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Noémi KISS
( 1974 )


Tattered Jewelry Box: Travels in the East

Alongside sociographical works, travel writing represents the other classic genre of documentary literature. In her latest volume, Tattered Jewelry Box: Travels in the East (Rongyos ékszerdoboz – utazások keleten), Noémi Kiss (b. 1974), who has proven her literary mettle to date in several genres, from essays to fiction, undertakes the cultural mapping of an entire region. Notwithstanding its subtitle, the “East” delineated in this book seems rather to be situated somewhere around the geographic center of Europe, or at least close to the center. So what do we find inside the “tattered jewelry box” this book so enticingly promises to be? To simplify matters a bit, “tattered” signifies that we are in a region on the periphery, that the places we will be visiting are at the edge of Europe: Bukovina, a historical region currently split between Romania and Ukraine; the region surrounding Lviv, a city in western Ukraine; Transylvania’s Szászföld (Hungarian for “Saxon Land”), a region traditionally populated by ethnic German-speakers; and Vojvodina, the province comprising northern Serbia. At the same time, each of these regions that today are seen as on the periphery once had its historical heyday; that is, when they became true centers of culture, at least in their respective regions. In this sense we might venture to say that in the course of the travels Kiss sets out to chronicle, the “center of the periphery” comes to occupy the center of the book. An even greater undertaking of Tattered Jewelry Box is its examination, with unrelenting curiosity, of the permanently, mutually affective force fields of nature and culture—or, we might say, of existence and history. From food and drink to architecture and attire, its author explores everything that says something about a given region.

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