The Unemployed Fortune-Teller

Essays and Memoirs
Charles Simic
Provides glimpses into the origins of Charles Simic's poetry


Charles Simic, born in Yugoslavia in 1938, believes that tragedy, comedy, and paradox are the commonplace experiences of an exile's life. In The Unemployed Fortune-Teller he continues to search in essays, memoirs, and journal entries for the sources of his poetry. The eighteen wonderfully eclectic pieces in this new collection deal with such subjects as contemporary American poetry, the surrealist concept of chance, the blues, erotic folk songs, nationalism and the dismemberment of Yugoslavia, painting, photography, movies, the relationship of food to happiness, and his formative experiences in New York and France, where he served in the U.S. Army.

The writing collected in The Unemployed Fortune-Teller reflects the poet's concern with the complex interplay of poetry, art, philosophy, and one's own biography. It is also a pleasure to read, with prose that is at once serious and playful. Those who appreciate Simic's poetry know that he enjoys odd juxtapositions that reveal hidden and unexpected connections. This collection of his memoirs and essays will similarly surprise and delight them.

Charles Simic's most recent poetry collection is Hotel Insomnia (1992). He has won a number of prizes for his poetry, including the Pulitzer Prize in 1990, Guggenheim and Macarthur Fellowships, and a P.E.N. Translation Prize. He is Professor of English, University of New Hampshire.

Praise / Awards

  • ". . . Simic brings off a masterfully casual beauty, whether discussing the creation of poetry and the poet's social role, praising food and the blues, or relating the travails of youth."
    --Kirkus Reviews
  • "Simic's prose has taken on a new urgency in The Unemployed Fortune-Teller. Here are introductions to poets from the former Yugoslavia; meditations on food, music, film and photography; and witty essays on chance, the limitations of nature writing and "The Necessity of Poetry" His memoirs about his military service in Luneville, France, and years in New York are lyrical, aphoristic and stunning."
    --Los Angeles Times Book Review
  • ". . . might well be called a parade of memory. In these journals, notebooks, introductions, memoirs, and occasional pieces, Simic recalls the sights, sounds and smells of his native Yugoslavia. . . . He mixes the erotic with the poetic, the sensual pleasures of food and poetry and a love of language with a love of eating. The best pieces in this collection, however, are those full of wit and pithy pronouncements that come to the defense of poetry."
    --Publishers Weekly

Look Inside


The Flute Player in the Pit     1
Food and Happiness     6
The Little Venus of the Eskimos     13
Fried Sausage     19
Bicycle Thieves     22
Lady Be Good     26
Elegy in a Spider's Web     34
Novica Tadic     40
Shop, Le Bacares     43
No Cure for the Blues     46
Poetry Is the Present     53
The Necessity of Poetry     58
Luneville Diary     75
Red Knight     98
The Minotaur Loves His Labyrinth     101
Sigmund Abeles     115
Ales Debeljak     118
Don't Squeeze the Tomatoes!     120

Product Details

  • 5-1/4 x 8.
  • 144pp.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Paper
  • 1995
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-06569-1

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  • $18.95 U.S.