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by Borislav Pekić, introduction by Barry Schwabsky, translated from the Serbo-Croatian by Bernard Johnson

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Building can be seen as a master metaphor for modernity, which some great irresistible force, be it Fascism or Communism or capitalism, is always busy rebuilding, and Houses is a book about a man, Arsénie Negovan, who has devoted his life and his dreams to building.

Bon vivant, Francophile, visionary, Negovan spent the first half of his life building houses he loved and even named—Juliana, Christina, Agatha—while making his hometown of Belgrade into a modern city to be proud of. The second half of his life, after World War II and the Nazi occupation, he has spent in one of those houses, looked after by his wife and a nurse, in hiding. Houses is set on the final day of his life, when Negovan at last ventures forth to see the world as it is.

Negovan is one of the great characters in modern fiction, a man of substance and a deluded fantasist, a beguiling visionary and a monster of selfishness, a charmer no matter what. And perhaps he is right to fear that home is only an illusion in our world, or that only in illusion is there home.
by pekic, introduction by Barry Schwabsky

Additional Book Information

Series: NYRB Classics
ISBN: 9781590179475
Pages: 224
Publication Date:


Pekić writes with a wry grace that lets all the seriousness and thought fold inside a stubborn yet subtle farce. Accomplished and piquant.
Kirkus Reviews

Houses deserves the most honest praise a reviewer can give: it was so good I can’t wait to read [Pekić’s] first book for my own pleasure...Pekić has drawn his portrait with exquisitely subtle lines, choosing words with such care that Arsénie says worlds about himself while he is talking about someone else.
—Peter Grier, The Christian Science Monitor

In its best moments, [Houses] rates with the intricate writings of Russian and French masters...It is a naked eye that can take us into a building of cold-water flats...into the den of a wretched man—and then make us step back from this tremendous detail into the unimaginable widths of human suffering. Pekić has mirrored the world, its fire, its blood, in the clouded eye of a madman, in a bog, reducing its vastness to a few cubic feet of muddy water—and the reflection is ugly.
—Katherine Knorr, Chicago Tribune

Written in 1978, Mr. Pekiç's novel is a delicate farce that exemplifies the best of Yugoslavian literature… chronicles the life of Negovan, itself a mirror for the conflicts of the 20th century. Houses offers a fascinating window into literature of the other Europe.
—Karl Wolff, New York Journal of Books

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