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The Ministry of Pain

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Having fled the violent breakup of Yugoslavia, Tanja Lucic is now a professor of literature at the University of Amsterdam, where she teaches a class filled with other young Yugoslav exiles, most of whom earn meager wages assembling leather and rubber S&M clothing at a sweatshop they call the "Ministry." Abandoning literature, Tanja encourages her students to indulge their "Yugonostalgia" in essays about their personal experiences during their homeland's cultural and physical disintegration. But Tanja's act of academic rebellion incites the rage of one renegade member of her class—and pulls her dangerously close to another—which, in turn, exacerbates the tensions of a life in exile that has now begun to spiral seriously out of control.

272 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 2004

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About the author

Dubravka Ugrešić

59 books525 followers
Dubravka Ugrešić was a Yugoslav, Croatian and Dutch writer. She left Croatia in 1993 and was based in Amsterdam since 1996. She described herself as "post-Yugoslav, transnational, or, even more precisely, postnational writer".

Dubravka Ugrešić earned her degrees in Comparative Literature, Russian Language and Literature at the University of Zagreb, and worked for twenty years at the Institute for Theory of Literature at Zagreb University, successfully pursuing parallel careers as a writer and a literary scholar.

She started writing professionally with screenplays for children’s television programs, as an undergraduate. In 1971 she published her first book for children Mali plamen, which was awarded a prestigious Croatian literary prize for children’s literature. Ugresic published two more books (Filip i Srecica, 1976; Kucni duhovi, 1988), and then gave up writing for children.

As a literary scholar Dubravka Ugrešić was particularly interested in Russian avant-garde culture. She was a co-editor of the international scholarly project Pojmovnik ruske avangarde, (A Glossary of the Russian Avangarde) for many years. She rediscovered forgotten Russian writers such as Konstantin Vaginov and Leonid Dobychin, and published a book on Russian contemporary fiction (Nova ruska proza, 1980). She translated fiction into Croatian from Russian (Boris Pilnyak, Gola godina; Daniil Kharms, Nule i nistice), and edited anthologies of both Russian contemporary and avant-garde writing (Pljuska u ruci, 1989).

Dubravka Ugrešić was best known in the former Yugoslavia for her fiction, novels and short stories: Poza za prozu, 1978; Stefica Cvek u raljama zivota, 1981; Zivot je bajka, 1983; Forsiranje romana reke, 1988.

Her novel Forsiranje romana reke was given the coveted NIN-award for the best novel of the year: Ugrešić was the first woman to receive this honor.
Croatian film director Rajko Grlic made a film U raljama zivota (1984) based on Ugrešić’s short novel Stefica Cvek u raljama zivota. Ugrešić co-authored the screenplay, as she did with screenplays for two other movies and a TV drama.

In 1991, when the war broke out in the former Yugoslavia, Ugrešić took a firm anti-nationalistic stand and consequently an anti-war stand. She started to write critically about nationalism (both Croatian and Serbian), the stupidity and criminality of war, and soon became a target of the nationalistically charged media, officials, politicians, fellow writers and anonymous citizens. She was proclaimed a “traitor”, a “public enemy” and a “witch” in Croatia, ostracized and exposed to harsh and persistent media harassment. She left her country of origin in 1993.

Dubravka Ugrešić continued writing since she began living abroad. She published novels (Muzej bezuvjetne predaje, Ministarstvo boli) and books of essays (Americki fikcionar, Kultura lazi, Zabranjeno citanje, Nikog nema doma).

Her books have been translated into more then twenty languages. Dubravka Ugrešić has received several major European literary awards. In 2016, Ugrešić won the Neustadt International Prize for Literature.

On March 17th of 2023, one of Europe's most distinctive essayists, Dubravka Ugrešić, died in Amsterdam at the age of 73.

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Profile Image for Orsodimondo (away on an island).
2,189 reviews1,813 followers
November 15, 2022


Mi sarebbe piaciuto che Tanja, l’io narrante di questo romanzo, raccontasse ancora più a fondo i suoi studenti, gente con uno schiaffo invisibile sulla faccia, come lei fuggiti dalla Jugoslavia durante i conflitti degli anni Novanta: ma Tanja non poteva farlo, perché una volta scappata all’estero, una volta approdata ad Amsterdam, mentre il suo paese si disfaceva e smembrava e massacrava, Tanja imparava a fondo la lingua della solitudine.
Nel suo paese il pane si chiamava in tre modi diversi: kruh in croato, hleb in serbo e hljeb in bosniaco.
Ma per la morte, si mettevano tutti d’accordo e usavano un unico termine, smrt.

E mentre nel suo paese il suicidio era un lusso, le persone si ammazzavano per le umiliazioni, la disperazione, la paura, la solitudine, la vergogna. Erano tutte morti silenziose e senza nome, vittime di guerra che nessuno considerava né vittime, né di guerra.


E mentre da un paese ne nascevano tanti, i nuovi governi volevano costringere gli uomini a perdere la memoria.

Da profuga, all’estero, Tanja conserva se non altro, il diritto inalienabile di ricordare.


Anche se andandosene non si cambia solo il luogo, ma pure il tempo, quello interiore.
Il tempo che non cura le ferite, ma le procura.
Anche se la gente non è fatta per le disgrazie. Le persone non sono in grado di identificarsi con le catastrofi di massa. Semplicemente non possono restare legate stabilmente alla sfortuna. Neppure alla propria… Non esistono la pietà né il cordoglio, si può solo dimenticare. E solo l’umiliazione e il dolore sono fonte di lungo ricordo.


L’epilogo non è consolatorio, non arriva a interrompere il flusso di angoscia: è piuttosto l’incontro di due solitudini che, forse per una volta, riescono a comporne una più piccola, invece di una doppia.

Dubravka Ugrešić narra lo sradicamento, e procedendo per racconti e aneddoti, sogni e divagazioni, porta a casa un gran bell’esordio letterario, una lettura che avvolge e coinvolge.

Profile Image for Greg.
1,117 reviews1,876 followers
July 12, 2010
Memory and what might be better forgotten.

So, today, 7/11/2010, I unintentionally wound up walking past the tourist trap known as the World Trade Center site, aka Ground Zero, aka whatever it is called. Roughly it had been 8 years, 10 months and five and a half hours, give or take some minutes since I last happened to be in the neighborhood. My first response to realizing we (that would be Karen and I) would be getting to see that spot was annoyance. As in, what the fuck, I wasn't expecting this today (and I wasn't, stupid me didn't put two and two together and realize that the Fulton St. subway stop was the same stop that I used to take to that area, under a slightly different name). Annoyance shifted to wonderment, as in where the fuck are we exactly? And even though we passed the old church and shit it wasn't until we were near Century 21 that I realized oh, shit we aren't just at Ground Zero, we just passed over the spot where I stood and thought really fucked up things and saw some equally fucked up things that left me sort of feeling all fucked up. I sort of pointed this out to Karen in a very inarticulate way, because I don't talk well about this, rather I talk around it. And even as I told her this, and I realized exactly where I was and looked around nothing felt right about the spot. Nothing was as I remembered it. I'm not just talking a few buildings missing, because obviously those were gone, but lots of other details seemed missing, or changed. My memory really only being orientated by the location of a department store. I trust that my memory is relatively accurate of a) that neighborhood as I was aware of it 8 years ago and b) my experiences of that day. The details of the present space and the space in my subjective experience of it are not the same though. I don't know how much of that is change that happened in the actual physicality, change due to differences of perception (the area seemed more open, lighter, airier, but could that just be the absence of those grotesque and decaying monoliths?), or the ways memory is not to be trusted. Is what I remember an edited version, a directors cut that never was aired in theaters and is different from anything anyone will see until the DVD release?

In another act of what humans are capable of doing to one another, throughout much of the 1990's the people who used to live in the country once known as Yugoslavia went a little nutso and started to do some horrific and barbaric shit to one another. Raping and killing and death camps and snipers and all kinds of awful things among people who one would call 'civilized' Europeans. Our collective disgust at what happened here is fairly low, even at the time it was happening we didn't show too much concern or interest in it all. And when we started to bomb them in the late 90's at a time when Clinton just happened to be having some PR problems very few people paid any attention that we were bombing some people and blowing up things like hospitals all because our President was having allegation (x) dropped on him (Fuck that Wag the Dog apologetics bullshit, that since it was a movie our President would never actually blow some shit up just to get his ass out of hot-water. He seemed to rev up the bombers all the time when his personal life threatened to mess with his power... in a perfect world he would hang at Hague for these misuses of power, along with the Bushes, and our current War-Criminal in Chief. Wheeee, the typical Yugoslavia rant from me). Anyway, this time in our collective history is a bleak one if you want to look at the way civilized people can treat one another. At the time a popular explanation for it all was the remnants of ancient tribalism, left-over pre-history bullshit that has no place in our clean and shiny Fukayama post-history time. This is an explanation that turns the whole country and it's problems into a capital oh, Other; sort of in the same way that the whole Africa / Darfur 'murdering asshole problems' can be safely cognitively treated in a similar vein (with 75% Dissonance! ). What treating these 'aberrations' as pre-history / tribal-esque problems does is make it something foreign to ourselves. It lets you and I, and yes even you over there, not have to face the awful fact that we may all be potential state-sanctioned mass-murders, SS guards in waiting, that with the right little push we'd kick in our neighbors door and gang-rape their 10 year old daughter, then the mother, torture the son to death and then castrate the father. But if we can make the people who end up doing things like this so different from us that we (as a people) can never let that happen (again), then, well, that is comforting. In my stupid opinion, the events of the former Yugoslavia are much more of a global tragedy than 9/11; but 9/11 has since put on the mask of a grand global tragedy of nightmarish consequences in the form xenophobia and irrationality, while any lessons of Sarajevo have had dirt kicked over them like cat shit in a litter box.

Anyway this novel deals with the aftermath of the events that destroyed a country and dispersed its people. The author was one of the people who had to leave, went into an exile and became a person without a homeland. Her novel is about confronting the memories of a place before a tragedy, and a tragedy itself. It's about confronting people who don't want to remember, and those who remember too much. Dubravka Ugrešić is a great and cynical writer. And I wholeheartedly recommend reading her, although I might recommend you start with Thank You for Not Reading.
Profile Image for Arash.
250 reviews96 followers
August 5, 2023
پس از فروپاشیِ یوگسلاوی، چند دستگی در خطوط مرزی، مردم، فرهنگ ها و زبان ها به وجود آمد.
عده ای ماندند، عده ای مهاجرت کردند و عده ای مرگ را پایانی برای همه چیز دانستند.
آن هایی که ماندند جنگ را به جان خریدند، تغییر حکومت ها و حذف کمونیست ها را به چشم دیدند ، غصب زمین ها و خانه ها را دیدند، ولی ماندند و حال جبر جغرافیایی، آنان را که قبلا یوگوسلاویایی می نامیدند اکنون کروات، بوسنیایی، مقدونیه ای، کوزووو یی یا صربستانی می نامند. در این میان علاوه بر ملیت و اصالت، زبان هم تغییر کرد، هرکس به دلخواه خود کلمات و عباراتی را بر زبانِ آن ملت وارد کرد، ملتی که تا قبل نامی واحد برای "نان" داشتند، حال هرکدام واژه ای متفاوت برای آن انتخاب کرده اند ولی واژه ی "مرگ" در همه زبان ها یک کلمه واحد بوده و هست.
آن هایی که مهاجرت کردند به این امید خانه و کاشانه و خانواده را رها کردند تا زندگی بهتری را در پیش بگیرند. بسیاری از آن ها هلند را انتخاب می کنند، کشوری که به گل هایش معروف است همینطور به لجام گسیختگی اخلاقی و آزادی جنسی اش. این مهاجران در فقر و تهیدستی مجبور به کار در مراکزی می شوند که به تولید لوازم و وسایل و لباسهای جنسی می پردازد. جایی که برای هلندی ها می شود مأمن لذت و برای این مهاجران می شود "وزارتِ درد".
تانیا، ‌شخصیت اصلی، زنی است تنها که برای گرفتن اقامت در هلند تصمیم به تدریس ادبیات یوگسلاوی می گیرد، کشوری که دیگر وجود ندارد. عده ای دیگر هم که به دنبال همان اقامت برای ماندن در این کشور هستند در این کلاسها ثبت نام می کنند. همگی آن ها اهل یوگسلاوی سابق اند ولی حال هرکدام ملیتی متفاتوت دارد، صربی، کرواتی، بوسنیایی و... با تفکرات و عقایدی متفاوت. همین باعث می شود تا همگی را "مردمانِ ما" بنامند. این دو گانگی و دو دستگی به بزرگترین مسئله و مشکل آن ها مبدل می شود. نه می توانند با مردمانِ دیگر ارتباط برقرار کنند نه به زبان آن ها سخن بگویند و نه خود را اهل آنجا بدانند. از طرفی میل بازگشت به وطنِ خویش را هم ندارند. تبعید ( بالاجبار) و مهاجرت (بالاختیار) ملغمه ی اصلی کتاب است. این که چگونه در کشوری که حتی زبان اش را بلد نیستی کسب درآمد کنی، چه شغلی انجام بدهی، کجا سکونت بیابی، تاثیر آن فرهنگ بر تو چیست، تاثیر تو بر آن فرهنگ چگونه است. عده ای مهاجرت را نوعی تسلی خاطر و رهایی می دانند و عده ای راهی جز مهاجرت نمی بینند. سرنوشت های متفاوتی برای هرکدام رقم خواهد خورد. عده ای اجبارا همرنگ جماعت می شوند، عده ای دیگر دست از پا درازتر به وطنِ خویش باز می گردند و عده ای خسته از ادامه و جنگیدن، جان خود را می گیرند.
در صفحات پایانیِ کتاب فقط لعن و نفرین می خوانیم، لعن و نفرینی که نثارِ جنگ طلبان، نثارِ زیاده خواهان، نثار تفرقه افکنان و نثارِ مسببانِ این فروپاشی و تجزیه و آوارگی و درماندگی و چندگانگی می شود.
معلمی که خودْ سعی در بازآفرینی خاطراتِ مانده از یوگسلاوی تحتِ عنوان "یوگو نوستالژی" داشت، حال خود سعی دارد زبانشان را به فراموشی بسپارد و خود بشود دانشجوی زبان هلندی.
نثر کتاب به شدت گیرا و جذاب است و بسیار منعطف. گاهی پر از غم و درد است گاهی کمی طنز می شود. بخوانیدش فقط همین و دیگر هیچ.
Profile Image for Aubrey.
1,357 reviews795 followers
December 17, 2015
I have never been in danger of losing my heritage. The US existed long before I was born, and will in all likelihood still be standing long after I'm gone. English is not going to split itself up into a hydra construction anytime soon, barring a disturbance of apocalyptic magnitude. And even if this language chimera did phase into being, there's little chance of the different strains hating each other to the point of genocide. I take this intrinsic stability for granted. You'd be hard pressed to find a citizen of the US who doesn't.

For all those who share my sentiments, and cannot comprehend in the slightest what it means to have your native country pulled from under your feet, your language dismembered into warring partisans, and your people spread to the farthest corners of the globe. This book is for you. Well, if you have an interest in that kind of thing, that is.

The book does a very good job of plunging you into a world without absolutes, reflecting the mindset of one of the many refugees from the recently disintegrated Yugoslavia. There's so much confusion regarding language, memory, past, present, all slickly pulling and pushing together like so many snails on the streets of Amsterdam. It's a fantastic read, and does an excellent job of immersing you in the uneasy existence of one ripped away from all that one knows. You may find yourself taking lots of breaks between pages, though, as it's easy to feel increasingly disturbed by the toy comparisons and saliva metaphors that the author loves to use. Disturbing or not, if I had just come to a new country after the destruction of my homeland, I'd definitely be extremely off balance in my current reality. Distrust of reality, as well as nausea, are givens.
Profile Image for Nathan "N.R." Gaddis.
1,342 reviews1,370 followers
July 19, 2014
This Review must be prefaced with an apology. Perhaps a warning for uncharacteristic negativity. Please, excuse this.

The Ministry of Pain is one of the worst books I’ve read since joining goodreads. What makes this situation especially difficult/painful/unfortunate is that it came with a very sturdy recommendation from the tripod of MJ-Jonathan-Aubrey. Please don’t cease the recommendations on account of this Review.

In short, I found myself constantly groaning and sighing ; lucky that there were few people in the vicinity to witness that kind of behavior which is the extreme opposite of lol. What I mean is the sheer quantity of cliche, clunk, and groan. Scarcely a page went by without some miserable simile, some tired overworked phrase. Nary a reflective passage, what some reviewers call “philosophical musings”, passed by that wasn’t of the, Oh please! variety. Chains and chains of cliche. It reads as what I imagine a Paulo Coelho novel must read ; and that is harsh.

I did attempt to find some device, some strategy, which would justify the cliche-ridden prose ; some kind of metafictional thing like what’s made famous in Mulligan Stew, but I found none. Certainly, the novel is framed by the experience of having lost one’s language ; but losing one’s language is to lose the resources of cliche. Cliche is the very heart of having a common language. Blame the translation? Fine. But that’s what we have for to read.

Look. If it is said, But this really happened, I’d say, That is the death knell of fiction. And I’d further say that this émigré experience deserves better fiction. I’ve been there. I was there.

Mine is a question of fiction. The difference between a diary published as a diary and a diary published as a novel is the difference of the “as” in “as a diary” and “as a novel”, a distance much greater than the two letter “as” might at first suggest. What is missing in this novel is that variety of truth which can only be structured by fiction, the kind of truth which surpasses the trivial truth of, It really happened.

Is there a second Ugrešić in my future? No, probably not. I do, however, happen to have another Croatian book on my shelf, The Taste of a Man by Slavenka Drakulić (accompanied with a Hawkes blurb ), which will serve in its stead.
Profile Image for Semjon.
659 reviews352 followers
January 27, 2022
Ich habe irgendwie einen Faible für Emigrantenliteratur aus dem ehemaligen Jugoslawien. Vielleicht liegt es daran, dass es der erste Krieg auf europäischen Boden war, den ich bewusst durch die Medien miterlebt habe. Ob Bosnier oder Kroaten, viele Familien wurden zerrissen und leben mittlerweile auf der Welt verstreut. Und ob es nun Sasa Stanisic, Nicol Lubic, Tijan Sila oder jetzt Dubravka Ugresic waren, die ich in den letzten Monaten gelesen habe: alle haben ihren eigenen Stil und ihre ganz besondere Stimme bei der Aufarbeitung der Traumata und der Findung der eigenen Identität in der neuen Heimat.

Die Autorin dieses Buch emigrierte in die Niederlande, um dort ihrer Dozententätigkeiten nachzugehen. Insofern steckt wohl bestimmt auch viel eigene Biografie in der Hauptperson dieses Romans, denn die ist auch Lehrerin in Amsterdam und teilt das Schicksal der Flucht aus Jugoslawien. Sie unterrichtet Serbokroatische Literatur in einer Klasse junger Menschen, die größtenteils auch einen Migrationshintergrund aus dem Balkan haben. Einige von ihnen arbeiten nebenher in der Fabrik, die gummiartige Sexspielzeuge herstellt. Scherzhaft wird dieser Laden als Ministerium der Schmerzen von ihnen bezeichnet, aber ansonsten hat der Titel recht wenig mit der Erzählung zu tun. Allenfalls die Schmerzen tauchen immer wieder auf, wenn Lehrerin, Schülerinnen und Schüler von ihren Erlebnissen während des Kriegs berichten. Die Lehrerin versucht sehr empathisch auf deren Gefühlslage einzugehen und trifft sich am liebsten mit ihnen im benachbarten Cafe anstelle des Klassenzimmers. Doch dann wird sie wegen ihres laschen Unterrichts beim Rektor anonym angeschwärzt und plötzlich führt sie voller Angst und Scham ein hartes Regiment in ihrer Klasse. Bis die Situation mit einem Schüler eskaliert.

Die Autorin nimmt sich viel Zeit, auf die einzelnen Schicksale der Schülerinnen und Schüler sowie auf die Gedanken der Lehrerin einzugehen. Die Rahmenhandlung ist daher über weite Strecken nur ein loses Korsett, an dem die einzelnen Episoden anhängt wurden. Doch mit der Kritik an der Lehrerin ändert sich auch der Schreibstil. War die Sprache zuvor traurig und sentimental, wird sie dann auf einmal anklagend und zornig. Insbesondere der Schüler, bei dem der Konflikt eskaliert, hält eine wütende Rede gegen das schönredende Verhalten der Lehrerin. Dadurch wurden die widersprüchlichen Gefühle bei der Identitätssuche zwischen Nostalgie und Anpassung sehr gut in Worte gefasst. Hat mich sehr beeindruckt.
Profile Image for Argos.
1,032 reviews313 followers
September 27, 2020
Yugoslavya’daki iç savaş sonrasında insanların yaşadıklarını anlatan romanlardan birisi, en iyilerinden biri belki de. Hırvat bir öğretmen olan romanın kahramanı (yazarın kendisi) göçmen olarak gittiği önce Berlin, sonra yerleştiği Amsterdam’da yaşadıklarını hissettiklerini anlatıyor. Bir anı-roman, hatta biraz da anlatı.

Kitap adını kendisi gibi savaş kurbanı olan eski Yugoslavya göçmen veya mültecilerinin (“bizimkiler” diyor yazar bunlara) çalıştığı yer olan “bakanlık”tan yani porno mağaza için kıyafet üreten yerlerden almış. Acı Bakanlığı ise Lahey’deki bir porno kulüp adı. Ancak kitabı bitirdiğinizde bu kulüp ile adı dışında bir ilgisinin olmadığını ama “bizimkiler” için gerçekten “acı yöneten bir bakanlık” olduğunu hissedeceksiniz.

Kurgusu ve olay örgüsü gayet iyi, bazı bölümler (örneğin 4 ve 8) normal sıralarından farklı yerde, isterseniz numaraları takip ederek de okuyabilirsiniz. 30 numaralı völüm ise tek kelimeyle mükemmel, iki kez okudum, tekrar okuyacağım.

Yugoslavya’da yaşananlar sadece o coğrafya ile sınırlı değil elbette, dünyanın farklı bölgelerinde farklı ölçeklerde böyle iç savaşlar, komşunuzu, yıllarca birlikte olduğunuz insanları, gırtlaklarını kesmeye götürecek kadar nefret ve kin biriktiren savaşlar sürmekte. Hepsi de bir avuç siyasinin güç ve iktidar hırsı nedeniyle oluyor. Ama ya savaşı yaşayanlar ? Fiziki değil ruhsal yaralar iyileşebilir mi ? Mültecilik nadıl bir travmadır? Bu kitapta kısmen cevabını alabilirsiniz bu soruların, ancak kısmen...

Bu kitap ile ilgili Emre’nin yorumunu okumanızı öneririm. https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...
Profile Image for Kyaw Zayar Lwin.
96 reviews16 followers
September 30, 2017
“Croats would eat their kruh, while Serbs would eat their hleb, Bosnians their hljeb: the word for bread in the three languages was different. Smrt, the word for death, was the same.”

“Yugoslavia was a terrible place. Everybody lied. They still lie of course, but now each lie is divided in five, one per country.”

“One day, passing a group of American tourists that had gathered round an old Kalverstraat organ grinder and hearing them gush over him with the word “cute,” I was reminded of its equivalent, leuk, in Dutch and realized that leukness was the key to the problem. Leukness was an antiseptic, a disinfectant that removed all spots, all bumps, put everything on an equal footing, made everything acceptable. Near my house there was a gay bar called the Quinn’s Head with a display of ten male dolls, ten Kens, in the window. It was a leuk display. Whenever I passed it, I thought of the live Barbies—young women from Moldavia, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Belarus—the traffickers, traders in human flesh, bought up for export.”

“Anthropologists studying migration have taken over the term “sleeper” from popular spy novels. Sleepers are emigrants who make “normal” lives for themselves in their new environment: they learn its language, adapt to its ways, seem fully integrated—and suddenly they have an epiphany. The fantasy of a “return to the motherland” takes over with such a vengeance that it makes them into robots. They sell everything they have acquired and move back. And when they realize the mistake they have made (as most do) they go back to the land where they had “slept” for twenty or however many years, forced to relive (as they would on a psychiatrist’s couch) the years of adjustment until—“twice broken, yet twice restored—they make peace with their lot. Many live a parallel life: they project the image of their motherland on the neutral walls of the land where they are living “only temporarily” and experience the projected image as their “real” life.”

Profile Image for MJ Nicholls.
2,049 reviews4,114 followers
December 17, 2020
A profoundly intelligent take on Serb/Croatian emigré life following the death of Yugoslav Prime Minister President Josip Toto Tito. Tanja is a teacher living in Amsterdam responsible for a Croatian literature programme, who realises her students are much more interesting than her topic. Very fresh, witty and moving.
Profile Image for flora .
220 reviews305 followers
February 4, 2018

في موطن الألم تسلط الكاتبة الضوء على نتائج الحرب الكارثية في يوغسلافية والتي أدت
لتفككها لدول وقوميات عديدة ولغات عدة حتى زوال الاتحاد اليوغسلافي نهائيا عام 2006
وتتناول الرواية تداعيات ما بعد الحرب وصعوبات العيش والتأقلم في الوطن البديل
وبين الاندماج وبين الحنين للوطن وهاجس العودة يجابه أبطال الرواية
في هولندا العديد من الصعوبات
الرواية تحمل ملامح من سيرة الكاتبة نفسها والتي لجأت لهولندا .. وجدتها
رواية ضبابية كحال الوطن الذي نغادره مكرهين ليتلاشى تدريجيا من ذاكرتنا
وإن عدنا إليه نجده محاطا بهالة من الضباب تحجب عنا رؤيته بحلته القديمة
تتغير أسماء الشوارع تتغير الوجوه تتنكر لنا ذكرياتنا يتنكر لنا الوطن ونتنكر له
وباردة كصقيع المنفى الذي يستوطن قلوب اللاجئين مدى الحياة
وسوداوية كنظرة جميع من فقدوا أوطانهم و فقدهم الوطن
Profile Image for Ayob Alaie.
52 reviews57 followers
June 8, 2022
نصفه رها کردم نتونستم جلو برم، برام جذابیتی نداشت.
Profile Image for emre.
302 reviews164 followers
October 27, 2021
Eski Yugoslavya'ya veya Balkanlara dair herhangi bir eseri sevmeme olasılığım çok düşük, bu yüzden kitabın daha okunmadan bir yıldızı cepte idi. :)

Arka kapaktaki yazıdan ötürü çok arabesk bir anlatım bekliyordum ne yalan söyleyeyim, ama tipik bir Balkan humoru örneğiyle karşılaştım, güldürürken bir anda bıçağı sokan, tam gözler nemlenirken kahkaha attıran...

Ugrešić'in hayatını şöyle bir okuyunca romanın otobiyografik bir tarafı olduğunu düşünmemek elde değil. Zira kendisi de bir mülteci. Sabit bir şekilde ilerlemiyor Acı Bakanlığı, bazen çok keyif alırken bazen sıkabiliyor. Ama Tanja'nın duygu durumu o kadar iyi resmedilmiş ki, insan bir yerden sonra "ne olacak" diye değil, "bu yaşanan Tanja'ya ne hissettirecek" diye okuyor. Göçle ilgili duygu ve düşüncelerine yoğunlaşmakla Tanja standart bir "Eski Doğu Bloku göçmeni tipi" olabilecek ve isminin Anna, Katja veya Ivan olması çok şey fark ettirmeyecekken, annesiyle toksik ilişkisi, eski sevgilisi Goran gibi detaylar sayesinde bir tip olmaktan çıkıp ete kemiğe bürünmüş. Otuzuncu bölüme kadar benim için dört yıldızlık bir kitapken, o bölümün içtenliği, Sosyalizmin yıkıldığı ülkelerden "yeni dünya"ya karışmaya çalışanların hâlini tasvir ediş biçimi öyle içime işledi ki, dört yıldız az geldi. :)

Not: Çevirinin İngilizce'den yapılmasından kaynaklandığını tahmin ettiğim bazı kulak tırmalayan ifadeler vardı.
Profile Image for Claire Reads Books.
141 reviews1,386 followers
July 31, 2021
4.5 ⭐️ really loved this – hard to get a handle on, narratively, at times, but pretty haunting in a lot of different ways
Profile Image for Nathan "N.R." Gaddis.
1,342 reviews1,370 followers
October 17, 2014
I reread this because I was incredulous about my negative response to it. I've had middling responses to a few books otherwise highly regarded by my fellow readers so I know what that's like ; but I've never found a book so simply bad which others regard at least as competent. But, no, now I'm just incredulous about how bad this book is. Again I started groaning as soon as the cliched simile=dropping started in. But I take little pleasure in ripping a book yet another one. So I'll head off my incredulity here. Give Ugrešić another book-chance? Maybe, or at least I was beginning to soften on that front. I'm still a little incredulous about this one.

To end on a positive note, there are perhaps several Croatian composers of note ::
Today I'm listening to one of their more prolific composers, Boris Papandopulo::

Sinfonietta za gudače

or, Concerto for Xylophone and String Orchestra
Profile Image for A. Raca.
739 reviews150 followers
February 27, 2019
"Dilimizi, ruhumuzun tek hazinesini
Tıktık bir bavula
Aile albümünün yanına,
Yeldeğirmenlerine saldırmak için
Düştük yollara
Hollanda ayazında.
-Ferida Durokovic"
Profile Image for (Ro)Mina Paula H..
162 reviews57 followers
July 12, 2023
Un roman tulburător despre ororile războiului, despre desprinderi și rememorarea trecutului, despre apartenență și exil.

Dacă vreți să aflați mai multe despre dezmembrarea fostei Iugoslavii atunci citiți cartea asta.

„Sacoșa de rafie cu dungi roșii, albe și albastre. E cel mai
bagaj de călătorie din lume, o replică proletară la gențile Louis Vitton. Are o viață de nomad, de refugiat, de vagabond, fiind un adevărat maestru al supraviețuirii; ea trece granițe fără pașaport și călătorește fără bilet cu cele mai ieftine mijloace de transport.“

„Femeile, spre deosebire de bărbați, erau invizibile. De undeva, din spatele cortinei, ele împingeau viața înainte. Ele cîrpeau rupturile, pentru ca viața să nu se scurgă de tot, ele își asumau viața ca pe o misiune zilnică. Bărbații, de parcă n-ar fi avut nici o obligație, percepeau statutul de refugiat ca pe o invaliditate proprie și grea.”

Dubravka Ugrešić, Ministerul durerii, Editura Polirom, colecția Top10+, 2023.

Trad. Octavia Nedelcu
Profile Image for Nazanin Banaei.
254 reviews
February 6, 2020
چرا ترک وطن کردم؟ چون در زبان‌های دیگر بچه‌ها به خواب خوش فرو می‌روند و در زبان من به خواب کشتگان.

چیزی نیست. گاهی وقتها فکر میکنم دارم دیوانه میشوم. دارم راه میروم که یکدفعه حس میکنم باید بایستم و تکه‌پاره ها را جمع کنم، تکه‌پاره‌های خودم را. دست‌ها و پاهایم را، و بعد نفس راحتی میکشم و میگویم چیزی نیست، به سرم زده! نمیدانی چقدر خوشحال میشوم وقتی تکه‌پاره‌هایم را پیدا میکنم. به هرحال آنها را به هم میچسبانم و مدتی سر جایشان می‌مانند. خیال میکنم تا ابد سرجا می‌مانند،آن وقت دوباره از هم میپاشم. و دوباره جمع‌شان میکنم آنها را مثل پازل سر هم میکنم تا بعد چه پیش آید..
Profile Image for John David.
336 reviews297 followers
January 8, 2011
From Mishima’s “The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea” to Kafka to “Winesburg, Ohio,” the themes of alienation and exile have pervaded world literature in the twentieth century so much as to almost become a cliché. The various political disintegrations in Europe of the 1980s and 1990s gave need to another wave of this type of literature, and is whence Dubravka Ugresic’s wonderful novel “The Ministry of Pain” comes. Reading it, I was reminded a lot of Kundera’s novels from the same time period, though Ugresic takes herself less seriously and is a much more successful ironist. While renovating an apartment she is taking in, the main character pops in a random video, and it just happens to be the film version of “The Unbearable Lightness of Being.”

The novel follows Tanja Lucic after the breakup of the former Yugoslavia from Zagreb to Amsterdam to take up a position teaching language, mostly to students who (like her) have left Yugoslavia and are now living in Amsterdam waiting for their papers. Living near the red light district, the name of the novel derives from the store where many of Tanja’s students make ends meet constructing sex toys and other leather goods for sex-play. With a highly unorthodox approach to teaching, Tanja chooses to probe her students’ “Yugonostalgia” – memories of family, language, belonging, friends, and anything else that struck them as important about a place that, technically speaking, no longer exists. Tanja figures that her students’ experiences can provide an anodyne for the traumatic displacements their lives have been forced to take on. When an anonymous student reports her for not being academically rigorous enough, she is forced to engage in another teaching style (exiled from her old one?), leaving both her students and herself completely bewildered. But her teaching is really only one of the many parallel stories and musings that go on, taking the novel away from traditional, linear storytelling. Much of the novel takes place through interior monologue where she delivers poignant, sad, and sometimes witty remarks about the brokenness of language, modern culture, her thoughts about her students’ writing, and even one of their suicides.

Unlike in times past when the enlightened citizen-philosopher was offered in literature as the non plus ultra in relation to the modern state, Ugresic suggests that it is the exile whose fragmentation, psychic and geographic, provides new ground for understanding the self through literature. As she puts it in “Thank You for Not Reading,” “The exile, like it or not, tests the basic concepts around which everyone's life revolves: concepts of home, homeland, family, love, friendship, profession, personal biography. Having completed the long and arduous journey of battling with the bureaucracy of the country where he has ended up, having finally acquired papers, the exile forgets the secret knowledge he has acquired on his journey, in the name of life which must go on.” After all, exile is just another form of homecoming.
Profile Image for Adam.
410 reviews145 followers
March 24, 2019
Well, I finished it, barely, more from my obsession with never abandoning a book than because there was anything to keep me reading. The tone rarely strays from the dullest line of reportage. There are a few remarks on language, exile, nostalgia, and literature, some others on war and violence, and some too-little-too-late flourishes in the end. I'm genuinely perplexed at how unremarkable it was, considering the accolades and the potency of the elements. I hate badmouthing any work, but it just goes nowhere, drearily. Maybe Fox is better. It would almost have to be.
Profile Image for Lisajean.
222 reviews41 followers
March 12, 2018
The Ministry of Pain is about emigres from the Balkan countries in the Netherlands and how they deal with the breakup of Yugoslavia and their memories of their former homeland. I think that Ugresic has won acclaim based on her subject matter and because there are few other Croatian writers to compete with. Personally, I found the novel to be heavy-handed, cliched, and lacking in both subtlety of expression and clarity of thought. It definitely wasn't abysmal, but there are too many good books out there for people to waste time on middle-of-the-road, wanna-be-literary fiction.
Profile Image for Rahele.
28 reviews3 followers
February 11, 2023
«چیزی به عنوان ترحم وجود ندارد، چیزی به عنوان دلسوزی و شفقت در کار نیست؛ فقط فراموشی در کار است؛ فقط تحقیر در میان است و درد خاطرات بی‌انتها. این درسی است که از میهن‌مان با خود آوردیم و این درسی است که فراموشش نکرده‌ایم.»
Profile Image for Galina.
160 reviews125 followers
January 14, 2013
Проблемът с напускането на родното място е сякаш изначален. Разглеждан е и описван от всевъзможни ъгли, но един от онези, най-ярко врязали се в съзнанието ми, е безкрайно интересната теория на Проп за морфологията на вълшебните приказки. Каква връзка има изследването на руския фолклорист от далечната 1928 година с романа на Дубравка Угрешич, който напомня за една толкова съвременна и близка, в чисто географски аспект, история? На пръв поглед общо няма. От друга страна обаче, традиционно ни учат как човекът е сигурен единствено в дома си, там, където се намира неговият сакрален център. Всичко извън защитената зона е профанна периферия и тя по презумпция е пълна с множество перипетии и антигерои, целящи да отдалечат човека от неговата същност, от опитите му за завръщане. Традициите обаче не помагат дори с хипопетични ситуации и мълчат по въпроса - как трябва да се постъпи, щом домът и сакралното изгубят своята функция и самите те започнат да притежават белезите на профанното. А Угрешич поставя героите си на възможно най-неблагоприятния разклон: на онзи кръстопът, който пресича невъзможността за завръщане вкъщи и неспособността човек истински да си тръгне. И с това пише една съвремена приказка - трудна за приемане и преглъщан��, в която границите между правилно и грешно на места са напълно размити.
Мислим си, че знаем какво е войната, защото се случи до нас, чувахме, бяхме съпричестни, страхувахме се, че е прекалено близо до къщата ни. Едновременно с това обаче, нямаме и представа как свикваш да съществуваш извън пределите на всичко, с което си израстнал. "Министерство на болката" е роман за това какво значи да помниш. И формулата е ясна и точна: да помниш = да те има. Спомените се онези толкова необходими белези, индикиращи пред света, че си жив, че си роден, че имаш право на минало, детство, любови, имаш право да бъдеш човек, пък макар и в минало време. Имаш право дори да си измисляш спомени, за да оцветиш онова късче от време, което не е сега и което никога не е било. Но което е само твое и едновременно с това е колективно притежание.
Има една теория, която открих, четейки "Всичко свое нося със себе си" на Херта Мюлер, макар че нейният роман е написан няколко години след този на Угрешич (просто на мен ми попаднаха в този ред) - идеята, че щом човекът насилствено напусне мястото, към което принадлежи, то в бъдеще се оказва, че никъде няма място за него. Тъжна и разрушителна теория, която - боя се - не разчита единствено на художествени интерпретации.
Хората, разкъсани между дома, който вече не е техен и настоящето си, често се разпадат на малки частици. По същия начин, по който бившата им родина, вече нефигурираща върху картата, е разбита. И от това боли точно толкова, колкото от разпада на кое да е семейство, в което всеки поема по своя самотен път, обвинявайки до вчера най-близките си.

Вълшебната приказка предполага героят да се върне вкъщи - след тежко и изморително скитане, след като е скъсал седем чифта обувки, отрязал е три змейски глави, измъкнал се е от къщата на Баба Яга и на финала вече е смел и прочут мъж, а не Иванушка Глупака, треперещ пред тъмната гора. В действителността на Угрешич, героите завършват с куршум в главата, с примирен втори брак, с подземна квартира, със забравени мечти, с отдалечени родители, ако въобще има къде да се върнат назад, то там се чувстват "като на собственото си погребение". Сакралното не съществува дори като понятие, защото свят, позволяващ разрушението на войната да бъде истина, няма нужда от приказки. А от жертви.
Profile Image for Ronald Morton.
408 reviews159 followers
November 19, 2017
I was naturally well aware of the absurdity of my situation: I was to teach a subject that officially no longer existed. What we once called jugoslavistika at the university—that is, Slovenian, Croatian, Bosnian, Serbian, Montenegrin, and Macedonian literature—had disappeared as a discipline together with its country of origin. Besides, the students I was assigned had no particular interest in literature; they were interested in their Dutch papers. I was hired to teach the literature of a country (or the literatures of countries) from which my students had fled or been expelled. The house was in ruins, and it was my job to clear a path through the rubble.
I enjoyed this a great deal, though I confess it will likely end up in a general melange of contemporary Eastern European books in my hazy memory at some point in the not so distant future. Which is less a criticism of it then it is a criticism of myself. The geography and history of Yugoslavia and the general region it occupies is mostly unknown to me - I'm truly awful with geography, and this lack of concrete understanding of the spatial arrangement of this part of the world causes a cognitive disconnect where I can't slot the pieces of history and significance in place in a meaningful way.

All that said, I really enjoyed reading this book - enough so that even as it ticked past my bedtime I never had any thought but to push the rest of the way to the end. Ugresic's meditations on language throughout the book were easily my favorite parts, and thankfully it was a thread that was continuously teased at right up until the end. I don't think I've got anything else by her on the shelves, hopefully I'll come across more in my future used bookstore rambles, as I think she's worth investing more time given the opportunity.
Profile Image for Antonia.
377 reviews12 followers
May 20, 2018
Har ni hört uttrycket "att ärva ett sår"? Det såret, som jag har ärvt, är böckerna av Dubravka Ugrešić ett balsam för. Jag minns oron, pappas långa telefonsamtal med sin syster och annan släkt under kriget. Jag minns att jag inte förstod mycket. Jag vet inte hur kriget påverkade min faster, mina kusiner. Jag har aldrig vågat fråga. Pappa pratar sällan om det.

"Jag satt i rummet med avskalade väggar, med ett yrke som inte "talade främmande språk", med ett sönderfallet land bakom mig, med ett modersmål som hade delats i tre likt ett ormliknande monster med en tunga som förgrenade sig. Jag satt med något slags obeskrivlig känsla av skuld som jag hade glömt anledningen till, med något slags obeskrivlig känsla av smärta som jag hade glömt källan till."

"1. What was the name of the country in the south of europe that fell apart in 1991?
A)Yugoslovakia; b) Yugoslavia ; c) Slovenakia.
2. What was the name of the inhabitants of that country? a) Yugoslavs; b) Mungoslavs; c) Slavoyugs.
3. Where do these people, whose country has disappeared, live now? a) They are no longer alive; b) They are barely alive; c)They have moved to another country. 4. What should people who have moved to another country do? a) They should integrate ; b) They should disintegrate; c) They should move to get Another country.

Profile Image for Marc Nash.
Author 19 books357 followers
June 26, 2012
A book about exile and trying to establish your identity in a foreign land living among your own expats whose rivalries and grudges are the reason for the narrator fleeing her war-torn country in the first place. The country is Yugoslavia as it breaks up into 6 different states and these exiles find sanctuary but no peace in Holland. The book is a stunning piece of literary writing. It portrays the human soul, with crystal precision. What it means to be in pain. To be displaced. To be fragmented and adrift of what constitutes reality and yet perfectly sane.

"Our tribe is cursed. Returning to the lands whence we came spells our death; remaining in the lands whither we have come spells defeat". Quite.
Profile Image for Kamila Kunda.
292 reviews235 followers
August 22, 2020
I happen to often reach for the most appropriate books in the most appropriate time. I bought “The Ministry of Pain” by Dubravka Ugrešić over ten years ago but only this summer the time has come to read it. And what a marvellous book it is!

Ugrešić writes so convincingly that for a large part of the book I thought it’s non-fiction, but it’s actually a novel. After the collapse of Yugoslavia Tanja, a Croat (born Yugoslav) university lecturer, moves to Amsterdam to teach Yugoslav literature for two semesters at the University of Amsterdam. Her students are mainly fellow Yugoslavs, each with their baggage of experience and pain. Tanja quickly realises that traditional teaching would seem false and inconsiderate and so she decides to use a metaphorical chequered red-white-blue nylon bag (the one that originated in Hong Kong in the 1960s but has since been known to immigrants and market sellers all over the world) and fill it with each student’s personal memories of the country that no longer exists.

The way Ugrešić writes about nostalgia and melancholia is so acutely accurate that often I had to pause and take a deep breath, absorbing all the emotions she packed into the novel. Since reading Eva Hoffman’s “Lost in Translation” about fifteen years ago I haven’t found a book which would capture immigrant’s experience with such depth, maturity and lyricism. The language is entrancingly beautiful and the translator - Michael Henry Heim - did the most superb job. I saw a lot of truth is the author’s descriptions of Amsterdam and Dutch people; her cultural observations are spot on.

I don’t have Balkan heritage but I could find myself of the pages of “The Ministry of Pain”, between one bitter-sweet anecdote and another, between a smirk here, a remark there. I feel Yugoslavs are very much “my” people, just as many people from other European formerly communist countries. Ugrešić awoke in me a sense of loss and took me on an emotional rollercoaster ride through identity issues.
A truly spellbinding novel, certainly a must-read for everyone with an immigrant/refugee background.
Profile Image for Puya.
10 reviews5 followers
May 20, 2021
چقدر این کتاب بد بود
هیچوقت یه کتابیو اینجوری تموم نکرده بودم با الکی ورق زدنش که زودتر تموم بشه
تعریف این کتابو خیلی شنیده بودم ولی متاسفانه انتظاراتمو برآورده نکرد
زندگی نامه یه مهاجر از یوگسلاوی به هلند که داستان اوارگیشو تعریف میکنه
Profile Image for Michael Bohli.
1,076 reviews39 followers
August 10, 2018
Der Krieg, welcher aus dem Bund Jugoslawien einzelne Staaten brach und das Leben an der Adria bis heute verändert hat, der ist nicht einfach zu verstehen und zu verarbeiten. Die Kroatin Dubravka Ugrešić zeigt anhand der Lehrerin Tanja auf, welche nach einigen Wirrungen als Dozentin in Amsterdam gelandet ist, wie viele Leute weiterleben oder es versuchen. Doch wie sinnvoll ist es, eine nicht mehr existente Sprache eines nicht mehr existenten Staates an jungen und oft orientierungslosen Menschen zu vermitteln – besonders wenn man selber im luftleeren Raum gefangen scheint?

Gefühlvoll und mit einem tollen Sprachumgang erforscht die Autorin in ihrem Buch "The Ministry Of Pain" diese Fragen und geht der Seele der Flüchtlinge, Vergessenen, Angeklagten und Verlorenen auf den Grund. Das Buch ist immer packend und zugleich tonnenschwer, bietet durch die verschiedenen Perspektiven, den gelungenen Dialogen und dem (leicht) hoffnungsvollen Ende aber einen faszinierenden Einblick in die Nostalgie von Jugoslawien.

Gelesen habe ich dies im Urlaub in Slowenien, was das Erzählte noch eindrücklicher erscheinen liess.
Profile Image for Mahammad Sadegh.
11 reviews1 follower
February 23, 2020
پر از صحنه های تکان دهنده برای من که کمتر مغلوبان جنگ خوانده ام . البته مواردی از نوستالژی را بیان میکند و به قدری وارد جزعیات میشود که تصویر سازی را برای خواننده ای از زبان دیگر سخت میسازد. بلا فاصله پس از اتمام کتاب هدیه اش دادم نمیدانم شاید ترسیدم کتابخانه ام زیر بار محتوی سراسر‌ رنج داستان، که کمتر داستان است و بیشتر در واقعیت غوطه ور است دوام نیاورد.
Profile Image for Bruno.
79 reviews4 followers
June 18, 2021
This was such a pain in the ass to get through...
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