The Book :: Zoran Živković

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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: 192
  • 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:
    Hardcover: US$20.00
    Softcover: US$9.00
    Ebook: US$6.99
  • Cover: Youchan Ito (Togoru Art Works)

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The Fourth Circle :: Zoran Živković

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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 Moriarty to join forces so that the Fourth Circle can finally be closed?

Winner of the 1994 Milos Crnjanski Award


Reviews

  • …a fresh point of view, an idiosyncratic angle of attack … one of the finest writers currently at work in the ‘New Europe’.
    —Michael Moorcock
  • 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: 328
  • Trim size
    Hardcover: Trim size 5″ x 8″ (127mm x 203mm), with dj

  • ISBN:
    Hardcover: 978-4-908793-08-0
    Softcover: 978-4-908793-09-7
    Ebook: 978-4-908793-28-8
  • List Price
    Hardcover: US$25.00
    Softcover: US$13.00
    Ebook: US$5.99
  • Cover: Youchan Ito (Togoru Art Works)


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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

  • Imagine being presented with a book that, if opened, would be the last thing you ever read. Would your curiosity compel you to open it, even knowing you would not live to tell the tale? How much money would you pay in order to get your hands on a manuscript that grants its first reader immortality? And if you found out that with a single series of books you could bring people back from the dead, would you share the knowledge?
    As with Zivkovic’s prior works … The Papyrus Trilogy is riddled with the impossible, the supernatural, and the unexplainable.
    —Bethany Dahlstrom, Fantastika Journal, vol. 1, No. 2
  • The Papyrus Trilogy is in effect a police procedural series—but with (of course) a difference. We are in Živković territory. Throughout the trilogy everything seems, on the surface, to be ordinary and civilised—but death and disappearance is everywhere. For Inspector Lukić works in a city of magic, conspiracy, and paranoia; only the strange and bizarre seems expected. His world is a literary contrivance, intricately constructed, yet full of human warmth and life. It is spirited and ironic, and—of course—darkly murderous. Lukić is an engaging character who plays and is played with — and so are we.
    —Mark Valentine, Wormwood
  • Selected as one of the 75 Notable Translations of 2017 by World Literature Today!
  • …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

  • …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


Details

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.