The Five Wonders of the Danube :: Zoran Živković

The Five Wonders of the Danube

by Zoran Živković

Translated from Serbian by Alice Copple-Tošić

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.


  • …fantastic and dream-like accounts fully burst into gaudy bloom, with the connections between beginning and end—the wonders—being gathered together, as strung pearls, uplifting, warming, enigmatic. ‘[People] would want an explanation. That was their natural tendency, something they couldn’t get rid of, even though it was only to their detriment.’ …
    We are scarcely in our world, but rather at five points of interaction between reality and the not-quite real, and that porous, fuzzy border (or river) distinguishing them. This is territory of which Živković is a seasoned and skilled explorer. The stories retrieved bridge the divide.
    Review by John Howard, Wormwood
  • 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


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