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A Tomb for Boris Davidovich (Writers from the other Europe)

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4.20  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,515 Ratings  ·  89 Reviews
"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 ...more
Paperback, 160 pages
Published July 31st 1980 by Penguin Books (first published 1976)
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Geoff
Jul 10, 2011 Geoff rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Brilliant forward by Joseph Brodsky? Check.

Adequate afterword by William T. Vollman? Check.

Bookended in-between? I’ll quote Grace Zabriskie’s interloping madwoman from Inland Empire: ”Brutal fucking murder!”

A Tomb for Boris Davidovich is a book of brutal fucking murders. You begin to feel the creeping disquiet, the emerging horror, very early on, when Miksha, the tailor’s apprentice, solves the problem of a bothersome skunk that’s been snatching chickens from the chicken coop by trapping the pol
...more
Declan
He who has seen the present has seen everything, that which happened in the most distant past and that which will happen in the future.

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, book VI, 37. (Quoted by Danilo Kiš)

If conventional short stories could be compared to films in which the story unfolds in a linear manner, then the stories in 'A Tomb for Boris Davidovich' could be compared to a series of still photos ( a little like Chris Marker's film 'La Jetée') each described in precise, almost austere detail. Th
...more
Christopher
Jul 14, 2016 Christopher rated it it was amazing
If you think this is merely the stuff of historical nightmare, try to put in mind the current realities of Guantanamo, Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, et al.

According to the formidable Joseph Brodsky, (the author of the Introduction to this edition of Kis' A Tomb for Boris Davidovich (ATfBD)) the Yugoslav Union of Writers accused the author of plagiarizing Solzhenitsyn, Joyce, Nadezhda Mandelstam, Jorge Luis Borges, the Medvedev brothers, and others. I understand each (excepting, of course, Mandelsta
...more
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
It’s not that I’m saying Danilo Kiš isn’t original or talented ; but what I’m saying is that we need more Borgeses of xyz. Kiš does this job wonderfully for Yugoslavia in his Boris book. And most cheerfully I now have the following string of literary=cards :: Borge --> Kiš --> Vollmann ; which pleases me greatly. Less cheerfully is the discovery of a juxtaposition of stories in this novel* which shows : not much has changed ;; and one could discover perhaps quickly a story written by a Mus ...more
Brian
Jul 05, 2014 Brian rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Brian by: Geoff
Goddamnit, that was genius-ly crafted bleakitude. I think I need a hug before I can stew on this text.

Brodsky's intro is tremendous - a fitting companion to such an important piece of lit.
Cody
Apr 20, 2016 Cody rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
(3.5 pentagrammatical goatheaded flameswords, really.)

I maintain the illusion of being relatively intelligent by always acknowledging that I am not the smartest person in the room, even if that room should be an empty one. (In that case it would be ‘Saltine,’ one of my split personalities who divides her time between translating English-language versions of Russian novels back into the original Russian, and erotic dancing at Trompe le Mons Venus.) This can be the only explanation as to why A Tom
...more
Ben Winch
I don’t think I’ve ever read something so proficient yet so indebted to another author. Kis, it has been noted, is a Borges progeny. Check it out:
The next night, that of January 29-30, the scene was repeated: the guards led Novsky down the vertiginous spiral stairs into the deep cellars of the prison. Novsky realised with horror that this repetition was not accidental, but part of an infernal plan: each day of his life would be paid for with the life of another man; the perfection of his biograp
...more
[P]
Sep 30, 2015 [P] rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A Basement in Yekaterinburg

On the 17th of July 1918, the Russian Imperial Romanov family, including Tsar Nicholas II [nicknamed Nicholas the Bloody], were murdered in a basement in Yekaterinburg. There are numerous rumours surrounding the deaths, with perhaps the most lurid being that the princesses had to be finished off with bayonets, as the bullets intended for their flesh had been deflected away by the jewels hidden in their blouses. Although the Russian empire had collapsed with Nicholas’ f
...more
Jesse
Aug 24, 2012 Jesse rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
what a wonderful little treasure of a book, a blend of darkness at noon and borges' ficciones that succinctly points out the issues with totalitarian govt. the ways in which it destroys a part of itself and the destroys the parts that first did the destroying: a sorta self-replicating, inbent idea of destruction, where pursuit and paranoia are the two default options and you may not always know which side you are on. a place where narrative is important, where ending a man's life is not enough, ...more
orsodimondo (a zonzo)
Dec 17, 2015 orsodimondo (a zonzo) rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: balcani
IL PENSIERO È IL PEGGIORE DEI DELITTI
Qui solo i nomi sono fittizi. La storia, purtroppo, è assolutamente vera. Anche se vorremmo che non lo fosse.

Sette storie che parlano di Storia, sette narrazioni che usano la Storia per raccontare il Male: quel Terrore, che chissà perché si identifica con la Rivoluzione francese, mentre è il secolo breve che lo porta alle vette massime. Nel caso specifico, in questi sette racconti si tratta del terrore sovietico, del regno di “doppiezza e paura”.
Si tratta di
...more
julieta
Apr 20, 2016 julieta rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: europa, eslavófila
Este libro aparentemente pequeño me costó más trabajo del que pensé, y más tiempo también. Genera sentimientos muy densos todo el rato, y tenía que dejar espacio para digerirlos.

A lo largo de 7 cuentos, D kis habla de situaciones límite, el huir de la muerte, o de la captura, de la prisión, o de el trabajo forzado, a la vez que encuentra espacio para meter toques de ironía en tanto drama de ese submundo, un submundo que vive siempre cercano a la muerte y a la amenaza, hecho de idealistas, revolu
...more
Sam
May 04, 2011 Sam rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
No lyricism here, except for brief violent spurts; mostly just bone-dry irony, and when it comes to describing the slow march of Stalinism through the consciousness of Eastern Europe (and beyond) bone-dry irony is probably the preferred mode. I enjoyed the refreshing lack of sentimentality and self-aggrandizement of the victims like you get in a lot of other indictments of totalitarian cruelty. This book rewards close attention; parts that seem dry or overly factual contain a mess of emotions an ...more
Zadignose
In this excellent novel, author Danilo Kiš takes the reader on a tour of an early 20th Century European Hell. This Europe is akin to a bubbling, simmering cauldron in which institutional ideology and cynicism are blended in equal measure. What's cooking? An all you can eat buffet of atrocity. Who are the guests? Idealists and pragmatists alike. You too; you're invited.

The collection of stories that constitute this novel don't intersect much, except thematically. Characters that make a cameo in o
...more
Hadrian
A collection of seven sparse tales about the dark comedies of life in the Comintern, and how revolutions devour their own children, as Saturn did. Bitterly mocking these cruel moments of fate. Read them all in one sitting, after bedtime, and will stay with me long after.
Vladana Perlić
Jun 15, 2015 Vladana Perlić rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Knjiga u kojoj glavni junaci umiru za moj rođendan - kako da je ne volim? Dođe mi da se zapitam da nemam i ja kakve veze sa Novskim i Nojmanom u tom cikličnom kretanju vremena.
Ipak, mislim da mi je u ovom djelu najdraža posljednja rečenica:
„Snimak njegovih mošnji, veličine najveće kolhozne tikve, preštampava se i u stranim stručnim knjigama gde god je reč o elefantijazisu (elephantiasis nostras) i kao naravoučenije piscima da za pisanje nisu dovoljna samo muda.“
Kiš, očigledno, ima mnogo više od
...more
Jonfaith
May 17, 2011 Jonfaith rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: balkan
Jesus, that was my husk of a response after I finished this one on a rainy afternoon, still jet-lagged from a honeymoon of sorts in London and back in Indiana, one foaming with the necessity of quickly organizing most aspects of my life.
Monica Carter
Oct 28, 2009 Monica Carter rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Danilo Kis, a Yugoslavian author and a Jew, fluidly ties together a book of short stories that mournfully capture the reality of life under Communism in the first half of the twentieth century. I chose this book not because it gives us a cogent view of the country of Yugoslavia - it doesn’t . I chose Kis because of his contribution to Yugoslavian literature and to literature that give us historical context of the atrocity of Communism and its affect on those who lived under its rule, no matter w
...more
Nathaniel
This is the sort of book that only pretentious lit majors can love. Kis writes in an infuriating nonlinear style full of oblique references that only Kis and his immediate friends are likely to know, for the sole purpose of showing how incredibly well-read and generally awesome they are compared, arbitrarily, to anyone else who doesn't happen to have that exact same literary education. He's basically the Eastern European equivalent of James Joyce-meets-Borges. Everything in this book is carefu ...more
Bruce
Dec 24, 2008 Bruce rated it really liked it
A Tomb for Boris Davidovich, by Danilo Kis, a Yugoslav writer, is a collection of seven loosely connected short stories or episodes, all dark, mostly about Communist figures (none specifically in Yugoslavia) of the first half of the 20th century, all of whom ultimately come to grief in various purges. It is a harsh book, unrelenting in its despair, reminding me of works by other authors – Kafka’s various works, Solzhenitsyn’s One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at ...more
Roman
Mar 29, 2014 Roman rated it liked it
Kis is a historian, who, while not particularly clear with his sources, writes the stories of assorted leftists he has conjured out of his imaginary. The world is a bitter, drab place - the book is an ode to justice, built up, imagined and denied.

He does a good job of portraying the removal of some joy of life that exists when men are hagiographied, obituaried, placed into history. But, even if that effort is cognisant, it makes for a novel as dour as its subject. It makes for a clinical sort of
...more
Aleksandar Obradović
Kako koji put čitam Grobnicu sve mi je bolja i bolja. :)
Meghan
Feb 13, 2016 Meghan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The power of Kiš's style lies in his ability to transmit universal messages through lyrical narratives of single lives. Where he is most poignant is where individuals must face consequences of larger systems imposed upon them. Some of the most interesting questions raised by all of the short stories together revolve around ethics, morality, responsibility, and personal culpability. In some instances, as Vollmann points out in his afterward characters such as Dr. Taube and Verschoyle traits that ...more
Tegghiaio
Apr 09, 2013 Tegghiaio rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Este libro de Danilo Kiš resultó ser una gratísima sorpresa, de esos libros que me ponen a pensar en cuántas grandes obras poco conocidas quedarán por ahí para ser descubiertas.

Se trata de un conjunto de historias cortas sobre el totalitarismo político y el comportamiento de la maquinaria hacia aquellos cuyo delito es pensar distinto o aquellos que simplemente ya no le son útiles al régimen; además de una historia sobre totalitarismo religioso con la Inquisición en la Francia de 1330 en "Los per
...more
Gautam Bhatia
Nov 10, 2014 Gautam Bhatia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“I heard as if dazed, the murmur coming from the salon, accompanied by the din of silver utensils like the tinkling of bells, as saw as through a fog the world we had left behind, and which was irretrievably sinking into the past, as into murky water.”

Recently, I read two (extremely) dark European novels. The first was Danilo Kis‘ A Tomb for Boris Davidovich, a collected of seven loosely-connected short stories, which deal with the mental and moral degradation of men under communist totalitarian
...more
Jim Leckband
Oct 08, 2014 Jim Leckband rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"To make an omelette you need to break a few eggs." This famous adage was supposedly the rationale behind the savagery of Leninism/Stalinism. But of course, they were never very interested in omelettes, only breaking eggs. And Kiš's stories matter-of-factly narrate the cost of all that egg breaking.

A philosophical theme runs through the stories (just to pick one theme - there is a lot going on here!) Namely, what is the right (or moral) thing to do in an immoral society. Is it sticking up for yo
...more
Mark Sacha
I've had the good fortune to earn my living as an archivist, which means that I spend a good portion of my days among the documents and relics of dead times, and have the uncanny responsibility of deciding how to preserve them - or even whether I should. Despite the fact that I sometimes get very close to these records I'm always aware of the vast gulf between them and the things they represent; a depiction in gelatin silver of a human being is to some extent a lie, even though the eyes you look ...more
Zuberino
What do you get when you mix the blood-soaked history of modern Europe with the literary innovations of a certain blind Argentine? Danilo Kis is the Borges of the Balkans, but with a twist – whereas Borges dealt with fantastic universes entirely the product of his dazzling imagination, never deigning to address or even acknowledge the low, dishonest politics of the 20th century, Kis goes in the other direction. His father was murdered in Auschwitz, and he himself spent almost his entire life in ...more
Roger Brunyate
May 19, 2016 Roger Brunyate rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: stories
Revolutionaries

My three stars for this book reflect only my personal enjoyment of this modern Serbian classic, which Harold Bloom has included among his Western Canon. Although I shall keep trying, I fear I have a blind spot for Eastern European literature in general, especially that dealing with the Soviet era, whose history comes as close to absurdism (albeit with deadly consequences) as you can find in real life. There is also a particular kind of humor that I find briefly attractive but even
...more
Filippus  Sergius Angelus
These tales are better described as a "thematic novel" due to their order and pacing. The grouping of "Grobnica za Borisa Davidovica" with "Psi i Knjige" as well as the ending being "Kratka Biografija A. A. Darmolatova" really hammer down the themes. The strongest of which is of course the development of totalitarianism within mass ideology and its suppression of the individual.

Kis mostly covers Eastern Europe in the first half of the 20th century, but he also gives us a glimpse of 14th century
...more
Ghania
Sep 10, 2015 Ghania rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The title points you in the right direction - it's dark inside. I like books like this. It's acutely ironic, which is suited by the taut writing style.
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Danilo Kiš was born in Subotica, Danube Banovina, Kingdom of Yugoslavia, the son of Eduard Kiš (Kis Ede), a Hungarian Jewish railway inspector, and Milica Kiš (born Dragićević) from Cetinje, Montenegro. During the Second World War, he lost his father and several other family members, who died in various Nazi camps. His mother took him and his older sister Danica to Hungary for the duration of the ...more
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“‎Bejah zauzet čitanjem i pisanjem, kad grunu u moju sobu velik broj tih ljudi naoružanih neznanjem tupim kao batina i mržnjom oštrom poput noža. To ne bejahu moje svile od kojih im se zakrvaviše oči, no moje knjige poređane po policama; svilu smotaše pod ogrtače, a knjige pobacaše na pod i stadoše ih gaziti nogama i cepati ih na moje oči. A knjige te bejahu u kožu povezane i obeležene brojevima i bejahu napisane od učenih ljudi, i u njima bejaše, da su ih hteli čitati, hiljade razloga da me smesta ubiju i bejaše u njima, da su ih hteli čitati, leka i melema za njihovu mržnju. I rekoh im da ih ne cepaju, jer mnoge knjige nisu opasne, opasna je samo jedna; i rekoh im da ih ne cepaju, jer čitanje mnogih knjiga dovodi do mudrosti, a čitanje jedne jedine do neznanja naoružanog mahnitošću i mržnjom.” 25 likes
“I wish to live in peace with myself and not with the world.” 8 likes
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