ISBN 1-57129-042-7 1997 paper $15.95
A scholar returns to her birthplace of Yugoslavia to attend a conference on “language and literature, feminist theory and practice” only to find herself embarking on entirely different course. Here, in her native land, she finds how it has changed—a small resort town where she once lived brings back the memory of an old lover, quince ripening on the windowsills, the heat, salt, and smell of the harbor where French tourists bathed sun-bronzed and bare. Over lunch at a seaside terrace, the differences between Anna and her American counterparts quickly become apparent: they recoil from calamari, are horrified by the cooked vegetables and scratch the just-below-the-surface hostility and disdain of the waitstaff who ridicule them, with Anna understanding every word. By association, Anna is a foreigner in her own land. We feel the tension as she visits an old disco and is mistaken for an American, taunted by young boys on the street, until she speaks her native tongue and is recognized, ‘tender and sweet,’ as one of theirs. Native Land is an intensely felt novel of century-long cultural differences; identity as a woman, foreigner, and native; and of coming to terms with a bittersweet past and the surreal present.
Native Land is a book of new-beginnings, remembrances, and one woman’s pursuit to reconcile with her ‘native land’ and her new land of America. In the spirit of Marguerite Duras’s The Sailor from Gibraltar and with the involving quality and descriptions of The Lover, Tesich’s book recalls Yugoslavia as it was before the war: a land of beauty, where tourists flocked to resorts, and a place inhabited by people of grace, courage, and verve.
Nadja Tesich was born in Yugoslavia and educated in various fields (French literature, Russian, mime, and film). She has worked in many areas of the film world—as an actress and assistant with Eric Rohmer, and as a technician and writer/director of her own works. She taught French Literature at Rutgers and film at Brooklyn College. Her first play, After the Revolution, was produced by the Women’s Project at the American Place Theatre. Her short stories and essays have appeared in, among other publications, Mademoiselle, The Nation, American Fiction, City Lights Review, and The Kenyon Review. Her first novel, Shadow Partisan, was published by New Rivers Press. Native Land is her second novel.
Praise for Shadow Partisan:
“A Holden Caulfield of the Balkans. Nadja Tesich fully enters the mind of her narrator, making us see everything through her eyes. Her observations, her feelings, her incredulity at the behavior of those around her, her awakening to the illogical ways of the world . . . ” -Thomas Swick, New York Times Book Review
Praise for Native Land:
“Tesich presents her native land as it was before its devastating breakup, offering brilliant portraits of people and places while reflecting through her heroine on the importance of identity and personal integrity, on the human need to belong, and on the cultural distinctions that both bind and divide…Written with grace and honesty.” -Library Journal
“Tender story of her return to her homeland.” -New Yorker