Forty years ago this month, a slight-looking volume of stories was published in the state now referred to as the former Yugoslavia. The book was published to some success: the critics were won over and it sold in good numbers. There was nothing in June that would suggest that this book would go on to cause one of the most lengthy and bitter literary battles in twentieth century Europe. He deployed this method to even greater effect in A Tomb for Boris Davidovich. The stories are mini biographies, neat and concise. Each tell the story of an individual devoted to a political ideology, primarily the type of communism purported by Stalin and the regimes of the Soviet states, and who go on to be murdered by the very same ideology in which they believe.

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Danilo Kis was born on February 22, in Subotica, a small town north of Serb. He moved to Hungary during World War 2. He attended the University of Belgrade where he studied General and Comparative Literature and graduated in He wrote for the Vidici Magazine. He wrote novels, essays and poetry. In , he was named knight of Arts and Letters. He spent most of his life in Belgrade - until his last decade which he spent between France and Belgrade.

He spent a number of years as a lecturer in France. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature and was expected to win however he died in Paris on October 15, before it was announced. Joseph Brodsky was born in Leningrad on May 24, He left school at the age of fifteen, taking jobs in a morgue, a mill, a ship's boiler room, and a geological expedition. During this time he taught himself English and Polish and began writing poetry. His first poems appeared mainly in Syntax, a Leningrad underground literary magazine.

In , he was tried and sentenced to five years of administrative exile for the charge of parasitism. As a result of intervention by prominent Soviet cultural figures, he was freed in In , under tremendous pressure from the authorities, he emigrated to the United States.

He wrote nine volumes of poetry and several collections of essays. He received the Nobel Prize for Literature in and was named poet laureate of the United States, the first poet whose native language was not English to achieve this honor. He died of a heart attack on January 28, A Tomb for Boris Davidovich.

Composed of seven dark tales, A Tomb for Boris Davidovich presents variations on the theme of political and social self-destruction throughout Eastern Europe in the first half of the twentieth century. The characters in these stories are caught in a world of political hypocrisy, which ultimately leads to death, their common fate. Although the stories Kis tells are based on historical events, the beauty and precision of his prose elevates these ostensibly true stories into works of literary art that transcend the politics of their time.


Faction or Fiction in 'A Tomb for Boris Davidovich': The Literary Affair

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A Tomb for Boris Davidovich

In seven short stories about revolutionaries, Danilo Kis explores the dark and terrible underbelly of the Revolution, its betrayals and deceits and its destruction of its own. Set against a common background of prisons and labor camps and interrogations, in and around the Russian Revolution and Stalin's purges, the stories describe protagonists crushed by totalitarian "justice", sometimes blindly and sometimes with malice, and forced to betray themselves and others. Kis' stories have something of the feel of biographies, with references to real or imaginary sources or the absence thereof , and everything in them is based on historical figures and events. The little details Kis marshalls are particularly compelling and the stories, though they sometimes appear unstructured, are artfully put together. Despite the loose coupling — the stories are linked by incidental references to characters — the overall collection also forms a coherent work.

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