Seven Touches of Music :: Zoran Živković

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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


  • In both form and theme, Seven Touches of Music is most reminiscent of Italo Calvino’s Cosmicomics or Alan Lightman’s Einstein’s Dreams — with just a dash of Milan Kundera’s The Book of Laughter and Forgetting. These novels span the gamut of magical realism and literary fiction…
    —Matt Denault, Boomtron
  • …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


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