Danilo Kiš Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Danilo Ki (keesh) was born in Subotica, Yugoslavia, a commercial and industrial city on the Hungarian border. In this regard he has been compared to Joseph Roth and Bruno Schulz, both of whom were born on the borders of the old Austro-Hungarian empire. Two motifs in particular link Ki to the tradition of the Middle European novel. One is the omnipresence in his works of the troubled past; the other is the looming figure of the father (found in Franz Kafka as well as in Roth and Schulz), particularly in Garden, Ashes and Hourglass. In Ki nostalgia is blended with foreboding, and sentimentality is absent. In A Tomb for Boris Davidovich, Subotica, seen through the eyes of a young man leaving his native city forever, is a picture of the bleakness common to Middle European provincial towns., Danilo[Kis, Danilo]}, Danilo[Kis, Danilo]}, Danilo[Kis, Danilo]}

Ki’s childhood and early youth coincided with World War II. The German invasion of Yugoslavia in 1941 brought with it a savage war between Communist partisans and occupation troops, an equally savage conflict between feuding nationalist groups, and the murderous machinery of the Nazis’ “final solution.” Himself a half-Jew, Ki lost his father and most of his family in Auschwitz; by his own account, his survival of the massacre of the Serbs and the Jews in 1942 at Novi Sad was miraculous. It is not surprising, therefore, that although his novels are not directly autobiographical, the suffering of the Jews in Yugoslavia and Hungary is a continual theme. Psalam 44, one of Ki’s earliest works, takes up the persecution of the Jews in Belgrade in the detached,...

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(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Danilo Ki deliberately obscured his biography. It is certain, though, that he was born to a Hungarian father and a Montenegrin mother in the land bordering Hungary in present-day Serbia. In the view of his life that he personally sanctioned, he focuses only on his childhood in his parents’ home.

He graduated from the University of Belgrade in the newly formed department of comparative literature. His novel Mansarda is titled a poema, meaning epic, which embodies Ki’s predilection for paradox by intermingling genres.

Ki himself wrote prolifically about his literary works and about literature itself. He also translated from Russian, Hungarian, English, and French into Serbo-Croatian. He died of lung cancer in 1989.


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Danilo Ki was born in Subotica, a northern city of Yugoslavia (now in Serbia) near the Hungarian border, on February 22, 1935, of a Jewish father and a Montenegrin mother. His family was subjected to terror during World War II, which his father and other relatives did not survive. He spent his childhood in Novi Sad until the infamous massacre of Serbs and Jews in 1942, after which he fled to his father’s home village in Hungary. After the war, working on farms and voraciously reading adventure, mystery, and crime books, he nurtured his imagination and the love for books that eventually brought him to Belgrade University, from which he graduated in 1958 with a degree in comparative literature.

As a young lecturer, Ki spent two years in Bordeaux, France, an experience that led to a long-standing love affair with that country. He lived and worked in Paris for most of his adult life, until his death from lung cancer in 1989.