Time Gifts

Zoran Zivkovic, Author, Alice Copple-Tosic, Translator
Zoran Zivkovic, Author, Alice Copple-Tosic, Translator Northwestern University Press $44.95 (81p) ISBN 978-0-8101-1781-5
Paperback - 81 pages - 978-0-8101-1782-2
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Embroidering on the conceit of time travel, Zivkovic, a Serb writer in his 50s, presents four episodic tales, stitching them together in the final installment. Each short narrative bears a title that's the occupation of its protagonist, and each protagonist is imprisoned, either literally or figuratively. The heretical royal astronomer in the first story has been condemned by the Inquisition to burn at the stake for scientific findings contrary to the teachings of the Church. A mysterious benefactor appears in his cell, offering to let him glimpse how his martyrdom will be viewed in the future if he still refuses to recant. In the second episode, the mysterious benefactor appears in the cell-like office of a contemporary linguist, an expert in prehistoric language. She is offered the chance to travel backward in time to test her theories among the most ancient speakers of language. In the third episode an old watchmaker in his little shop is offered the opportunity to travel back years in time to save his young wife from a fatal carriage accident. A psychiatrist in the final episode interviews a young woman, a painter in a mental institution. She has met and knows the identity of the mysterious time-traveling philanthropist, and addresses her doctor on the meaning of temporal finitude. Zikovic writes with a light and unpretentious touch--welcome and refreshing in the wake of other post-Borges, post-Calvino practitioners of labored postmodern fiction. His tales are strangely stimulating, not so much for their philosophical insight as for their intimate appreciation of contemporary readers' experience of time and space. (Sept.)
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