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Updated Up To 18/01/2017
Volume 4, Number 2 (June 2006) : 219--38
Danilo Kiš
Factography and Thanatography (A Tomb for Boris Davidovich, Psalm 44, The Hourglass)
Renate Lachmann
Rubric A: Narrative as a Way of Thinking


As a child the Serbian-Jewish author Danilo Kiš witnessed the massacre of the so called cold days in Novi Sad in 1942, when thousands of Jewish and Serbian inhabitants were executed by the fascists and their corpses thrown into the Danube, and the disappearance of his father who perished in Auschwitz. As an adult he was witness to the dictatorship of Titoist Yugoslavia. His narratives focus on Fascism and Stalinism insisting on their purely literary representation. Relying on the documentary character of autobiographical testimony (Karlo Stejner’s Seven Thousand Days in Siberia), the real story of mystifications (Protocols of the Elders of Zion), the semantic energy of fictive documents, and the charm of story-telling, Kiš creates a multilayered, highly artificial narrative compositum. He combines the literary experience of Russian avant-garde factography (literatura fakta, 1929) with the puzzling effect of documentary simulacra without resuming the ludistic implication of this procedure, which – as he is well aware – is an integral element of Borges’s poetics. Without ignoring the intertextual orientation of Kiš’s text, the paper concentrates on the mnemonic dimension of his narratives, on the stylistics of anti-pathos and litotes, on the semantic coalition of factography and thanatography,and discusses the problem of hyperbole/understatement in virtual documents.

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