April 2018

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Professor Biljana Dojčinović from the Faculty of Philology, University of Belgrade, has edited and published the Book of Abstracts for The Fifth Biennial John Updike Society Conference, which will be hosted by the Faculty of Philology 1-5 June 2018.

A PDF copy of the publication is offered here for the convenience of Updike scholars and readers, courtesy of Professor Dojčinović, the Faculty of Philology, and the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development of Republic of Serbia.

JUS 5 Abstracts

Biljana Dojčinović is the director of the national project Кnjiženstvo—theory and history of women’s writing in Serbian until 1915—and editor-in-chief of Knjiženstvo, A Journal in Literature, Gender and Culture. She has been a member of The John Updike Society since its founding and a member of the editorial board of The John Updike Review since 2010. Her Ph.D. was focused on the narrative strategies in John Updike’s novels, and in 2007 she published a monograph in Serbian on Cartographer of the Modern World: The Novels of John Updike. She is also the author of numerous essays on Updike’s works and other topics, as well as five more academic books.


In 1977, the year when Couples was translated and published in Serbian, the prominent Serbian (then Yugoslavian) woman poet Ljiljana Djurdjić wrote a poem titled “A Dream for John Updike”—obviously inspired by the novel The Centaur, which was translated in Yugoslavia in 1968.

Her poem was published in 1977 in the literary magazine Književna reč and was recently translated by Biljana Dojčinović and Milica Abramović in anticipation of the 5th Biennial John Updike Society Conference to be held June 1-5 2018 at the Faculty of Philology, University of Belgrade, in Serbia. “Another proof of John Updike’s popularity in Yugoslavia in the ’70s,” conference director Dojčinović writes. Below is the new translation and a scan of the poem as it first appeared in print, published here in translation for the first time:

Ljiljana Đurđić, 1977 Književna reč


As if trillions
Had been marching behind me
In that insomnia
Suffocated by the gracefulness of protozoa
The followers of an acrid wind
From the Galaxy of The Centaur
Could have easily forgotten
That there had ever been
A space trodden by
The hoves of the wild horses
With the animal gentleness
Of parasites and amoebas
In the guts of a hippopotamus
Should we equate it with
The image of a herd
Crossing the Rubicon?

Translated by Biljana Dojčinović and Milica Abramović

In an unsigned article published in the Monday, April 23 2018 Reading Eagle, it was announced that the Shillington Borough Council “on Thursday voted unanimously ‘to name a portion of the unnamed tributary to the Angelica Creek, which runs along Gov. Mifflin School District property, in commemoration of novelist John Updike’.”

School officials described the section in greater detail:  “The stream originates within Cumru and winds through Shillington Park, then adjacent to Mifflin Park Elementary and Governor Mifflin Intermediate Schools to eventually join with Angelica Creek in the Ken-Grill area.”

Jeanne E. Johnston, assistant secretary of Cumru Township, said that the name “Rabbit Run” was suggested last September by Cumru Township’s board of commissioners to commemorate the second and perhaps best-known novel written by John Updike, “whose childhood home was in the borough,” and that “the Kenhorst Borough Council already has agreed to support the comprehensive naming. The Berks County Planning Commission is also onboard. Thomas C. McKeon, vice-chairman of the BCPC, wrote a letter of support to the U.S. Board on Geographic Names (BGN) stating that “The Commission notes that the naming is a great way to honor author John Updike, who was a resident of Berks County. In addition, the stream naming will aid local emergency services in identifying places around the area.”

Since the BGN has already notified Johnston of “its willingness to name the entire stream, including those portions in Kenhorst,” it is expected that the final decision “likely will be rendered this summer,” according to Johnston. Here is the online version of the story; below is a scan of the article that appeared in the newspaper.

We’re just learning about it now, but the podcast series Christian Humanist Profiles interviewed Michael Farmer last year about his book, Imagination and Idealism in John Updike’s Fiction. Nathan P. Gilmour asked the questions for the podcast “Christian Humanist Profiles 115,” which he introduced by talking about the philosophy of religion:

Immanuel Kant famously distinguished between things, existing as they are, impervious to our mental probings, and objects, those pieces of our world that only come to us as organized and mediated by senses and understanding and concepts.  Later on, philosophers who would come to be called existentialists–whether they liked it or not–came to regard the imagination, our mental power of organizing and even shaping our world, as one of the core realities of human existence.  Michial Farmer, in his recent book Imagination and Idealism in John Updike’s Fiction, follows the course of imagination as a weapon, an escape, and sometimes even as a mode of redemption in John Updike’s novels and stories and poems, and today he’s joining us on Christian Humanist Profiles not as interviewer but as author” (In “Christian Humanist Profiles 195: The Watchmen” Farmer interviewed Gilmour and David Grubbs about Alan Jacobs’ essay by that title).

Echoing Updike himself, Farmer says that “the work of art is an act of seeing” that “creates a new world.” He says that Updike’s writing depicts a world where “humanity wrestles with the material world and ritual longings.”

Farmer describes the “mechanized universe” as both attractive and repelling. “Updike is fascinated by science, and he’s terrified by it,” Farmer says. “He sees a universe that is meaningless, but he can’t accept that, and something deep within him revolts against it.”

Farmer suggests that Updike’s philosophy aligns, to some degree, with atheist existentialism. “Updike conceives of faith as an act of the imagination where you’re imprinting meaning on an apparently meaningless universe,” Farmer says. “Whatever meaning you’re going to find in the universe, you’re going to put into the universe.”

The theory of “parents forming a mythology for their children” also comes up. Farmer wonders whether Updike’s mother served as a “mythological figure” in both life and fiction as she “dominated his early life and central trauma of his childhood.”

Farmer emphasizes the dependence of the mind in forming the fundamental meaning for life. He concludes, “the only solution to the loss of faith in the modern world is to increase the imagination.”

Listen to the podcast here.

In the Voices section of the April 3, 2018 Reading Eagle, Oley Valley High School freshman Wesley Martin offered a review of John Updike’s Rabbit, Run, a book that, published 57 years ago, must have felt like a relic of the Mark Twain sort. But if Martin is any indicator of his generation, Updike’s celebrated second novel is still relevant . . . in a mixed-bag way.

Rabbit, Run is difficult to get through at parts, but overall it is a thought-provoking and moving novel that I will surely read again as an adult,” Martin writes.

“The best aspect of the book by far was the writing style. Updike is an incredible writer. His descriptions of Rabbit’s dull, suburban word are usually clear and elegant, but sometimes he goes overboard. Most of the characters’ natures and motivations are well fleshed out and realistic, though I found many of the women to be one-dimensional.

“Though Rabbit is very unlikable, I found his struggle to find some kind of meaning in his adult life with his best days behind him very tragic and fascinating. Updike is excellent at making the reader feel sorry for a man who makes terrible decisions,” Martin writes.

In the words of this young man, the novel followed Rabbit “through a series of foolish, spur-of-the-moment decisions. It is an occasionally comical, often cringe-inducing story” because of the “treatment of women,” which Martin says was “very difficult for me to stomach.” Maybe that accounts for the B+ he gave the book, rather than an A. Here’s a link to the online version.