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Labud Dragic. Divlji Andjeo.

Belgrade. Prosveta. 2001. 150 pages, ISBN 78419052

LABUD DRAGIC, born in Montenegro in 1954, majored in world literature at the University of Belgrade. Apart from numerous stories in magazines and newspapers, he published five books of prose in the period between 1985 and 1999. His latest one, Wild Angel, consists of six stories. It is a social satire ranging from humor and irony to sarcasm and grotesque, often depicting realism equal to fantasy. As Milos Savic points out, the writing of Labud Dragic, "one of the most talented writers of the middle generation," is seemingly inspired by the immediate reality around him, but the reality, in the author's vision, "has dimensions of the world turned upside down and out of joint." Going through everyday life with a keen eye, the author brilliantly records his observations on publishers, butchers ("nature's miracles"), barbers ("who during the slow time trim their own mustache, cut the nose hair, yawn, or pick their ears"), theologians, mechanics, dentists (who "thrust something in your gaping mouth saying `stay like this for five minutes,' then leave for a game of chess, sometimes forgetting to return"), blacksmiths ("kings of fire"), watchmakers, merchants ("men with a double bottom"), and gravediggers ("Through the years, all the grief scattered over the graveyards moves onto the gravediggers' faces").

It is hard to tell the plot of this book, since it is as fragmented as life itself. A rich mosaic of images and scenes, it offers poignantly vivid, often juicy details, sharp, witty language, and echoes of great art and literature. A description of a day in the life of an ordinary man includes irony worthy of Jonathan Swift at his best. A philosophical train of thought is suddenly interrupted by erotic sensations. A bus ride turns into a full-blown sexual experience. Quite real. The wording and the style change accordingly, turning into the realm of soft lotus flowers and juicy orange flesh. But the human mind is a dangerous place, capable of beauty and violence, finalized ideas, certain conclusions ("Ideas are supplements for suffering," according to Proust; "We all leave with unfulfilled wishes"; "Religion is the opium for the masses," but "a porno film is a refreshment").

Irony or not, you will enjoy some relevant opinion ("Women are like the local buses, the ones you don't want are persistent"), realistic marriage scenes, and a fine description of a faithful, boring wife one has to murder to get rid of. Mythology and contemporary life blend together in the "Rose of Wandering," which is dedicated to religion, the celebration of Easter, and the conflict between brothers over religion.

To say the least, Wild Angel is a complex, challenging, rich text that eludes secondhand interpretation. It is fluid and multileveled, open to various personal interpretations, like a piece of modern art.
Mira N. Mataric
Pasadena, California
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Author:Mataric, Mira N.
Publication:World Literature Today
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 22, 2002
Words:470
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