Described by Dasa Drndic as “my ugly little book," and longlisted for the Republic of Consciousness Prize, Doppelgänger is divided into two tangentially linked stories; the first, Artur and Isabella, is about an old man and woman who briefly find each other, and the second, Pupi follows the disintegration of a middle-aged chemist after the death of his parents.
Drndic is often described as a blend of Beckett (for the bleakness and rhythms), W.G. Sebald (the reliance on photographs and interest in historical amnesia) and Thomas Bernhard (first-rate misanthropy), but these sorts of comparisons do nothing to convey the singular experience of reading her work ... This writer does not tell stories; she had flagrant contempt for them — those cozy bourgeois tchotchkes that belonged to a safer time, when retreat from the political was permissible. Her books are contraptions intended to produce a series of psychological and somatic responses in her readers. In short: panic, pity, shame, nausea, exhilaration — and then, the bewildering desire to experience these very emotions again ... These are not books to be read but endured. I resumed all my old vices to survive them, and adopted a few new ones. I developed warm, fraternal feelings for Job ... Drndic’s fondness for commas gives her sentences their peculiar gasping quality. The characters choke on what they cannot, will not, say.
...the Croatian visionary Dasa Drndic is only now receiving the recognition she deserves ... Doppelgänger, a boldly virtuosic novella in two parts, mirroring the realities of Croatia and Serbia, sees Drndic delighting in Beckettian high art. Described by her as 'my ugly little book' it was her personal favourite ... More than any of Drndic’s wonderful collage, archival, semi-autobiographical narratives thus far translated, it is the brief, if immense, Doppelgänger that may surprise even her established readers ... Doppelgänger, a book of the year, will seduce.
Summary and examples give only the roughest idea of everything Drndić does in these two tales. They are remarkable pieces of writing, simple and straightforward in some ways -- reading easily and smoothly -- yet so complexly and variously spun and woven, constantly shifting tone, approach, and perspective. They capture both near-present-day Croatia, as well as taking in huge swathes of Yugoslavian history and the crimes of the Nazis leading up to and into the Second World War, and all the weight of history on individuals who lived through some of these experiences and times. Incredibly dark, there's also a great lightness to the stories; they're not weighed down by what grimness they seem to have, and though not really funny there's a comic touch and a well-captured sense of absurdities of human existence. It's hard or impossible to describe and convey everything Drndić does -- which is, of course, why you should read it. This is remarkable writing, and this is a very, very fine twinned multi-faceted work. It's hard or impossible to describe and convey everything Drndić does -- which is, of course, why you should read it. This is remarkable writing, and this is a very, very fine twinned multi-faceted work.