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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Danilo Kiš

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To purchase Mansarda

Title: Mansarda
Author: Danilo Kiš
Genre: Novel
Written: 1962 (Eng. 2008)
Length: 98 pages
Original in: Serbian
Availability: Mansarda - US
La mansarde - France
Die Dachkammer - Deutschland
  • Serbian title: Мансарда
  • Translated, edited, and with an Introduction and notes by John K. Cox

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Our Assessment:

B : a young author's experiments in a typical first novel

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Die Zeit . 4/5/1990 Karl-Markus Gauß

  From the Reviews:
  • "Weder Frühe Leiden noch der jetzt nachgereichte Erstling von Kis, der übermütige Adoleszenten-Roman Die Dachkammer, sind bedeutende Werke der europäischen oder auch nur der jugoslawischen Literatur. Beide Bücher haben ihren Reiz in wunderbaren Einzelheiten und ergreifenden Anekdoten. Dennoch liegt der Wert beider Frühwerke für uns weniger in ihnen selbst, als in den oft überraschenden Durchblicken, die sie aufs Gesamtwerk öffnen. (...) Es ist ein ungestümes, ein freches Jugendwerk, in dem Kis der Boheme seine übermütige Reverenz erweist, nicht ohne satirische Schärfe gegen den Tribut, den er selbst und seine beiden Helden dieser Lebensform in der Dachkammer entrichten." - Karl-Markus Gauß, Die Zeit

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Mansarda was Danilo Kiš' first novel, and the slim book is just what one might expect from a young writer. The 'mansarda' of the title is the attic room he rents with a friend in Belgrade, and where he hides away from the real world: a garret with walls where: "the dampness had sketched out wondrous designs of the flora and fauna that bloom and thrive only in dreams". In this world of theirs there is a good deal of philosophizing and fantasizing, a love affair -- with an Eurydice to the narrator's Orpheus -- as well as some more casual sexual encounters, and a few lessons along the way and especially by the end.
       The narrator is, of course, writing a novel in his garret-retreat, titled 'Mansarda': neo-realism, a friends suspects. "There's some of that in it", the author admits, but he also acknowledges: "it remains a horribly self-centered book". What else is a young poet to write about ? And he most definitely is still very recognisable as just that -- as a girl he picks up notes:

     "You are just a run-of-the-mill poet, nothing more," she said. "And you'll always remain a poet. And nothing more."
     I recoiled, feeling insulted.
     "How do you know that ? It wasn't ..."
     "You're just blabbering away. That's how."
       And he is, most of the time. He spins his stories , and whether claiming to be holed up in his attic for months on end or playing Robinson Crusoe on an island for a winter, reality isn't much of a constraint. There's a lot of poetic license here .....
       It's a young author at work here, but the young author is Danilo Kiš, and from a four-page riff of an extract from Mann's The Magic Mountain to some of the linguistic and imaginative games he plays there's a good deal to enjoy here, including much that pre-figures much of his later writing. He piles it on fast and thick here, but that's part of the fun too: it's a wild and very bumpy ride, but at this speed (and at under a hundred pages) it's certainly not boring.
       Kiš almost seems afraid to let himself get caught up in any single story or voice, making the novel feel like one long exercise in experimentation. It makes for a bit of a mess, with a very impatient feel to it, but there are enough clever bits and fine writing to make it worthwhile.
       By the end the author finds himself drawn out of his ivory tower, as it dawns on him: "Lord, I've been living in that mansarda as if on a star !" He comes down to earth, as it were, suddenly seeing that even in the same building there's a world of other stories, of actual people. It allows for an end (and the suggestion of a next chapter, in the young man's life) -- though fortunately Kiš always seems to have held onto at least a bit of that head-in-the-clouds feeling.
       Mansarda is little more than a curiosity, mainly of interest to fans of the author. But it's not a bad little entertainment.

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Mansarda: Reviews: Danilo Kiš: Other books by Danilo Kis under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Danilo Kiš (Данило Киш, 1935-1989) was a leading writer in the former Yugoslavia.

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© 2008 the complete review

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