The Ministry of Pain: A Novel
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
Having fled the violent breakup of Yugoslavia, Tanja Lucic is now a professor of literature at the University of Amsterdam, where she teaches a class filled with other young Yugoslav exiles, most of whom earn meager wages assembling leather and rubber S&M clothing at a sweatshop they call the "Ministry." Abandoning literature, Tanja encourages her students to indulge their "Yugonostalgia" in essays about their personal experiences during their homeland's cultural and physical disintegration. But Tanja's act of academic rebellion incites the rage of one renegade member of her class—and pulls her dangerously close to another—which, in turn, exacerbates the tensions of a life in exile that has now begun to spiral seriously out of control.
reflection would cross the prostitute’s face like a shadow. Everything reflected everything, everything merged, the reflections of the houses swimming in the canals together with the windows mirroring the sky. The very thought of it made my head spin. Some of the front doors had mirrors sticking out on metal stalks, the purpose of which was to enable the inhabitants to see who was ringing without themselves being seen at the window. I often caught my reflection in those mirrors. I had the
reconstruct the before-the-war period with no difficulty, the after-the-war period, which included the war itself, was pure chaos. The simplest question was enough to trip them up. “You mean when did I leave the country?” That’s the way they put it, reducing it to the lowest common denominator. “Right.” “Well, I didn’t come straight here.” This is what happened first. Or that. First they did that and went there, and then they came here, to the Netherlands. Exile narratives were dateless.
it!” Papa barked. “We live better than people in a lot of places. And if things hadn’t happened the way they did, we’d be living better than the Americans.” Breathing heavily, he went and pulled out three notebooks from under the table the TV set was standing on. They were large—stationery format—and hand-bound. “Here,” he said, “have a look at these. My scribblings.” I gave them each a kiss at the door. Papa was clearly uncomfortable. For all his attempts at a smile the corners of his mouth
it didn’t help. It’s like I had sand in my eyes.” I’d made no phone calls: I had no one to call. I’d skimmed through the numbers in my old address book, and once I even picked up the receiver and dialed the number of a former friend, but before anyone could answer I put the receiver down. I was relieved. I’d thought about Mother. About how she defended her turf. What mattered most to her was that the stain be taken care of, the tap stop dripping, the curtains be clean, and life take its normal
letter. “Who’d have thought that of all the cities in the world she’d end up in Caracas!” Refugees from Slovenia—Croats—made for Zagreb, for Istria, for the sea. Refugees from Bosnia went south, to Croatia, or east, to Serbia. The Croatian Serbs beat a quiet retreat from Croatia until they were chased out en masse. The Vojvodina Hungarians slipped noiselessly into Hungary, followed after a while by a number of Serbs as well. And soon the Kosovo Albanians were on the move…. We fled from