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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