Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 768
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    In his semiautobiographical novel,Cyclops, Croatian writer Ranko Marinkovic recounts the adventures of young theater critic Melkior Tresic, an archetypal antihero who decides to starve himself to avoid fighting in the front lines of World War II. As he wanders the streets of Zagreb in a near-hallucinatory state of paranoia and malnourishment, Melkior encounters a colorful circus of characters-fortune-tellers, shamans, actors, prostitutes, bohemians, and café intellectuals-all living in a fragile dream of a society about to be changed forever.

    A seminal work of postwar Eastern European literature,Cyclopsreveals a little-known perspective on World War II from within the former Yugoslavia, one that has never before been available to an English-speaking audience. Vlada Stojiljkovic's able translation, improved by Ellen Elias-Bursac's insightful editing, preserves the striking brilliance of this riotously funny and densely allusive text. Along Melkior's journeyCyclopssatirizes both the delusions of the righteous military officials who feed the national bloodlust as well as the wayward intellectuals who believe themselves to be above the unpleasant realities of international conflict. Through Stojiljkovic's clear-eyed translation, Melkior's peregrinations reveal how history happens and how the individual consciousness is swept up in the tide of political events, and this is accomplished in a mode that will resonate with readers of Charles Simic, Aleksandr Hemon, and Kundera.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-16884-6
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
    (pp. v-xiv)
    Ellen Elias-Bursać

    Making his way through a crowded Zagreb square one evening on the eve of World War II, Melkior Tresić catches sight of a priest with familiar, jutting ears. The priest, we learn, had taught him catechism during his childhood in Dalmatia. The fleeting glimpse of the Dalmatian priest in the opening pages of this quintessentially Zagreb novel is Ranko Marinković’s nod to his native Dalmatia. The nod tells us that Melkior Tresić is an outside insider, someone who, like Marinković, came to the city as a student, and who sees Zagreb as someone born there never could. Marinković captures Zagreb’s...

  3. [“MAAR … MAAR …” cried a voice from the]
    (pp. 1-34)

    “MAAR … MAAR …” cried a voice from the rooftop. Melkior was standing next to the stair railing leading down below ground; glowing above the stairway was a gents sign. Across the way another set of stairs angled downward, intersecting with the first, under the sign of ladies. A staircase X, he thought, reciprocal values, the numerators gents and the numerators ladies (cross multiplication), the denominators ending up downstairs in majolica and porcelain, where the denominators keep a respectful silence; the only sounds are the muffled whisper of water, the hiss of valves, and the whirr of ventilators. Like being...

  4. [Another drunken night, smoke and antics, he thought with a touch]
    (pp. 35-60)

    Another drunken night, smoke and antics, he thought with a touch of malice. Where’s it all going to end? But Maestro was already wheezing in a cloud of smoke—“Ah, at last, here comes Eustachius the Sagacious!”—and Ugo was rushing up to meet him and showering kisses on both cheeks, one of them planted on the eyebrow “for the pure mind.” The entire bar had to hear that Eustachius had returned from his splendid isolation. Using sweeping oratorical gestures and most scrupulously chosen words—with a special bow to the cash-register girl, “Madam!”—all according to Giventakian ritual, Ugo...

  5. [White all around … and a tinge of illness. The quiet, roomy terrace]
    (pp. 61-107)

    White all around … and a tinge of illness. The quiet, roomy terrace of an Alpine sanitarium for the consumptive. He did not want to say “tuberculin.” Deep down he feared the word. A view of mountain lakes and glaciers. A glass of milk on a small white table. He, reclining on a chaise longue, the chronicle of some thirty-year, three-hundred-year, three-thousand-year war in his hands. A little farther off down the terrace, also resting, a gold-haired and pale-faced one, a consumptive girl reading. … At this point somebody else would write that she was readingThe Sorrows of Young...

  6. [“The tormentor” was jangling eagerly. But its clangor burst into the]
    (pp. 108-166)

    “The tormentor” was jangling eagerly. But its clangor burst into the sleeper’s slumber like a bully and a heedless drunk. What a mess! Sleep sprang into action, slamming windows and doors, putting out lights, letting night flood in and restore peace. Telling a story about sailing the seas on a big white ship. “The tormentor” is now clanging deep down in the bowels of the ship, signaling the engine men to change speed: go slow, go quiet …

    Smooth sailing. Stars. Lighthouses winking in the distance: hello, skipper, old chum. He, up there on the bridge, in the dark, smiling:...

  7. [You’ll get them tomorrow, your betel leaves, the redheaded devil]
    (pp. 167-216)

    You’ll get them tomorrow, your betel leaves, the redheaded devil promises the first mate, the Nirvana angel. Tomorrow, opium paradise. He will be content with betel limbo, anything to avoid being cut to pieces with the crystal-sharp geometry of certainty wielded by the night’s logic. He who has walked all the way down the Master’s Eightfold Path is now offered a betel leaf by the redheaded Asclepian scoundrel to cover his shameful fear of oblivion. Oh Purna, why don’t I have your spiritual strength in this wilderness? You, too, are leaving for wild parts inhabited by what might be cannibals,...

  8. [Could there be a price out on your head? An underground political]
    (pp. 217-292)

    Could there be a price out on your head? An underground political conspiracy in a dark cellar dimly lit by an oil lamp. Three unshaven thugs discussing the ways and means of taking your life. Knives stuck into the table, sharp, shiny, withRostfrei-Solingeninscribed on them. Running down the blades is a groove, like the kind on butcher’s knives. (First chance you get, ask a butcher what the groove on butcher’s knives is for.)

    They will surprise you in a dark street, at night, as you walk by, tapping your fingers absentmindedly on a wall. … But why do...

  9. [The Quisisana was crowded and the air inside thick and noxious.]
    (pp. 293-325)

    The Quisisana was crowded and the air inside thick and noxious. The smells of fried onions, black coffee, and human fumes. Melkior felt sick from the medley dropping to his stomach via the nose. That’s from hunger. He blocked the spasm and hastily inserted some small change in the automat, which congenially offered him a sandwich. He downed it in two bites. The piece of pickle instantly calmed the sickly roiling of his insides. He inserted another coin or two: the miniature lift dropped to the floor below and the open door (here you are, sir!) revealed a sardine’s tail...

  10. [A discarded cigarette is burning down in the street. A butt flicked]
    (pp. 326-380)

    A discarded cigarette is burning down in the street. A butt flicked out of a high window. A sizeable butt, nearly half the cigarette; as there is only a gentle breeze it might survive for quite a time, fifteen or twenty minutes, under favorable circumstances. Perhaps even longer, as long as an insect would survive crossing the street. A cockroach. No, a cigarette butt is a fallen firefly … A woman of sin expelled from a bed where love has come and gone. It flew in a burning arc like a meteor, out the window—into the street. It is...

  11. [Melkior felt his nose being pulled. He woke up instantly and opened]
    (pp. 381-398)

    Melkior felt his nose being pulled. He woke up instantly and opened his eyes wide in surprise. Sitting on his bed was a bulky young man in white, his mouth stretched into a make-believe smile, looking at him in a sticky-sweet way, “Good morning” fairly flowing from his ocular liquid.

    “Name’s Mitar. Vampire, they call me. Shh, don’t wake ’em up, I got the moniker here in this very room,” whispered the man in white. “It’s all right—I’m just a lab tech, I came for a drop of your blood.”

    Melkior thought he was dreaming. “Friends and countrymen,” he...

  12. [“So they got you then, eh?” he was asked by one of the three on the]
    (pp. 399-423)

    “So they got you then, eh?” he was asked by one of the three on the third day after he was moved into a vast white room with barred windows. Even now the person who asked was not looking at Melkior. He was looking at the wall behind Melkior’s bed. Floating in his eyes was a dim look with which he dreamily stared at the bare walls, even at the empty space of the room, as if he had prepared himself for a patient and tedious existence for the rest of his days.

    The other two had not yet spoken....

  13. [Not even atman knew yet! He had been living for four days above]
    (pp. 424-460)

    Not even atman knew yet! He had been living for four days above the palm reader’s head, quietly, in slippers, leading a lazy, pampered life of sleeping, lounging in bed, stretching. Watching the flames in the pot-bellied stove … Devils’ tongues, the Melancholic used to say, an intriguing little hell.

    And the rain falls day and night … (the poet grabbed at the chance for a metaphor) …as though asking if I’m all right.

    Am I all right?

    A parrotlike, random question. He was luxuriating in his laziness like a loyal cat, and that was a question that was...

  14. [“Oh when will spring, when will spring send forth its tender shoots,”]
    (pp. 461-513)

    “Oh when will spring, when will spring send forth its tender shoots,” recited Ugo sadly, sniffling. (He had been sniffling all winter, ever since the night the hose got the better of him.)

    Cold, gray, rainy days. Military, uniform days. Soldiers moving, olive drab, uniform, much like the days, monotonous, bundled, miserable, hopeless soldiers. Marching by day, pounding their feet bravely; stealing out by night, soundlessly, stealthily, keeping unit strengths, directions, dispositions top secret. Melkior listened to the muted commands and countless feet treading cautiously and with fear at night. Going somewhere … which may turn out to be nowhere,...

  15. [Massage the heart, massage the heart … Everyone is saying it. They]
    (pp. 514-550)

    Massage the heart, massage the heart… Everyone is saying it. They are gathered around thesleepingand seeminglydeceased onewho has apparently forfeited his retirement benefits. … He is draped across the balcony’s wrought-iron railing, with flowers strewn over him, as if decked out for a celebration. … He is being funny: eyes closed, he is twitching like a dead body on a clattering cart, as though shaken by electric shocks. Electric fever persisting, thought Melkior. Numbskull is giving him artificial respiration:that’s the thing to do, he says raising and lowering Maestro’s arms,pump the air, he’s...

    (pp. 551-553)