The Ministry of Pain

The Ministry of Pain

Translated by Michael Henry Heim


9781846590399 February 2008 Paperback 272pp

About the Book


No going back, no moving forward: in the aftermath of the Balkan wars of the 1990s, and in search of residency visas, Tanja Ludic and her pupils land in the Department of Slavonic Languages and Literature at the University of Amsterdam.

There Tanja must teach the literature of ex-Yugoslavia to ex-Yugoslavs. Adrift in a safe Dutch limbo, they struggle not only to make ends meet but to make sense of their displacement.

Tanja chooses to lead her students on a course in ‘Yugonostalgia’. and these shared, knowing rememberances of a vanished era temporarily infuse them with new vitality. But their fragile classroom bonds unravel when tragic events force them all to deal face-to-face with the consequences of the violent disintegration of their homeland.

About the Author

Dubravka Ugresic has been compared favourably with writers such as Vladimir Nabokov, Joseph Brodsky, Milan Kundera and Virginia Woolf. She entered self-imposed exile when Croatia's late president, Franjo Tudjman, proclaimed Croatia to be 'paradise on earth' in the early 1990s. She has been awarded numerous prizes, including Italy's prestigious Preio Lettario Prize for best foreign author. Her works include Nobody's Home(Telegram) and The Ministry of Pain (Telegram), which was shortlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize.

About the Translator

Michael Henry Heim is a Professor of Slavic Languages, at the University California at Los Angeles (UCLA). He received his doctorate at Harvard in 1971. He is an active and prolific translator, and is fluent in Czech, French, German, Italian, Russian, and Serbo-Croatian.


'Urgresic builds her place of art out of the blood-soaked debris of politics.'

'A brave, accomplished, cultured novel, sombre and witty ... This is Ugresic at her best.'

'Like Nabakov, Ugresic affirms our ability to remember as a source for saving our moral and compassionate identity.'
Washington Post

'Her work is unflinching and provocative ... This is a disturbing read that should have you in its thrall.'
The Times

Marina Warner

'A writer to be cherished.'
Susan Sontag

'An edgy, extraordinary novel.'
Sunday Times