Breaking news from Portugal

Two more books by Zoran Zivkovic will be published in Portugal in 2012. The Lisabon based “Cavalo de Ferro” will bring out The Ghostwriter (in April) and Seven Touches of Music (in November). The same publisher already published The Library (two editions) and The Last Book (nearly sold out the first edition). The Ghostwriter will include an Afterword by Professor Michael Morrison, which will originally appear in the forthcoming UK edition (PS Publishing, December 2011).

The “World Literature Today” interview with Zoran Zivkovic

The November/December on-line supplement of “World Literature Today” has brought out the most comprehensive interview with Zoran Zivkovic so far. It was conducted by Professor Michael Morrison and is reprinted here with the kind permission of WLT.

A Conversation with Zoran Živković
Michael A. Morrison Part I
Fantastika and the literature of Serbia

MM: You have said allied your fiction to the literary tradition of Middle-European “fantastika.” How do you define this tradition? Which of hits authors have influenced your work?

ZZ: The literary and geographical areas of “Mitteleuropa” (“Central Europe”) don’t coincide. The former is much wider, encompassing the European part of Russia. In the nineteenth and part of the twentieth century it was culturally, intellectually, and artistically rather united, particularly when it comes to literature. Valery Bryusov’s novel The Fiery Angel (1908) is very illustrative in this regard. It is set entirely in sixteenth-century Germany, but if you didn’t know that it was written by a Russian, you could never have guessed it: the novel seems so authentically German.

The term fantastika—used in slightly different ways in many European languages—doesn’t seem to have a satisfactory English equivalent. It could have been “fantasy” if that term hadn’t been reduced to a marketing label that means “Tolkienesque” fiction. Fantastika is by no means limited to that narrow section of the spectrum. It is, in fact, the spectrum itself—all non-mimetic prose. Nearly seventy percent of everything written during the past five thousand years is non-mimetic and belongs to one of many forms of fantastika: folklore, oneiric, fairy-tale, epic and so forth.

“Middle-European fantastika” was never a literary movement amalgamated by a common poetics. It was, rather, a tradition that shared some traits but was otherwise heterogeneous. Its most common trait was its minimal fantastic content. It features only slight deviations from reality, never large-scale dramatic events. Its protagonists are not heroes, but marginal individuals trying to find their way in a changed world.

I owe various debts to grand-masters of Middle-European fantastika. From E. T. A. Hoffmann I learned how to discreetly introduce fantastical elements, from Gogol how to increase the symbolic value of a fantastic story, from Bryusov how to achieve authenticity, from Bulgakov how to make the most of the humor in a fantastic context, from Kafka how to handle absurdity, from Lem how to search for new paths of fantastika.

Continue reading

Starred review of Impossible Stories II in Publishers Weekly

Impossible Stories IIImpossible Stories II (which consists of Compartments, Four Stories till the End and Amarcord, as well as two stand-alone stories, “The Square” and “First Photograph”) has received a starred review from Publishers Weekly:

Zivkovic (The Writer/The Book/The Reader) masterfully filters memory and art through absurdism in this limited edition collection. “Compartments” follows an unnamed man as he is escorted through six rooms on a train, encountering odd travelers who tell him about a mysterious muse-like woman. “Four Stories Till the End,” the pinnacle of both storytelling and strangeness, features four people, each interrupted in turn by guests who tell art-themed stories with delightful digressions on the horrible crimes prevented by circus detectives and the need for any top hotel to have a weapons factory. “Amarcord,” named for Fellini’s 1973 film, comprises 10 short stories wherein various people buy, sell and lose their memories. Two shorter pieces round out the collection, which neither has nor needs mainstream appeal; fans of Zivkovic’s unclassifiable quirkiness will quickly snap up all 500 copies.

Impossible Stories II will be released in September by PS Publishing in the UK.

Silence Without review of The Fourth Circle

An entirely fascinating view of my novel The Fourth Circle:

The story is comprised of individual streams which, at first, appear to have nothing in common. An individual walking on an empty planet. An AI in a remote temple in a wild jungle. Echoes of historical figures; Archimedes, Nikolas Tesla, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. A species of spheres. A giant ring of living electricity in space. Poor frightened painter’s assistant. Some streams uncurl for the length of the book, others surfacing only briefly to counterpoint those coming before and following after. There are familiar things unfurled, exotic things, exciting things, whimsical things, ordinary things, odd things, and for some time each of these fragments appear unrelated to the others. They are in different times and different places with no hope of ever crossing, so how then do the threads tie together?

Each vignette is a masterpiece on its own, however. At the end of each chapter, I was equal parts joy at returning to a stream, and irritation at departing from the last. They are all of them utterly fascinating, beautifully crafted and with such diversity that there is no chance for the reader to get tired, or become glutted on the book. With the constant contrast and variety, every chapter is something new and refreshing.

Click for the full review.

PS Publishing updates

It has just been announced that agent John Jarrold has sold World English-language limited-edition rights for Zoran’s new novel The Ghostwriter to Peter Crowther of PS Publishing in the UK; the book is scheduled for publication in 2010. This is in addition to Impossible Stories 2 (another mega-collection that will gather together Compartments, Four Stories Till the End, and Amarcord), as well as the full-length novel Escher’s Loops, both of which will be published by PS later in 2009.

With these recent developments, I thought it would be a good idea to update everyone on Zoran’s other titles at PS Publishing, both current and forthcoming.

The Writer, The Book, The Reader: collection, mid-2009 (forthcoming)

The Bridge: novella, early 2009 (now available!)

The Last Book: novel, March 2008

Twelve Collections and the Teashop: double-novella, June 2007

Impossible Stories: mega-collection, April 2006 (low stock, only 10 copies or less!)

PS UK English edition PS UK English edition
PS UK English edition PS UK English edition PS UK English edition

What this means is that as of 2010, with the only exceptions of The Fourth Circle and Hidden Camera, PS Publishing will have released all of Zoran’s fiction to date in English, either individually or collected in mega-collections, all of which are beautifully produced. This is quite a remarkable achievement, and something to be celebrated.

:-Jason Erik Lundberg, webmaster