In this richly evocative memoir by one of America's most revered contemporary poets, Charles Simic recounts his journey from a childhood in war-torn Yugoslavia to his coming-of-age experiences as a young bohemian in New York City, then as a reluctant draftee in the United States Army. Simic's early years in Belgrade, a city bombed first by the Nazis in 1941 and then by the Allies in 1944, recall memories of bombs, broken glass, and visits from the Gestapo. His family is jailed for trying to flee the newly Communist Yugoslavia and finally manages to emigrate in 1953. Their first stop is Paris, where the teenaged Simic, craving the forbidden, slips out for his first taste of French nightlife and nudie shows. In New York and Chicago, Simic attends high school and his intense interests in art, poetry, jazz, film—and women—ripen into fully formed passions. The memoir continues with recollections of Simic's induction into the Army, the publication of his first poem, and family dinners with his highly opinionated but much beloved Uncle Boris.
The pieces in this collection, previously scattered in various books and literary magazines, have been arranged chronologically to create an unusual memoir of exile and refugee life, a collage of stories, anecdotes, meditations, and poetic fragments from one of the most barbaric periods of the last century. A Fly in the Soup is both the story of a young man whose travel agents were Hitler and Stalin, and an autobiography of the childhood and coming of age of one of the most respected contemporary American poets.