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A Tomb for Boris Davidovich

4.19  ·  Rating Details ·  1,699 Ratings  ·  105 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 on ...more
Paperback, 136 pages
Published June 1st 2001 by Dalkey Archive Press (first published 1976)
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Dec 17, 2010 Geoff rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 15, 2011 Declan rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 24, 2015 Christopher rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Vit Babenco
Oct 08, 2016 Vit Babenco rated it it was amazing
In Danilo Kiš’s style I’ve seen a perceptible influence of Isaac Babel and also his stories are spiced with some Varlam Shalamov’s overtones.
But thematically A Tomb for Boris Davidovich goes as a sequel to A Universal History of Iniquity by Jorge Luis Borges
Those who play revolutionary games are villains by definition and even if they win sooner or later they’ll fall prey to the greater villains.
“Novsky was already a man of failing health; the dog years of hard labor and revolutionary zeal, wh
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
Apr 06, 2013 Brian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Ben Winch
Nov 05, 2014 Ben Winch rated it really liked it
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
May 18, 2010 Jonfaith rated it it was amazing
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.
Jun 29, 2012 orsodimondo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: balcani
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
Sep 29, 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
Aug 24, 2012 Jesse rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 01, 2009 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
May 04, 2011 Sam rated it really liked it
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
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.
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
Petruccio Hambasket IV
Nov 04, 2016 Petruccio Hambasket IV rated it it was amazing
I've noticed that for whatever reason when people happen to speak of Modern Serbian literature the usually discussed 'classics' are typically titles such as: 'Death and the Dervish' , 'The Bridge on the Drina' , or some obscure and roughly translated work. Danilo Kiš' writing is either left out of the conversation or simply brushed off as an admirable sort of 'runner-up' choice (Like Boccaccio is to Dante). This is an unfortunate established pattern: one that stunts the potential trajectory of n ...more
Vladana Perlić
Jun 14, 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
Monica Carter
Oct 28, 2009 Monica Carter rated it it was amazing

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
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
Dec 24, 2008 Bruce rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 29, 2014 Roman rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aleksandar Obradović
Kako koji put čitam Grobnicu sve mi je bolja i bolja. :)
Nov 26, 2016 Bernie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Robert Varik
Feb 08, 2017 Robert Varik rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Hea raamat igal juhul, kui mingigi ülevaade või nö linnulennuline tutvustus anda, siis ütleksin, et see on kummaline kombinatsioon Solženitsõnist ja Kivirähkist.

"Mitme keele, kultuuri ja religiooni ristteel elanud Serbia kirjaniku Danilo Kiši (1935–1989) romaan alapealkirjaga “Seitse peatükki ühist ajalugu”. Süngetes ja samas absurdimaigulistes lugudes XX sajandi algupoole Ida-Euroopa poliitilisest silmakirjalikkusest ja enesehävitamisest on tubli annus mängulisust ning fakti ja fiktsiooni piir
Feb 20, 2017 Sofia rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dude does a good Borges impersonation, but, as I'm sure my father would say, you can't outdo history, stuff like this happened, worse stuff. I much prefer Shalamov.
Apr 06, 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
Potpuno Inkognito
Dec 02, 2016 Potpuno Inkognito rated it it was amazing
Odlična knjiga. Interesantan način pripovedanja za koji se Kiš ovde opredelio, uhvatilo me je nespremnu na početku; njegov razlog za ovaj dokumentarni pristup - da nametne utisak da sa nama deli istorijske činjenice, stvarne sudbine stvarnih ljudi. Vrlo lako su to mogle biti. On nas provodi kroz prostor i vreme, zadržavajući se u svakoj od ovih sedam priča na drugom mestu i stavljajući pod lupu parče života nekog čoveka, ni po čemu posebnom, delom jednog te istog.
Utkan je u njih sav naš jad. Mi
Jan 10, 2017 Michelle rated it liked it
Although considered a masterpiece and I can understand why I only gave this novel 3 stars because I just can't get over the endless "namedropping", minute detail of a part of history I know little about and the difficulty I found trying to fathom the actual stories.
Having said this, however, I realise what a brave novel this is. Danilo Kis denounces life in the Eastern block and through these 7 very dark short stories we discover the brutality of living during the Stalin period - old revolutiona
Mar 06, 2011 Jeremy rated it it was ok
It seems like Kis wants to be some sort of slavic Borges. His stories try and cop many of Borges's themes and even to a certain extent Borgese's literary voice. But were as Borges's fiction with its cool precision usually seems to exclude commentary about affairs political, Kis's stories are totally invested in the bleak, inescapably cruel world of Stalinist rule. Unfortunately they're also incredibly clunky and full of an awful lot of cheap, metaphysical posturing. Though that might have more t ...more
Sep 10, 2015 Ghania rated it it was amazing
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.” 30 likes
“I wish to live in peace with myself and not with the world.” 10 likes
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