocaust. Kis died of cancer in 1990 at age 55. As noted in an excellent introduction by the writer, poet and Nobel Prize winner Joseph Brodsky, publication of A Tomb for Boris Davidovich in Yugoslavia in 1976 created a firestorm in Belgrade similar to the controversies that flared up when Solzhenitsyn's One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich was published in the USSR during Khrushchev's thaw. The book was savaged by the Yugoslav writer's union. As Brodsky notes in one memorable line, "there are several topics an author may deal with which can jeopardize his well-being, and history is one of them". The controversy, standing alone, may justify reading Tomb for Boris Davidovich. I am pleased to report that these stories are so well-constructed and laden with meaning that it would be worth reading even if its publication had been greeted with equanimity by the apparatchiks that manned the Yugoslav writers' union.

The seven stories that comprise Danilo Kis' A Tomb for Boris Davidovich have a few elements in common. Each involves a protagonist from a different country, Ireland, Hungary, Rumania, Poland, or Russia. In effect, each protagonist comes from a nation or a group that participated in the Comintern (the Soviet led Third International that coordinated the worldwide activities of various Communist organizations established by Lenin in 1919). Each gets swept up in the machinations that swirled around the Soviet Union's Great Terror of the 1930s. Each ends up either dead or in the Gulag.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Matko Vladanovic on May 28, 2006
Format: Paperback
One could almost draw paralleles, with fate of Danilo Kis and his novel, in former Yugoslavia, with every "free thinker" troughout the known history. Nobody, especially totalitarian regime, likes "the voice that yells in the desert". So it became that this book was putted on a certain kind of "index librorum prohibitorum". What makes it tragic, is the fact that that was happening in the upper half of twentieth century.

What was so incriminating in that book, that communist party simply had to make that move? When one starts to question revollution, when one starts to question necessity of one voice-one peolpe doctrine, when one sees in "fight of the oppressed" just a certain kind of tragedy, human misery that has been manifesting repeatedly through human existene, one must become "enemy of the state". And that has not changed up until today, nor it will. But that is the story for some other place and time.

There is much of J.L. Borges influence in this work, especially in the short stoy called "Dogs and books", but you mustn't think that this is Borgesian "collection" of stories. These work are much less artistic (whatever that means) and much more they resemble reality, life itself, than Borges work does.

By telling the story of seven individuals, the lived their life in a countries rich with political struggles, Danilo Kis draws excellent portrait oh human ability to endure, and even so, to somehow fail miserably and be forever gone from this world.

Why the four stars? I was hearing so much of this book, and when I finally read it, it somehow dissapointed me, probably was expecting to much, or maybe is just that, taht I have failed to grasp entire meaning of the novel. So, better to read it again :) If you looked for great writer from, Mid-Southern Europe, Kis is the one you could deffinitely start with.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Gio on January 23, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
No, I'm not so much speechless as I am aghast at the idea of speaking. Any speech can be tortured into a lie, yet not speaking is the biggest lie of all.

This short book is physically frightening, nightmare material, and its power is all the more awful because it is authentically universal. It's not merely another indictment of the police state, of the slaughters committed by Lenin and Stalin, of the archipelago of terror that was "the Other Europe" for most of the 20th Century. That becomes totally explicit in the chapter entitled 'Dogs and Books', which transcribes the documentary reports of a forced conversion of Jews to Christianity in France in 1330, a perfect parallel gulag tragedy of torture and murder in the name of righteous certainty. The moral is clear: believers make good killers.

"A Tomb for Boris Davidovitch" is an series of interlocking capsule biographies of "revolutionaries" who are almost all slaughtered in their own cause by other revolutionaries of their own 'faith.' It is written with phosphorus flare intensity and such authenticity that the reader can't be bothered to wonder where 'facts' end and imagination begins. For once, the acclaim for a book from the "other Europe" is completely justified. This little book will outlast its time and place, and all of us.

As I said above, the universality of Danilo Kis's portrayal of ideological inhumanity is what raises his work beyond that of Solzhenitzyn and others. What happens in the seven tales of this book is unimaginably hideous but obviously real. My amazon avatar, Giordano Bruno, could testify: he was kidnapped and imprisoned in a cold stone dungeon in Rome for seven years; then he was given a final mock trial, tortured, sentenced to death.
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