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Encyclopedia of the Dead (European Classics) Paperback – January 7, 1998


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Encyclopedia of the Dead (European Classics) + A Tomb for Boris Davidovich (Eastern European Literature Series) + Hourglass (European Classics)
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Product Details

  • Series: European Classics
  • Paperback: 201 pages
  • Publisher: Northwestern University Press; 1 edition (January 7, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 081011514X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0810115149
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.7 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #590,481 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Kis ( Garden, Ashes ) attempts to dazzle with his showmanship as he restlessly dons one stylistic mantle after another in this richly inventive collection of stories. The result is erratic. Some of these short narrativeswhich take death, literature and love as their themesare perfunctory academic exercises; others are brilliant as the author's heavy, opulent language produces a seductive, dreamlike atmosphere. In the surreal title story, a Yugoslav woman stumbles upon a massive encyclopedia compiled by a mysterious religious sect whose sole purpose is to record the lives of the dead in preparation for Judgment Day. In it, she finds her father's biography and her own antecedents. "To Die for One's Country Is Glorious" describes the last few hours of a nobleman sentenced to death for his involvement in a bloody uprising against the Austro-Hungarian empire. In "The Legend of the Sleepers" (inspired by a sura in the Koran), a Christian martyr awakens from the dead several centuries later and finds himself in a trancelike meditation about the past, present and future. Kis's philosophical musings should delight readers who enjoyed his countryman Milorad Pavic's Dictionary of the Khazars.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"[Kiš's] pen, often literally verging into eternity, does to his characters what nearly every known creed aspires to do to the human soul: it extends their existence, it erodes our sense of death's impenetrability." --Joseph Brodsky


"Remarkable . . . A shadow of death darkens this book, but it is a beautiful shadow and a luminescent darkness." --Josef Skvorecky, The New Republic


"This is one of the finest fantastic collections since Borges's <i>Ficciones.</i>" --Brendan Lemon, The Nation

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 31 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 30, 1998
Format: Paperback
It took almost six months from the day I ordered this book, until it came out of print and I received it in my mail. It took me less than a week to read it...This is a book of stories about people who find their death in different ways. Kis mixes myths and legends of the Bible to: middle eastern legends, female intuition, patriotism, death anticipation due to long and difficult illness. Each story is setup in its own time, century, country and is viewed from different perspective. And all these situations and places combined, make up this wonderful book. My favorite story was "The Encyclopedia of the Dead". It sounds so personal, that anyone who knows a little bit about Danilo Kis' life, can see a lot of Kis himself - in this story. Mr. Heim did wonderful job translating this work. However, I was a bit disappointed that Mr. Haim did not make an effort to write an introduction for this book. Writer's notes at the end of the book were extrimely helpful in understanding stories more deeply and understanding what he wanted to accomplish with this work of art.

Many of Danilo Kis' reders like to remember him as writer who had Borges for an idol. Please, let us not forget that Kis had admirerers himself - no one less than Joseph Brodsky, amongst others.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer Cameron-Smith TOP 1000 REVIEWER on September 11, 2008
Format: Paperback
I've not previously read Mr Kis's work and I was not sure what to expect. I read this collection in translation (by Michael Henry Heim). This was the first book I could obtain, and I was totally swept up in the beauty of the prose from beginning to end. This collection of nine stories touches on a number of facets of life: relationships, encounters and experiences. Each is unique. Each illustrates a different aspect of existence, including questioning the notion of divine order.

`Everything a living man can know of death.'

Because of these differences, I suspect that each story could be my favourite on a different day or read. Each provides food for thought and the language is exquisite. On this read, I particularly enjoyed `Simon Magus' and his questioning of divine order, `To Die for One's Country Is Glorious' describing the final hours of Esterhazy, and the reading journey of the bereaved daughter in the title story.

In fewer than 200 pages, Mr Kis has managed to evoke a set of experiences and reactions that linger on in the mind. Where does life end, and death begin? Are the boundaries mutable or immutable? We will each have (or form) our own private views on this question. For myself, I am delighted to have read this book and will be looking to read more of Mr Kis in translation.

`History is written by victors. Legends are woven by people. Writers fantasize. Only death is certain.'

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Giordano Bruno on October 7, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
... and those two are enough in my card catalogue to justify a five-star rating. How many novelists have written even one great short story? I suppose I should have read one of Danilo Kis's novels first, as my first encounter with such an acclaimed author, but I like short stories. I especially admire coherent, cohesive collections of stories written as a suite. "The Encyclopedia of the Dead" is certainly just such a cohesive suite of stories, all of them concerned with death, all of them more or less metaphysical "conceits" in the older sense of the word. A comparison to Jorge (not Jose) Luis Borges, the Argentine master of metaphysical prose, is inevitable. Kis acknowledges Borges in his postscript to this collection. The title story is pure Borges in conception.

'Simon Magus' and 'Last Respects', the first two stories in the book, are well-crafted prose, at least in English translation, but left me quite unimpressed. They and several later stories are too-clever stylized parables, anatomizing in the mummified cadaver of the religious imagination. Jewish or Christian, it's been done, and done more persuasively.

The third story, 'Encyclopedia of the Dead,' however, captured my imagination from the start. The conceit is this: a woman gets special permission to visit a mysterious library. Inside and alone, she searches out a certain book, an encyclopedia of all the people who have ever lived whose names are NOT included in any other encyclopedia. In that book, every detail of the lives of such otherwise forgotten people is recorded. The woman immediately begins to read about her father, who has recently died. I won't tell more; it's a superb construct, a profound synecdoche of the memory and forgetfulness of humanity.
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