In 1988, the Yugoslavian writer Dubravka Ugresic published her first novel, Fording the Stream of Consciousness, an amusing satire of international literary conferences. Its plot includes, besides a dead poet and a stolen manuscript, a purported descendant of Gustave Flaubert named Jean-Paul Flagus who is conspiring to found the Agency for the Totalitarian Control of Literature. By fostering “bands of third-rate speed writers” who will poach ideas, themes, and titles from major writers, Flagus plans on “considerably accelerating the pace of literary inflation and . . . undermining the myth of a great, unmatched, and unmatchable body of literature.” The novel’s English translation did not appear until 1993, after Ugresic’s nation had disintegrated into warring ethnic factions and she had become, against her wishes, a Croatian writer. Her outspokenness and her cutting wit, selected and translated in her 1994 essay...

 

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