Impossible Stories I :: Zoran Živković

Impossible Stories I

by Zoran Živković

Translated from Serbian by Alice Copple-Tošić
Part of The Zoran Živković Collection


Impossible Stories I is a collection of several of the author’s finest works, including Time Gifts, Impossible Encounters, Seven Touches of Music, The Library (winner of the 2003 World Fantasy Award for Best Novella), and Steps through the Mist. The perfect introduction to the incredible world of Zoran Živković.


Reviews

  • …bursting with inventive scenarios, imaginative writing, and unforgettable characters.
    World Literature Today
  • Why isn’t Zoran Živković better known in this country? He possesses an imaginative ingenuity and charm similar to that of, say, Paul Auster or Italo Calvino, with bits of Kafka, Borges and Beckett mixed in… the narrative seductiveness of Zivkovic’s “impossible stories” remains distinctly his own. Open one of his books and prepare to be enchanted.
    Michael Dirda, Washington Post Book Review
  • …each of his novellas seems to spring from a single philosophical question. … Dreams, time-travel, reincarnation, storytelling: these are the building blocks of Živković’s stories. He forces us to think deeply about the act of writing and creation, and how the line between “reality” on the page and off is just a hazy shadow, and maybe only exists because we will it to. If these stories sound very “Borgesian,” then I’ve managed to convey their unique strangeness to you.
    Rachel Cordasco, Speculative Fiction in Translation
  • Impossible Stories might be approached as if one were inspecting a handsome piece of furniture, a cabinet in which each of any number of regularly sized and shaped drawers is built precisely to contain and to somehow exemplify its own metaphysical freight or uncanny puzzle, and it is in the rhythm and variety of the whole, too, that the nature of Živković’s craft can be apprehended and enjoyed.
    —Tony White, Wasafiri
  • …even though they own and use computers, Živković’s characters seem decidedly nineteenth century. They are as intelligent and as neurotic as Poe’s personae, and admirers of that master of the outre–or of Borges, Gogol, Capek, and Lem–will be enthralled by them.
    —Ray Olson, Booklist
  • …well worth reading for the ingenuity of Živković’s stories. He is extraordinarily clever and has a particular talent for devising awkward moral dilemmas for his characters. His writing is also … quite unlike that of anyone else.
    —Cheryl Morgan, Emerald City
  • …a rare masterpiece that achieves its objective with fluent and calculated flair.
    —Miranda Siemienowicz, Horrorscope

Details


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Seven Touches of Music :: Zoran Živković

In production

Seven Touches of Music

by Zoran Živković

Translated from Serbian by Alice Copple-Tošić
Part of The Zoran Živković Collection


Seven stories about moments of divine revelation through music, which leave no mark beyond the ephemeral instant of their perception: a teacher whose autistic ward inexplicably writes down one of the fundamental values of theoretical physics; a librarian whose dream of the Great Library is reenacted upon her computer screen; a man who buys a music box that when played provides a glimpse into his alternative life; an elderly woman that, hearing a hand organ in a train station, begins to have visions of the death of everyone she encounters; a retired SETI scientist who, despite having no real interest in art, suddenly begins to paint a strange first contact signal; a dying professor who finally has a chance to hear in the form of music the answers to the ultimate questions; and a violin-maker’s apprentice who knows the truth behind his master’s mysterious suicide.

Winner of the Award of Excellence in the General Trade Category at the 55th Annual Chicago Book Clinic Book and Media Show

Also included in Impossible Stories I


Reviews

  • …music—like fiction—provides a portal through which to perceive reality, [but] how little we understand the insight it may provide…. an autistic student writes down a complex mathematical concept of theoretical physics only when Chopin’s Piano Concerto in F Minor, Opus 21, is played in class. The mathematician whom the teacher consults to determine what the numbers written down by student mean says, “it must be God Himself who whispered them to you because at this moment only HE is able measure after the eleventh significant feature.”
    —David Soyka, The New York Review of Science Fiction
  • Seven Touches of Music insinuates an imp into a variety of mundane environments. That imp is music: somewhere a melody plays; revelations are vouchsafed; and consternation follows. An autistic child veers into truly inexplicable abstraction; a woman has a powerful dream of the burning of the Great Library of Alexandria; a widower spies his alternate self; an old lady becomes selectively, morbidly, prescient; an astronomer senses subliminal alien communications; the dying Einstein completes the ultimate puzzle; a violin-maker confronts the perfect violin. Živković explores here the ambiguity of all knowledge, the perverse destructiveness of wish-fulfillment.
    —Nick Gevers, Locus
  • As might be expected of a European academic trained in literary theory, Živković mingles postmodern flourishes—self-reflexivity, deconstructionist ruminations—with the materials of speculative fiction. Overall, he perhaps most strongly resembles Italo Calvino in the latter’s fantastic vein. Surrealism, incongruous introspection, teasing narrative geometries, and startling systems of hyperbolic wit shape and illuminate his yarns, lending them an Escheresque elegance.
    —Nick Gevers, Locus
  • One thinks, indeed, of Ligotti, of Lovecraft’s “The Music of Erich Zann,” but also of Sagan’s Contact and Lem’s Solaris. The mystery, expressed metaphorically as music, defies humanity’s limitations. Mr. Adam, in “The Puzzle,” asks, “What if extraterrestrials exist and are communicating, but we don’t recognize it? What if they are doing it in some other way, not the way we presumed?”
    Given Živković’s fondness for metafiction, these quiet, subtle, elegant stories are both the question, and the answer.
    —Darrell Schweitzer. The New York Review of Science Fiction

Details

  • Pages: Pending
  • Trim size
    Softcover: Trim size 5″ x 8″ (127mm x 203mm)
  • ISBN
    Softcover: 978-4-908793-13-4
  • List Price: Pending
  • Cover: Youchan Ito (Togoru Co.,Ltd.)

In production

Impossible Encounters :: Zoran Živković

In production

Impossible Encounters

by Zoran Živković

Translated from Serbian by Alice Copple-Tošić
Part of The Zoran Živković Collection

Six strangely related stories about six encounters that could or should have never happened. A post mortem encounter with a clerk who has a most bizarre offer; an elusive encounter with oneself, only decades older; a seemingly innocent encounter with a bookshop visitor who is desperately looking for an ordinary SF story; a memorable encounter with God in a train which, unfortunately, has to be forgotten; a dreamlike encounter with Devil in a Church as a first step on a road which doesn’t lead to Hell; finally, a forbidden encounter of a dying author with one of his protagonists who brings an impossible book as a gift.

Stories from the book have been published in the UK (Interzone: February, May, July, September, October, November and December 2000), in the USA (Year’s Best Fantasy anthology, Harper-Collins, 2001), in Poland (the magazine Nowa Fantastyka, July 2000), and in Japan (an anthology of the Middle European “fantastika”, 2011).

The story “The Train” was broadcast by BBC Radio 4 on 29 September 2005.

Also included in Impossible Stories I


Reviews

  • Impossible Encounters is a series of tales about, well, impossible encounters. The first line of “The Window” is “I died in my sleep.” It then proceeds to recount what happens thereafter…
    —David Soyka, The New York Review of Science Fiction
  • As might be expected of a European academic trained in literary theory, Živković mingles postmodern flourishes—self-reflexivity, deconstructionist ruminations—with the materials of speculative fiction. Overall, he perhaps most strongly resembles Italo Calvino in the latter’s fantastic vein. Surrealism, incongruous introspection, teasing narrative geometries, and startling systems of hyperbolic wit shape and illuminate his yarns, lending them an Escheresque elegance.
    —Nick Gevers, Locus
  • The stories carry about them the feel of myth, of primal, perhaps archetypal, confrontation. Although the reader may not be aware of it as he or she progresses through the book, it becomes clear in retrospect that Živković has consciously built towards his final story.
    —Michael Levy, The New York Review of Science Fiction
  • Encounters that are impossible, encounters that are from beyond the boundaries of what we have decided is reality and possibility, and yet remain within the realms of what we call ordinary. They’re quiet and soft in the nature of the extraordinariness. Subtle, delicate, and unassuming.
    —Tessa, Silence Without

Details

  • Pages: Pending
  • Trim size
    Softcover: Trim size 5″ x 8″ (127mm x 203mm)
  • ISBN
    Softcover: 978-4-908793-12-7
  • List Price: Pending
  • Cover: Youchan Ito (Togoru Co.,Ltd.)

Time Gifts :: Zoran Živković

In production

Time Gifts

by Zoran Živković

Translated from Serbian by Alice Copple-Tošić
Part of The Zoran Živković Collection


A mysterious visitor comes to see three desperate human beings: an astronomer in his prison cell the night before his execution for the ultimate heresy; a paleolinguist with a wasted life behind her who has been forgotten by everybody in her dusty basement office; an old watchmaker with a dark, painful spot in his past that has haunted him for decades. The visitor has a unique but ambiguous time-gift for each one of them. His true identity is only known by an insane artist locked up in her asylum atelier. But who would believe an artist in this world, even if she were not insane?

Runner-up for the 1998 NIN Award

Also included in Impossible Stories I


Reviews

  • As might be expected of a European academic trained in literary theory, Živković mingles postmodern flourishes—self-reflexivity, deconstructionist ruminations—with the materials of speculative fiction. Overall, he perhaps most strongly resembles Italo Calvino in the latter’s fantastic vein. Surrealism, incongruous introspection, teasing narrative geometries, and startling systems of hyperbolic wit shape and illuminate his yarns, lending them an Escheresque elegance.
    —Nick Gevers, Locus
  • Think of the Imaginative as a vast ocean, in which are located a number of islands, one of them called American genre sf, another called (or at least inhabited by) Umberto Eco, another for Patrick Süskind, and another for Zoran Živković. It’s not a matter of turning in “other directions,” because all directions of the Sea of Imagination are part of the whole, and wherever he turns, Zoran Živković adds to our archipelago and enriches all of us.
    — Darrell Schweitzer, The New York Review of Science Fiction
  • …sophisticated, philosophical fantasy of a high order.
    —Tom Arden, Interzone
  • Provocative and compelling, these are stories that will tease you long after the pages are completed, the questions raised eluding any definitive answer. An impressive work.
    — William Thompson, SFSite.com
  • Živković writes with a light and unpretentious touch—welcome and refreshing in the wake of post-Borges, post-Calvino practitioners of labored postmodern fiction. His tales are strangely stimulating not so much for their philosophical insight as for their intimate appreciation of contemporary readers’ experience of time and space.
    —Publishers Weekly

Details

  • Pages: Pending
  • Trim size
    Softcover: Trim size 5″ x 8″ (127mm x 203mm)
  • ISBN
    Softcover: 978-4-908793-10-3
  • List Price: Pending
  • Cover: Youchan Ito (Togoru Co.,Ltd.)

The Book :: Zoran Živković

In production

The Book

by Zoran Živković

Translated from Serbian by Aleksandar B. Nedeljković
Translation edited by Tamar Yellin
Part of The Zoran Živković Collection

The Book is not quite a novel, although almost half of it takes the form of a narrative, neither is it an essay, although quite a lot of what is said in it adopts that style. It is actually closest to that rare type or “para-genre” of satirical prose embodied in the exemplary In Praise of Folly by the famous humanist from Rotterdam. Instead of the “Folly,” of human manias and absurdities, here, in a similar kind of double-talk, the books themselves “speak,” those monuments to our intelligence, ambitions and self-importance, and they primarily “speak” by making an analogy between man’s fate and that of books—to man’s detriment, of course.


Reviews

  • …a vicious critique of contemporary publishing as well as a tribute to books as both precious objects and valuable literature—and it’s narrated by a book, mostly.
    —Scott Bryan Wilson, Review of Contemporary Fiction
  • You may not be aware of this, but there are in fact two intelligent life forms on Earth. One of them is humans, although at times their right to describe themselves as intelligent is cast into doubt by their own behavior. The other is books.
    —Cheryl Morgan, Emerald City
  • The Book, though, is a very broad, highly sarcastic satire, with some characters but no protagonist, essentially a long allegorical disquisition with amusing exemplary episodes. Its subject is, indeed, Books: their nature, nurture, purpose and pride: the way they see themselves, and the way they see us. Of course, underneath this elaborated whimsy, a very serious point is being made, concerning the (putative) death of the human culture of reading. … But The Book is also, implicitly, an affirmation: so long as fine novels like this are published, how can the taste for reading ever truly die?
    —Nick Gevers, Locus

Details

  • Pages: Pending
  • Trim size
    Hardcover: Trim size 5″ x 8″ (127mm x 203mm), with dj
    Softcover: Trim size 5″ x 8″ (127mm x 203mm)
  • ISBN
    Hardcover: 978-4-908793-07-3
    Softcover: 978-4-908793-11-0
    Ebook: 978-4-908793-29-5
  • List Price: Pending
  • Cover: Youchan Ito (Togoru Co.,Ltd.)

The Fourth Circle :: Zoran Živković

In production

The Fourth Circle

by Zoran Živković

Translated from Serbian by Mary Popović
Part of The Zoran Živković Collection

What could a computer wizard self-exiled in an abandoned Buddhist temple possibly have in common with the humble servant of a medieval fresco painter? What is the link between the enigmatic mission of a giant radio-telescope and a tribe of spherical beings who dwell in a world full of unearthly scents and herbs? What will bring four great scientists from various centuries, Archimedes, Ludolph van Ceulen, Nikola Tesla and Stephen Hawking, to the same spot in time? What has this got to do with Rama, a female computer program, impregnated by a strange ape? And, above all, why is it necessary for Sherlock Holmes and Moriarti to join forces so that the Fourth Circle can finally be closed?

Winner of the 1994 Milos Crnjanski Award


Reviews

  • Serbian author Zoran Živković’s most ambitious book to date. … a marvel of both the fictional imagination and the author’s adopted compositional form. Masterful in execution, at once playful and earnestly serious, its conjecture as to an alternative vision of humanity and creation.
    —William Thompson, SFSite.com
  • …the Živković oeuvre—the surreal, cerebral short stories, with their finely calculated transitions from quotidian sedateness to ontological disorientation and derangement, the acutely structured, drolly satirical novels. Circle is an intricate, ludic cathedral of meaning, an array of episodes which, elegant and sometimes seemingly self-contained, accumulate into a system for describing the entire universe. One of the more extraordinary moments in recent SF, and one of the most beautiful.
    —Nicholas Gevers, Locus
  • The Fourth Circle transcends these constituent parts like a poem whose luminous effect can be experienced but never quite successfully analyzed line by line.
    —Paul Witcover, Realms of Fantasy
  • Bringing together such disparate figures as Stephen Hawking, Archimedes, Tesla, and Arthur Conan Doyle while telling the tale of a sentient computer program named Rama, Serbian sf author Živković crafts a heady amalgam of sparkling prose reminiscent of Samuel Delaney and Stanislaw Lem.
    —Library Journal
  • The book is huge in its scope, bouncing across different worlds and epochs. It combines science, religion, and breathtaking imagery into a wonderful read.
    —Matthew Cheney, Mumpsimus
  • I was mystified at the beginning, because nothing seemed to cohere, but then, about forty pages in, I discovered I was in love with the book—utterly enchanted and transfixed by the swirl of ideas and settings and characters and allusions, the sheer breadth of it.
    —Matthew Cheney, Typepad.com
  • Superb, brilliant stuff, with interesting things done in both nitty-gritty technical craft and over-arching story telling. Must dig out more, oh yes, must. Gods that was awesome.
    —Tessa, Silence Without

Details

  • Pages: Pending
  • Trim size
    Hardcover: Trim size 5″ x 8″ (127mm x 203mm), with dj
    Softcover: Trim size 5″ x 8″ (127mm x 203mm)
  • ISBN
    Hardcover: 978-4-908793-08-0
    Softcover: 978-4-908793-09-7
    Ebook: 978-4-908793-28-8
  • List Price: Pending
  • Cover: Youchan Ito (Togoru Co.,Ltd.)

The Papyrus Trilogy :: Zoran Živković

The Papyrus Trilogy

 

by Zoran Živković

Translated from Serbian by Alice Copple-Tošić and Vuk Tošić
Part of The Zoran Živković Collection

A series of mysterious deaths in the Papyrus Bookstore brings literature-loving police inspector Dejan Lukić to investigate. Together with the attractive owner, Vera Gavrilović, they discover the elusive Last Book is responsible. Seemingly causeless deaths multiply, the National Security Agency, a secret apocalyptic sect, and others are drawn in, and the secrets of immortality, death, and reality itself are revealed in a masterful trilogy that demonstrates the magical and ultimately benevolent power of literature.

Includes The Last Book, The Grand Manuscript, and The Compendium of the Dead.


Reviews

  • …witty, intricate development; richly drawn, engaging characters; and Živković’s diverse play with the underlying challenge he has set for himself: like Arkady and Boris Strugatsky’s The Dead Mountaineer’s Inn, these novels interrogate the possibilities and limitations of the detective genre. … If you’ve not read Živković, indulge yourself: worlds of wonder await you.
    Michael A. Morrison, World Literature Today
  • Why isn’t Zoran Živković better known in this country? He possesses an imaginative ingenuity and charm similar to that of, say, Paul Auster or Italo Calvino, with bits of Kafka, Borges and Beckett mixed in… the narrative seductiveness of Zivkovic’s “impossible stories” remains distinctly his own. Open one of his books and prepare to be enchanted.
    Michael Dirda, Washington Post Book Review
  • Serbian master fantasist Zivkovic has written what may be the most delicious mystery by a speculative-fiction specialist since Stanislaw Lem’s mind-boggling The Investigation (1974). Unlike Lem’s novel, it is also a discreet, witty love story.
    —Publishers Weekly, USA
  • Fans of Zivkovic’s stripped-down, elliptical fables will be delighted by this elusive metafiction.
    —The Guardian, UK

Details


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The Five Wonders of the Danube :: Zoran Živković

The Five Wonders of the Danube

by Zoran Živković

Translated from Serbian by Alice Copple-Tošić
Part of The Zoran Živković Collection


On five bridges over the Danube, five strange and remarkable tales are told: tales of the sacrifices that are made for Art. For the painter, the sculptor, the writer and the composer, creation is inextricably entwined with violence, suffering and the darkest reaches of the psyche, and the bridge to enlightenment is the hardest of all to cross. Yet through the innocence of a dog all can be redeemed, in the miraculous climax of this complex and exotic fable.

Zoran Živković’s latest masterpiece, available in English to readers around the world.
Perhaps his finest work to date, The Five Wonders of the Danube is another of his famous “mosaic” novels, cleverly weaving multiple narrative threads into a tapestry of surrealism, reaching a magnificent conclusion in the final tale. Readers eager for more of his unique stories, combining simplicity of language and structure with thought-provoking explorations of life and death and reality will reread this one again and again.

Long-listed for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, 2013.
The Five Wonders of the Danube was originally brought out as a five-volume set in five languages: Serbian, English, German, Hungarian and Slovakian.


Reviews

  • Reading the stories once allows the unexpected to hit you. Reading them twice allows us to follow the presence of motifs (the bridges, obviously: the concerns about art, naturally, but also the characters, especially the small dogs and the animals that appear, Lewis Carroll-like, in the second “Wonder”) which occur and develop like musical themes. Živković is also one of our funniest fantasists. … Ably translated, as ever, by Alice Copple-Tošić, it makes us want to go with the flow of increasingly imaginative narrative, but also to stop (as you can do so much on such a river) and think about the context of where we are.
    Andy Sawyer, Strange Horizons
  • Why isn’t Zoran Živković better known in this country? He possesses an imaginative ingenuity and charm similar to that of, say, Paul Auster or Italo Calvino, with bits of Kafka, Borges and Beckett mixed in… the narrative seductiveness of Zivkovic’s “impossible stories” remains distinctly his own. Open one of his books and prepare to be enchanted.
    Michael Dirda, Washington Post Book Review
  • Živković expertly crafts two stories in one; the events you read about, and the story in the connections between the unconnected. As you read further into the book, the parallel images stack up and craft a narrative like no other.
    Rick Kleffel, Narrative Species
  • Živković reveals himself to be a true surrealist by piercing the veil of manifest reality to expose the latent content of the dream-world. … As with the best of Živković’s prose, The Five Wonders of the Danube resists easy categorization, but its ironic amusement at the complexities of truth and perception should entertain readers of sf and experimental fiction alike.
    Paul March-Russell, Foundations No. 123


Details

Zoran Živković (Serbia)

Zivkovic

Zoran Živković was born in Belgrade, Serbia, on October 5, 1948. He is a full professor at the Faculty of Philology, the University of Belgrade, teaching creative writing.

 

 

Živković is the author of the 22 books of fiction:

Živković is one of the most translated contemporary Serbian writers. By the end of 2016 there were 86 foreign editions of his books of fiction, published in 23 countries, in 20 languages.

He has won several literary awards for his fiction. In 1994 his novel The Fourth Circle won the Miloš Crnjanski award. In 2003, Živković’s mosaic novel The Library won the World Fantasy Award for Best Novella. In 2007 his novel The Bridge won the Isidora Sekulić award. In 2007 Živković received the Stefan Mitrov Ljubiša award for his life achievement in literature, and in 2014 and 2015 received three awards for his contribution to the literature of fantastika: Art-Anima, Stanislav Lem and The Golden Dragon.

The prestigious US literary magazine World Literature Today brought out a special section on Živković’s writing in the November/December 2011 issue.

In 2005, Belgrade TV station ”Studio B” produced ”The Collector” TV series, based upon his mosaic novel Twelve Collections. In 2007, notable Serbian film author Puriša Đorđević directed the film ”Two”, based on Živković’s fictional themes, as well as the short film “The Confessional”, based on one of the Impossible Encounters short stories.

Two of his stories were produced as radio broadcasts by the BBC: “The Train” (2005) and “Alarm Clock on the Night Table” (2007).

Živković: Review of “The Five Wonders of the Danube” in Foundation No. 123

Zoran Živković, The Five Wonders of the Danube, trans. Alice Copple-Tošić (Belgrade: Zavod za udžbenike, 2011, 308pp; RSD1760; ISBN: 978-86-17-17494-9)

Reviewed by Paul March-Russell (University of Kent)

Longlisted for the 2013 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, Zoran Živković’s remarkable book is sadly still only available from Serbia (which is why, contrary to customary practice, both the price in Serbian Dinar and ISBN have been included above). Over and above the fantastical tales that Živković relates, the book is an object of beauty. Published in hardback with dimensions of 28.5cm x 21cm and beautifully illustrated throughout by Boris Kuzmanović in what I take to be ink and pen drawing, it demands to be held, weighed and studied. Each of the five sections is colour-coded to match the respective bridges — black, yellow, red, white and blue — with extra-large borders both at the top and the sides of the printed text. Furthermore, each section is prefaced by a series of drawings that not only refer obliquely to the next story (or chapter) but are also placed sequentially under successive layers of tracing paper. The effect resembles that of a palimpsest in which the drawings are at first glimpsed one under another, only to be fully revealed as the reader turns the page, or are obscured altogether. The evanescent quality of the drawings and their gradual or sudden revelation perfectly complements the mysterious effect of Živković’s text.

The overlapping of the boundaries between form and content, text and image, strikes deep at what Živković has attempted to do in this book, although frequent readers of his will see thematic and structural similarities with his previous fiction. For one thing, it is hard to say whether it is a collection of short stories or a fully-fledged novel, a problem of taxonomy that has persisted since his first short fiction work, Time Gifts (1997). ‘Short story cycle’ or ‘short story sequence’ might be better descriptors but neither quite captures the combined effect of Živković’s text since both over-privilege formal unity at the expense of readerly pleasure. This is not to suggest that the book is disorganized but that, in keeping with its setting, it takes a less denotational form as its structural template: the Viennese waltz. If the opening illustrations form an introduction to the whole piece, we then have five sections that vary the basic themes in increasingly complex patterns until the final section offers a recapitulation of the entire work. This structure, although lending coherence to the whole, does not round it off in any simple terms. Instead, as the final quartet of questions imply, alongside (in Walter Pater’s terms) the more general aspiration to the condition of music, the text is constantly attempting to slip its own generic boundaries; to become an indefinite process rather than an easily categorized product.

Following Pater’s argument in his essay, ‘The School of Giorgione’ (The Renaissance [1873]), artworks may be decipherable in themselves but the greatest examples are always straining at their generic limits to merge with the conventions of other media. It is no coincidence, then, that Živković’s stories revolve around other artforms: painting, drama, sculpture, literature, cinema, music. Like the intimacy of the waltz (and is it by chance that one of the characters reads Anna Karenina with its celebrated waltz sequence?), the prose fiction touches each of these forms: the sensual sub-text of which is made manifest in the final story where the river rushes the reader back from Regensburg to Novi Sad in a euphoric revisitation of the overarching narrative. Such sensuality — the jouissance or ecstatic bliss favoured by French poststructural critics such as Roland Barthes — is not only complemented but also given hands-on, tactile pleasure by the book itself. Above all else, this is a text that delights both in its own creation and in its remaking by the reader.

Representation, then, is part of the text’s active production of meaning. The first story describes the mysterious appearance of a large painting on the Black Bridge at Regensburg. (It may be that real-world counterparts can be found — there really is a yellow bridge in Vienna — but, as the last story indicates, Živković’s use of the bridges is for imaginative rather than allegorical purposes.) A succession of ever more senior and sinister officials attempt to decipher and lay claim upon the painting, but as the bridge guard realizes early on, its depiction of the natural world is indivisible from its location on the bridge: ‘The scene beyond the railing on the canvas was the same as that beyond the real railing’. Like René Magritte’s The Human Condition (1933), the painting transgresses its mimesis to become the very thing it represents. The inability of the officials to even detach the artwork from the bridge — something which the persistent gulls effortlessly do — embodies their failure to extract an understanding of the external world from their own preconceptions. In contrast to the absurd logic of officialdom, Živković suggests that the artistic imagination has the capacity to go beyond the surface representation of things.

The second story, which might or might not be set on the same Sunday as the other stories, features five characters — a theatre prompter, a contract killer, a prostitute, a thief and a nun — who each momentarily stop at the same time on the Yellow Bridge. Their individual back-stories suggest that they have each simultaneously paused because of some connection with death. In, what the reader assumes to be, a series of dream-sequences, they each revisit their anxieties but drawing upon details known only to the other characters. A final pay-off suggests that these might not have been dreams after all but could be related to the objective world; even so, the story suggests that there has been some kind of telepathic understanding between the characters at the level of a collective unconscious. As with the first story’s foregrounding of mimesis, this theme is revisited in the final tale’s bravura performance.

In this respect, Živković reveals himself to be a true surrealist by piercing the veil of manifest reality to expose the latent content of the dream-world. The third story, in which two homeless people, just so they can keep warm, burn not  only the works of Dostoevsky but also the manuscript that one of them has been writing, begins in existential angst but ends with an injunction to the beauty of the marvellous. The barrels that the characters sleep in evoke similar receptacles in the plays of Samuel Beckett (Endgame [1958]; Play [1963]). But the story also invokes Mikhail Bulgakov’s statement that ‘Manuscripts don’t burn’ and, true enough, once the fictions have been destroyed passers-by continue to see patterns in the water ‘as though reflecting a gigantic manuscript from above.’ The power of art to illuminate dull reality is also seen in the carvings that the homeless Isaac makes and scatters to the river.

The fourth story counterpoints its predecessor by focusing upon a composer and conductor whose inspiration for music comes directly from the White Bridge in Budapest, but which also arrives at the expense of those closest to him. Although the tale poses the worthwhile question as to the moral value of art, this conundrum is set into the context of another riddle: to what extent are the bridges that have been described sentient? The Blue Bridge of the final story is fully anthropomorphized and, here, the focus is not on the living characters of the earlier stories but upon the dead and the animal world. The hero is a dog, driven by instinct to bark at birds, and just as well he is since the gulls from the first story now make their reappearance. Throughout the collection, however, there have been varying levels of reality — the representation of art, the dreamworld, the materiality of language, the ‘time windows’ in the fourth story — and a preoccupation with the lives of animals as sentient, alien intelligences. In this final story, the folly of human accomplishments is offset by the naivety of the dog, whose innocence not only permits him to save the day but to also pass between the barriers of art and life. Paradoxically, it is the dog rather than any of the human characters who embodies both Živković’s ideal of the artist and a quintessentially Surrealist defence of the naÏf, the outsider or dispossessed.

As with the best of Živković’s prose, The Five Wonders of the Danube resists easy categorization, but its ironic amusement at the complexities of truth and perception should entertain readers of sf and experimental fiction alike. It is a sumptuous book, not only in the pleasure of its storytelling but also in the enjoyment of its own physicality. U.K. and U.S. publishers, please take note, and make this book more widely available.