Creatures of Light and Darkness – Roger Zelazny

creatures1This text is a translation from Bulgarian. The original can be found here.

Putting Creatures of Light and Darkness into categories is a difficult task. From the point of view of genre, form, style, anyhow. Its text is seemingly messy (and remains messy under careful scrutiny), as if under the influence of light drugs. The text itself – if I can be allowed this heavy-handed personification – and not the author who produced it, as underground fan legends sometimes have it.

Creatures of Light and Darkness strikes me as a science-fictional poem. I initially attempted to bolster this argument with the kind of discursive and formally elaborate writing associated with academic literature. Then I decided against it. The reader just needs to read the first chapter – in the House of the Dead – to see the poetry, shining through, crisp and clear.

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Quicksilver – Neal Stephenson

quicksilver2Quicksilver is a book that defies with ease any attempts at writing a pithy and flashy review. Swatting-a-lame-old-fly is the kind of ease I’m going for here. Read the blurbs if you are looking for that, a review of this type just wouldn’t really be a review, but rather an extended blurb.

Quicksilver, the first part of the Baroque Cycle trilogy, is vast and winding. It spans decades and continents, its subject matter is difficult to pin down, its method is an even more elusive beast. Perhaps the most apt definition I have arrived at comes from the novel itself:

“It seemed that Jack, here, had blundered into the fourth or fifth act of a drama – neither a comedy nor a tragedy, but a history.”

And although the sentence refers to somebody else’s historical drama, it self-consciously echoes the structure of the novel. Which, like history, maintains only the illusion of such a structure. As some proponents of New Historicism would have it, historians and document-makers are part of the historical process they are untangling and seeking to document and explain. They are just as much embroiled in the material practices and texts of their time, as are the agents of their narratives. Continue reading

The Ocean at the End of the Lane – Neil Gaiman

ocean-at-the-end-of-the-lane-neil-gaiman“Memories were waiting at the edges of things, beckoning to me.”

 When I was a little boy – I must have been six, or seven, or eight – I would sometimes get these very odd flashes of… I’m not even sure how to call it. “Feeling” is too general a word, no, this was disembodied and physical sensations, memories and premonitions all bundled together in an indivisible whole. It came when I was alone and felt like a place, somewhere, somehow. One moment I would be in my room, or wherever I was, the next I would be there. And it would last for just a second or two, but those seemed ominously stretched. It was a scary place, to be sure, mostly because I didn’t understand it and didn’t know how and why I was being taken there. And I knew it was probably a place in my head, little that I was, but it felt vaster than that. It felt like all the knowledge of the world was there and also all the things that I would love and lose. It might have been a good place, but it scared me every time. Continue reading

The Fractal Prince – Hannu Rajaniemi

Step into the Palace of Stories, taste their body of fractals…

I gobbled The Fractal Prince up in just a few days, hungry to devour as many pages as possible during my daily commute between tube stations. Or maybe trying to slow down and savor them, sorry to see the book come to an end. Anything inducing such paradoxical states of mind must be more than just good. The follow-up to The Quantum Thief is full of such curiosities. It is pretty short as novels go and yet it feels vast, infinite even. The story is involved to the point of obfuscation, but each day I would sink effortlessly into its winding ways and half an hour later would pop out of the underground, one or more self-contained stories sparkling like exotic jewels in my mind. It is a labyrinth and a room full of mirrors where you can easily lose yourself (occasionally even your self) and where subliminal glimpses of massive creatures moving hidden underneath the surface will startle you, grand colorful illusions will dazzle, memes will burrow and most of what you know will be revealed as nothing more than shifting sands. Continue reading

Физика на тъгата – Георги Господинов

Двете най-силни книги, които съм прочел тази година, са български. Чак ми е странно колко много ме радва това. Някакво неоформено усещане за лъх на претенциозност дълго време ме държеше настрана от Физика на тъгата (за втората книга може би друг път), но накрая го преодолях и сега съжалявам, че го е имало. Нищо, грешките учат.

Всъщност разбирам защо ми е лъхало на претенция. И тук както и в Естествен роман от същия автор в сърцевината на книгата е отказът от добре отработената форма. Даже цитатите в началото си го казват това: “Чистите жанрове не ме интересуват много. Романът не е ариец”, “Читателят е свободен да приеме тази книга като роман…” Continue reading

Tainaron: Mail from Another City – Lena Krohn

What a marvelous book Lena Krohn’s tiny Tainaron is! I admit that I chose it for my train read precisely because of its size. It’s merely 130 pages long, many of them filled with illustrations and the blank spaces that follow the end of chapters, in this case letters. Tainaron consists of thirty letters sent by a woman to her unnamed once-lover, over the huge mass of Oceanus, from the eponymous insect-inhabited city where she has emigrated for an unknown reason. It is not a novel, nor is it really a novella. There is no overarching plot; in fact, most of the novelistic mechanics that is part of our conditioning cannot be found in it. The psychological core of that very Western literary form, rooted in the socio-economic interaction between character and society, is simply not much of a concern for Lena Krohn. We never get to learn why the anonymous author of the letters came to Tainaron, how she makes her living, whether she has a job at all.

Instead, Tainaron is a confession of sorts, albeit an oblique one. It is also a series of metaphysical musings on the nature of life, death, identity. Continue reading