Word Choice features original works of fiction and poetry. This edition, selected by Fiction Editor Rosie Parker, features a story by the Serbian writer Danilo Kiš, translated by John K. Cox and introduced by editor Mirjana Miočinović.
We can date this short piece of prose with relative certainty to 1986, the year that Kiš’s illness was diagnosed; the work has no title and consists of two circled entries labeled “A” and “B,” each of which has a subtitle in English: The magical place and The worst rathole I visited? This text, comprising three typed pages, was found in Kiš’s literary papers already prepared for publication, with the author’s name in the upper left-hand corner of the first page. Aside from the issue of dating the text, we were vexed by the question of why Kiš would suddenly return to themes, places (which are here placed in sharp opposition to each other, as indicated by the titles of the constituent parts: magical place and worst rathole), and images from his “family cycle”; and we were inclined, trusting in the correctness of our intuition, to link this “homesickness” with forebodings of his own imminent end. Today, following closer studies of his literary oeuvre, and an inventory of its topics and motifs, made over nearly an entire decade (from 1978 to 1986), we realize that our assumption was more a matter of the “treacherous influence of biography.”
(Mme Pascal Delpeche recently mentioned to us that this text could be a response to a questionnaire about “most beautiful and ugliest places” received by the author. While this solution would remove all mystification as to Kiš’s motive, it would not alter the significance of the chosen places themselves.)