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Hidden Camera (Eastern European Literature) Paperback – November 30, 2005

3.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Zivkovic surveys the shifting line between paranoid fantasy and legitimate threat in his mystifying novel. When the unnamed narrator, an undertaker, is invited to a private film screening, he's surprised to see that the movie is one sustained shot of himself sitting on a park bench. With this episode, a complicated dance begins between the protagonist and his anonymous puppeteers, who manage to send him careening from one wild incident to the next. Directed to a used-book store, he discovers a novel supposedly written by him years in the future; obeying another mysterious invitation, he ventures to the zoo, where he has a close call in a bear cage, and things get worse from there. "Undertakers primarily favor gentle, sentimental films," he says indignantly, but there's nothing gentle about his adventures. Readers are propelled along as effectively as the narrator is, but they may be just as confused. As the story progresses, the undertaker's increasing paranoia makes it impossible to say how much of the danger is real and how much is imagined. After making a name for himself as a fantasy writer, Zivkovic has stepped intriguingly into experimental prose. (Nov.)
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From The New Yorker

"This was only a hidden camera episode, after all; everything was under control, nothing bad could happen," Zivkovic's nameless narrator says, trying to soothe himself amid the spiralling surrealities of this mystery novel. After receiving an invitation to a movie screening, he finds himself next to an enigmatic woman, watching a film of the two of them sitting on a park bench. This is the first in an increasingly outlandish chain of events, as the narrator follows a trail of invitations across a darkened cityscape. His growing paranoia leads him to suppose that he is the victim of a hidden-camera prank for television, and he starts to behave as if his every action were being filmed. Zivkovic's unexpected dénouement, however, gestures toward a far stranger, possibly mystical, cause.
Copyright © 2006 The New Yorker

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Product Details

  • Series: Eastern European Literature
  • Paperback: 217 pages
  • Publisher: Dalkey Archive Press; Tra edition (November 30, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1564784126
  • ISBN-13: 978-1564784124
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #721,364 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
In Zoran Zivkovic's recent novel, "Hidden Camera," a neurotic undertaker returns home one evening to find that a movie ticket has been left anonymously for him at his front door. He goes to the theater at the Film Archive--now almost deserted because it is a Monday evening--as instructed and finds that the film will be shown only to him and a mysterious woman. The film turns out to be an amateur video in which the undertaker himself was secretly filmed while sitting on a park bench. After the brief showing, the lights come up, and the woman has disappeared, leaving only a ticket for another event that the undertaker is meant to attend later that evening at a used bookstore. So begins an eerie scavenger hunt tailored solely to the undertaker, who then races around his city at night to increasingly unlikely locations where he is presented with one bizarre spectacle after another.

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.
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Format: Paperback
What would it take to shake you out of your normal world? How about an envelope shoved in your door that you find on your way home from work that contains simply a movie ticket to a show that very night? And what would you think if when you arrived you were ushered to a seat in an otherwise empty movie theater right next to a beautiful mysterious stranger? As the lights go down and the movie begins you see yourself seated on a park bench reading a book like you often do, but completely unaware that you are being filmed and a mysterious beautiful stranger approaches you and sits at the other end of the bench and gazes at you, again unnoticed by you. Is this part of one of those Hidden Camera shows and are you to be the butt of the joke? And then the show ends and the lights go out and everything you ever thought was real and important will be questioned and things will never be the same.
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.
Highly recommended!!
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First off, I'd like to say that this novel is full of very good images, and, in a sense, is a decent piece of surrealism. I've enjoyed Zivkovic's work in the past, and while I didn't like this book at all, he pulls off all his usual tricks. If not for one very prominent problem, I would have enjoyed it immensely.

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.
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