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Pannonia Imperilled: Why Danilo Kiš Still Matters

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Abstract

This essay explores the significance of the works of the Serbian–Jewish–Yugoslav writer Danilo Kiš (1935–89) more than twenty years after his untimely passing. To understand Kiš's place in Serbian culture today, it is necessary to revisit the controversies that bedevilled his public reception in Yugoslavia in the 1970s and 1980s; to understand Kiš's place in Central European history today, though, it is necessary to broaden our familiarity with his increasingly accessible corpus of writing and recontextualize his proverbially anti-nationalistic and apolitical positions. With an expanded reading of Kiš, he emerges as a useful source of information and critique on Yugoslavia's ‘self-managing’ socialist system itself as well as a proponent of expanded notions of both East European and Central European identity and of an emotionally authentic if controversial thesis of totalitarian equivalence between fascism and communism.

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