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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

     

In the Jaws of Life

by
Dubravka Ugrešić


general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase In the Jaws of Life



Title: In the Jaws of Life
Author: Dubravka Ugrešić
Genre: Fiction
Written: 1978-87
Length: 252 pages
Original in: Serbo-Croatian
Availability: In the Jaws of Life - US
Dans la gueule de la vie - France
  • and Other Stories
  • Translated by Celia Hawkesworth and Michael Henry Heim
  • Foreword by Andrew Wachtel
  • Contents include:
    • Steffie Speck in the Jaws of Life (a patchwork novel)
    • A Love Story
    • Life is a Fairy Tale (Metaterxies)
  • The title novella was made into a movie, U raljama zivota, in 1984.

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Our Assessment:

B : playful literary stuff, much of it quite good

See our review for fuller assessment.




Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
TLS . 20/3/1992 Roz Kaveney
World Lit. Today . Fall/1992 Jeffrey J. Folks


  From the Reviews:
  • "What saves this postmodern endeavor from its own weighty seriousness of intentionality is Ugresic's genuinely humorous intelligence. Her wit is bound by no preconceived purposes, and once the story takes off, a wild freedom of association and adventurous discernment is set in motion." - Jeffrey J. Folks, World Literature Today

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:

       Presenting two novellas and several short pieces, written over about a decade, this collection is an excellent introduction to Ugresic's work.
       The novel of the title -- actually, Steffie Speck in the Jaws of Life -- is a "patchwork novel." What that means is quickly evident: there are symbols throughout the novel -- dotted lines with scissors separating sections, and the like. A "Key to the Various Symbols" at the beginning suggests what can be done to the text: cut it, stretch or take it in, pleat it. The novella then begins with a "Paper Pattern" rather than a Table of Contents, showing how the text will unfold.
       The story itself is told fairly straightforwardly -- given these beginnings -- and Ugresic makes a witty and fairly clever pastiche. There is a great deal of authorial intrusion and other post-modern literary gamesmanship, but it still makes for an entertaining read as we follow Steffie Speck and her search for love and meaning in life. The good advice Steffie types up (that is her job) is interspersed throughout the text, a marked contrast to her own unfocussed life.
       A Love Story is a post-modern attempt at writing a simple love story. There are stories related in the story itself, a rapid succession of days in which love is found, experienced, and lost -- and then reexamined a decade later.
       Life is a Fairy Tale offers "metatextual-therapeutic tales" based on other stories or ideas gleaned from elsewhere. So, for example, "more than 15.5 per cent" of the text of Who am I ? is copied verbatim from the book that inspired it, Alice in Wonderland. Other sources for other tales include works by Gogol and Tolstoy. The stories are fairly interesting literary experiments, the best of them being The Kharms Case, about the still too obscure Russian writer, Daniil Kharms.
       Ugresic's works are both interesting and entertaining. She always makes an effort to amuse, not taking her literary experiments too seriously. It is a useful and interesting approach, and we can certainly recommend her work.

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Links:

Reviews: In the Jaws of Life - the movie (U raljama zivota):
  • IMDb site, with all the necessary information.
Dubravka Ugrešić: Other Books by Dubravka Ugresic under Review: Other books of interest under Review:

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About the Author:

       Dubravka Ugrešić was born in 1949, in Yugoslavia (now Croatia). Her writing has been translated into numerous languages. She was awarded the prestigious Heinrich Mann Prize in 2000.

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