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Hidden Camera (Eastern European Literature) Paperback – November 30, 2005
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Zivkovic, a Serbian novelist, experiments with science fiction, existentialism, and metafiction and is often compared, appropriately, with Borges and Calvino. And "Hidden Camera" is a wonderful showcase for Zivkovic's talents. Nearly no twist or turn of this labyrinth can be foreseen, and the narrative provides a true edge-of-your-seat experience. Up till the very last page, I worried that Zivkovic wouldn't be able to pull off a real ending, and yet he did. Of course, that ending requires some work on the reader's part. It's fairly abstract, requires interpretation, and assumes that you've been paying close attention to the themes, symbols, and subtext. Even then, the book is a little like a riddle with a dozen possible answers, all of which (even cumulatively) fall just shy of a comprehensive solution. Still I found the climax tremendously rewarding.Read more ›
What follows is a hidden camera view into the mind of the unnamed narrator as he continues on through an event filled night. There are tons of meaning to be gleaned from the symbolism in this story and a romp through symbiotic parallel worlds or alternate reality or visions or dreams or who knows what for sure.
But all along the ride this is just fine descriptive surreal fiction from Zoran Zivkovic that explodes and sets your mind off in new directions.
The narrator is impossibly, obnoxiously neurotic, steeped in old world pretensions, and makes every page a chore. Rather than focusing on the imagery itself, Zivkovic chooses to immerse us in the narrator's petty attempts to "maintain his gentlemanly pride", all of which fail immensely.
Though certainly the novel's structure recalls the asymptomatic structures of Kafka or Kobo Abe, and the supernatural edge of Bulgakov, rather than feeling sympathetic for the narrator, after the first ten pages, I read most of the book wanting to hit him in the face with a baseball bat. This story came off feeling like third-rate Murakami, and though Zivkovic's imagination still shows through, I could hardly bring myself to appreciate it. It also feels, at times, far too much like a cheap thriller.
Zivkovic can do much, much better than this. I generally enjoy his work, but I was looking forward to reading an actual novel, as opposed to his usual mosaics. This is also by far the worst his prose has ever been. It was stilted, obnoxious, and never, ever beautiful. Even the strong images could have been handled much, much better.
I usually don't bother writing negative reviews, but I can't remember the last time I felt so let down by an author I've enjoyed (to some extent, at least) in the past. This novel was, for the most part, nothing but a disappointment.