Sunday, January 25, 2015

Library Nightmares

The LibraryThe Library 
by Zoran Živković

"Perhaps the email that started it all would have ended up in the recycle bin along with the others, if it had not been so brief that I inadvertently read it.  Against a black background,  devoid of decoration, the first line annouced:  VIRTUAL LIBRARY in large, yellow letters, while under it the slogan 'We have everything!' ---written in considerably smaller blue letters---did not exactly assume the aggressive tone typical of this type of message." (p 3)

What would you do if you took a book off the shelf, read it, and then replaced it on the shelf only to find that after a few minutes of sitting in your chair or writing at your desk that the book had somehow reappeared by your side?
If you were a reader like the anonymous narrator of The Library you would not be surprised; not that your active mind would not be filled with questions about what is happening. As he says in the second of the six stories that comprise this small but eventful and exciting collection:
"I, however, wasn't surprised at all. I didn't let any of these annoying questions upset me. Long ago, I realized that the world is full of inexplicable wonders. It's no use even trying to explain them." (p 18)
Do not think that our narrator, a writer by trade, takes the inexplicable lying down. No, he attempts to deal with the issues he faces, all dealing with books, and his experiences are alternately hilarious and horrifying; especially the "Infernal Library", a story that takes him . . . well you know where.
His world does not include the book that jumps off the shelf described above (that is from my own imagination), but he does have a mailbox in which the library volume entitled simply "World Literature" appears and reappears for what may seems like an infinite number of times. The narrator takes this in stride, always remembering to keep his mailbox neat and clean.

Zoran Zivkovic has six tales for the bibliophile that bring the reader in to a twenty-first century Kafkaesque world;  one that reminds me of Borges' famous The Library of Babel. Whether dealing with an on-line "virtual library" of everything he, the narrator, had written and would (perhaps) ever write, or trying to comprehend what kind of a library exists only at night inside a locked library. The challenge for the reader is to get beyond the apparent absurdity of the situations and discover the deeper questions that each eerie episode raises. It is only by trying to understand what each of these stories mean for both narrator and reader that you will be able to enjoy the further surprise and delight in store for you as you attempt to make your way through to the final story.

Having finished reading this I found myself with the feeling that I would never forget the libraries created by Zoran Zivkovic in this extraordinary collection. But just in case I do there is always the chance the book will miraculously appear beside me silently enticing me with its simple presence.

(If you are interested in more information about this author I recommend you visit The Parrish Lantern, to whom I give a sincere thank you for introducing me to this exciting and engaging writer.)

View all my reviews


Brian Joseph said...

I read Gary's commentary on Zivkovic. He sounds so intriguing.

Combining the themes of books and libraries with erie and absurd stories seems to be such a novel idea. It seems like it has so much potential.

James said...


Thanks for your comment. The potential is great and Zivkovic realizes a lot with his imaginative stories.
I have the book Gary reviewed on my TBR pile, but this collection of stories seemed like it would be right up my alley; I was not disappointed.

Stephen said...

This sounds odd, but fun!

James said...


It was definitely fun, but the comic came from the absurd irrationality of the world Zivkiovic creates.

Parrish Lantern said...

Hi James Thanks for the mention this sounds like a book I'd enjoy. This book reminds of Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky's The Letter Killers Club which depicts a secret society of self-described "concievers" who, to preserve the purity of their conceptions, commit nothing to paper. They meet in secret and strive to create ever greater tales that will never leave the room are never imprisoned on paper.

James said...


Thanks again for introducing me to this author. I have the book you reviewed on my tbr pile and I guess I'll add The Letter Killers Club as well.