Živkovic, Zoran 1948–

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Živković, Zoran 1948–

PERSONAL:

Born 1948, in Belgrade, Yugoslavia (now Serbia); married; wife's name Mia; children: Uros, Andreja (twin sons). Education: University of Belgrade, earned degree (literary theory), 1973, M.A., 1979, Ph.D., 1982.

ADDRESSES:

Home—Belgrade, Serbia. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Writer and translator.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Milos Crjanski award, 1994, for Cetvrti krug; World Fantasy Award, 2003, for The Library; Award for Excellence in General Trade Category, from 55th Annual Chicago Book Clinic Book and Media Show, for Seven Touches of Music, 2006; Isidora Sekulic Award, for The Bridge, 2007; Golden Hit Liber Award, for The Bridge, 2007.

WRITINGS:

(Editor and translator from English, Polish, and Russian) Savremenici budûcnosti: price i tvorci naucne fantastike (stories; title means "Contemporaries of the Future"), Narodna Knjiga (Belgrade, Yugoslavia), 1983.

Cetvrti krug, 1993, translated by Mary Popovic as The Fourth Circle, Ministry of Whimsy (Tallahassee, FL), 2004.

Vremenski darovi, Stubovi Kulture (Belgrade, Serbia), 1997, translated by Alice Copple-Tosic as Time Gifts: Writing from an Unbound Europe, Northwestern University Press (Evanston, IL), 2000.

Pisac, Stubovi Kulture (Belgrade, Serbia), 1998, translation published as The Writer, Prime Books, 2003.

Knjiga, Stubovi Kulture (Belgrade, Serbia), 2000, translation published as The Book, Prime Books, 2003.

Nemogući suscreti (title means "Impossible Encounters"), 2001, translation published in Impossible Stories, 2004.

Biblioteka, Alfa (Belgrade, Serbia), 2002, translation published as The Library in Leviathan III, edited by Jeff Vandermeer and Forrest Aguirre, Ministry of Whimsy Press, 2002.

Koraci kroz maglu (title means "Steps through the Mist"), Alfa (Belgrade, Serbia), 2003, translation published in Impossible Stories, 2004.

Skrivena Kamera, 2003, translation published as Hidden Camera, Dalkey Archive Press, 2004.

Impossible Stories, Nightshade Press (Tallahassee, FL), 2004.

Vagon, 2004.

Compartments, translated by Alice Copple-Tosic, Polaris, 2004.

Four Stories till the End, translated by Alice Copple-Tosic, Polaris, 2004.

Most, Laguna (Belgrade, Serbia), 2006.

Seven Touches of Music: A Mosaic Novel, Aio Pub. Company (Charleston, SC), 2006.

Steps through the Mist: A Mosaic Novel, Aio Pub. Company (Charleston, SC), 2007.

12 Collections and the Tea Shop, translated by Alice Copple-Tosic, PS Publishing (New York, NY), 2007.

The Last Book, PS Publishing (New York, NY), 2008.

Also author of other novels, short stories, essay collections published in Serbia. Contributor of short stories to periodicals, including Interzone.

Živković's books have been translated into Spanish, Russian, Korean, Bulgarian, and Japanese.

SIDELIGHTS:

Writing in Serbian-Croatian, award-winning fiction writer and translator Zoran Živković has weathered life under communism and the political transition that transformed Yugoslavia into Serbia and Montenegro. His impressions of these experiences have make their way into much of his written work, which has been praised by critics for its intellect, imagination, and originality. Incorporating elements of both fantasy and science fiction, many of Živković's novels and short stories focus on the coming of chaos and what New York Times Book Review contributor Gerald Jonas characterized as an "apocalyptic resolution"; reviewing Živković's 1993 novel The Fourth Circle, Jonas added: "Živković is a writer who prefers the playful to the profound, the scattering of seeds to the harvest."

In The Fourth Circle, Živković intertwines the strands of ten different stories that transport readers from medieval Europe, where a group of painters are completing a church fresco, to a desolate future landscape wherein an intelligent computer program named Rama sires a child to give its intellect biological form. As the strands come together, four of Earth's greatest scientific minds—Archimedes, Stephen Hawking, Nicholas Tesla, and Ludolph van Ceulen—unbound by time, come together at an abandoned Buddhist temple, called by Rama for a purpose that fictional sleuth Sherlock Holmes and his creator, Arthur Conan Doyle, discern and make clear in what Booklist contributor Regina Schroeder dubbed "a perfectly satisfying conclusion." Noting that Živković creates a world wherein "time and space are fluid and perspectives are intriguingly alien and off-kilter," a Publishers Weekly reviewer noted that as readers share with the novel's well-known protagonists the experience of coping with mysteries that "exceed the understanding" of their age, they will be engaged by Živković's "epistemological gymnastics" and The Fourth Circle's "interplay of real and imaginary personalities." As the author explained in an interview with Publishers Weekly contribu- tor Stefan Dziemianowicz, writing The Fourth Circle during a time when his native Yugoslavia was undergoing a brutal civil war "was a kind of welcome escapism. It helped me a great deal to divert my thoughts from the harsh reality I had the bitter privilege of living at that time."

Time Gifts: Writing from an Unbound Europe, which was originally published in Serbian as Vremenski darovi, is a collection of four loosely connected tales that together form a novel of sorts, though the first three of the sections can be read effectively as stand-alone stories. The main themes of the book focus on a Faustian bargain as well as the popular science fiction trope of time travel. In all four stories, the main characters are approached by a mysterious stranger who offers them the chance to change their lives in some meaningful way that can only be achieved by traveling across time. In the first segment, Lazar the monk serves as royal astronomer and has been condemned to burn at the stake for his heretical insistence on the validity of his scientific findings. He is given the chance on the night prior to his execution to visit the future, and in so doing realizes that his own discoveries are in no way connected to the miraculous advances he sees in his subject. Understanding his insignificance, he returns to his cell with plenty of time to stop his sentence if he is willing to renounce his scientific experiments. The following sections feature a paleolinguist who visits the past to determine if her own research is accurate; a watchmaker who has the chance to save his fiancée, Maria, who died twenty-five years earlier, only to discover that life with her is nothing like what he would have imagined; and a woman in a mental institution who has the chance to learn when she will die, and in turn reveals to the reader that the individual offering these Faustian deals to each of the protagonists is in reality the book's author. Radmila J. Gorup, writing for World Literature Today, remarked that "this unusual book, a hybrid of postmodernism and science fiction, raises some critical questions about human existence. It is open to many interpretations, both literary and philosophical, and can be read at different levels."

Knjiga, which has been translated into English as The Book, is set in a curious universe where books and reading are linked as the most licentious of behaviors. Libraries are considered to be whorehouses, and the people who borrow the books are considered to be johns. It is a sadistic act to read freely and with any frequency. Books themselves are not evaluated with any sense of quality, but rather as something to barter or to use for other gains. It is considered a wonderful skill to be able to learn the contents of a book without actually reading it, and as a result to be able to fake knowledge of the work's contents. Novelists are more interested in receiving literary prizes than the actual quality or popularity of their efforts, and are therefore known to bribe judges in literary contests in order to earn those awards. Ultimately, the work serves as a commentary on both contemporary attitudes toward reading and on the publishing industry as a whole. Scott Bryan Wilson, writing for the Review of Contemporary Fiction, remarked that Živković "elegantly renders an author's worst night-terror and in doing so has written a tale that teeters between tremendously funny and deadly serious satire."

Hidden Camera, a translation of Skrivena Kamera, is the disturbing story of an unnamed undertaker who receives an invitation for the private screening of a film. When he arrives, he discovers that the film is actually of him, simply sitting on a park bench, the single scene playing continually. This proves to be only the first of a series of strange invitations that send him careening into some sort of an alternative universe. When he reaches a bookstore where he has been instructed to go, one of the books for sale is one he will supposedly write himself at some point in the future. An invitation to the zoo leads to a near-miss with a vicious bear. Ultimately, the undertaker finds himself seeped in paranoia, unsure as to whether the constant dangers that he encounters are real or simply his imagination—or something else altogether. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly opined that "after making a name for himself as a fantasy writer, Živković has stepped intriguingly into experimental prose." Booklist reviewer Ray Olson, who compared the book to Orson Welles's film adaptation of Kafka's The Trial, said of the novel: "It is a glowing, romantic conundrum."

Steps through the Mist: A Mosaic Novel tells the stories of five different women, all of whom in some way are forced to deal with fate. One woman is actually just a schoolgirl who has the distinct talent of reading other people's dreams; another woman, trapped in an institution, can see the future; a third is a fortune teller who, though a fraud herself, suddenly encounters someone who truly possesses the sight. In other stories, a professional skier finds herself on the top of a mountain where she is offered deep insights in the least likely of ways, and a woman finds that the act that her alarm clock has broken has suddenly and undeniably robbed her of all will to live. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly remarked of the brief collection that "this montage of stories is as enlightening as it is entrancing."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, April 15, 2004, Regina Schroeder, review of The Fourth Circle, p. 1435; November 15, 2005, Ray Olson, review of Hidden Camera, p. 28.

New York Times Book Review, April 18, 2004, Gerald Jonas, review of The Fourth Circle.

Publishers Weekly, February 9, 2004, review of The Fourth Circle, and Stefan Dziemianowicz, interview with Zivkovic, p. 63; October 10, 2005, review of Hidden Camera, p. 37; July 30, 2007, review of Steps through the Mist: A Mosaic Novel, p. 62.

Review of Contemporary Fiction, summer, 2004, Scott Bryan Wilson, review of The Book, p. 129.

World Literature Today, spring, 2001, Radmila J. Gorup, review of Time Gifts: Writing from an Unbound Europe, p. 393.

ONLINE

SFSite.com,http://www.sfsite.com/ (May 23, 2004), William Thompson, review of The Fourth Circle.

Zoran Živković Home Page,http://www.zoranzivkovic.com (April 15, 2004).