Birth Certificate: The Story of Danilo Kiš

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2016 Prize in the Humanities

by Mark Thompson
Publisher: Cornell University Press (2013)

Jury Statement

Mark Thompson’s Birth Certificate is an eloquent biography of a major Yugoslav writer too little-known in the Anglophone world.  Impressive, eccentric, at times controversial, Danilo Kiš (1935-1989) belonged to many cultures and traditions. He is best-known for his playfulness with literary form.  Thompson traces his career with an eye toward Kiš’s literary significance. What is remarkable about this biography is how skillfully it relates literary significance to shifts in the history of central Europe. The biography is itself a formal tour de force, combining journal fragments, photographs, and interviews with Thompson’s own beautifully-written prose. Richly informative, Birth Certificate is a brilliant case for Kiš’s importance in cultural history.  As Thompson concludes: “From Kosovo’s ethnic tyranny to Diderot’s enlightenment and beyond—to Joyce, Borges, and a reunited Europe—is almost too far to measure; but it is there, along that spectrum, that Kiš’s writing shines most brightly.” This book illuminates that brightness, and we hope that this imaginatively-printed volume will introduce more readers to this complex figure.

Mark Thompson, photo provided

About the Author

Mark Thompson is Reader in Modern History at the University of East Anglia (U.K.).  His career has included various positions with United Nations missions, with civil society organizations, and in journalism. 

2016 Jury

Karl Ameriks
McMahon-Hank Professor of Philosophy
College of Arts and Letters, University of Notre Dame

John E. Hare
Noah Porter Professor of Philosophical Theology
Yale Divinity School, Yale University

Anne Lake Prescott
Senior Scholar and Emerita Helen Goodhart Altschul Professor of English
Barnard College, Columbia University

Ingrid Rowland
Professor of Architecture, University of Notre Dame Rome Global Gateway
School of Architecture, University of Notre Dame

Roger Scruton
Senior Fellow, Ethics & Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C.

The Lecture

"Socrates in Bosnia" with Mark Thompson

Press Release

Photo Gallery

Lecture Text: "Socrates in Bosnia"