(Sibila Petlevski, Moj Antonio Diavolo: francuska suita; Fraktura, Zaprešić, 2007.)
A distressful Romanesque mirage which erases the border between what we are aware of and what we can not control. All the players, every one of them, are half crazy and lost in their illusions, memories and visions.
#1There is an opinion that the good and quality prose is made of many small separate bits which are collected from all sides and then at the last moment tied with an invisible string in a complicated, but harmonious knot inspired with a specific magic that attracts a smaller or a larger circle of readers. We all have our broken experience which we clumsily accumulate along our road, as spilled beads or a broken mirror which once has to merge into unity. Fortunately, there are people who have a special gift to collect those small, but invaluable fragments of the seemingly grey everyday and turn them into art. So, just as the harmonious composition is important for the complete impression that a symphony makes or as every small detail and every small spot can be crucial for the beauty of the complete painting canvas, a good book needs to put together a pile of details and breathe life in them. A good example can be Moj Antonio Diavolo (My Antonio Diavolo), the latest novel by Sibila Petlevski which, actually, has its history with respect to the fact that the first version was published in 1996 under the title of Francuska suita (The French Suite). It is made of sic parts where destines and worlds of people from different times intertwine, i.e. six magnified picture which of course, leave a lot of space for air for a rich impression between their lines.
Melting of Reality and Fantasy
Although each of the sections of this suite can quite successfully exist alone, just like some of the dances which made the given music piece, at the same time they create a perfect composition whole. Under the hand of the skilful composer, these sections become mutually connected with almost unbreakable invisible threads, silently and unnoticeably intertwining. Juts as the reader naively thinks that he has moved away from what he had previously read, he is splashed by known and recognisable motives in a scary deja vue motives. Through the rhythm of the hypnotising and at times a bit macabric dances there are characters which fully ignore and neglect the ears of the ruthless stream of time. Similar to the action in some of Poe’s grotesque, which has seemingly fallen from the most bizarre nightmare, their insecure steps can only be interrupted by the ticking of the scary clock, which in the case of Diavolo is broken, turned upside-down, left to hang without hands and ghostly ring in emptiness. In this dark and at the same time baroquely luxurious hall all the three faces of the time have mixed. The past, present, future, it is hard to determine, maybe because the essence of the whole circus show is timeless.
The participants at the carnival actually have the same face under their masks, which, as the art itself, squirms in panic from the grinning mad smile in a grimace of pain, fear and madness. The music, art and of course literature are met at the same spot, creating a symbiosis from which there is a creature which at no time eats any of its many grown heads. Here, on the same canvas there are some historical characters, such as Robert-Hudin of Veronese, mixed in the same stew with the living fruits of the fiction as the secret pantomimist, the jazz musician, French painter, and so on. According to this, relying on order and logic in this case could be a bit in vain. No matter how the seemingly rational modern man looks for them, he will not find separate parts of reality and fantasy in this specific novel. The symbolic manages to connect them as glue, creating a mixture of reflections and associations which viciously hit the very nerve.
Crystallisation of the End
My Antonio Diavolo is a surrealistic picture of the subconsciousness, a distressful mirage which erases the borders between what we are aware of and what we can not control. All the players, every single one of them, are half-crazy and lost in their illusions, memories and visions. The real and especially painful aspects of the whole story with a rusty and tortured voice silently speak about the war and in general about human cruelty and all the possible hardship that it brings. All the horror of the century long armament race, the wasteful shedding of blood and cutting off/blowing off of human heads should not be described in hundred wordy pages; the author does not need many words or deposited old expressions to shake the reader. Throughout the whole book there is a strong morbid smell of death and past, a humid basement stench of old and forgotten objects sitting in the corners of the human brain and only sometimes unlocked by the bravest that have the balls to balance at the edge of the abyss and strength enough to return from there with a scar or two.
Just as one needs to stand in front of an art work for a while and study it until all the details synestetically merge into an understandable whole, this novel should not be taken suddenly and carelessly. Diavolo is a dream that is mixed with reality, wrapped in effective images, interesting style and lively comparisons. Once the last, crucial section is played and the catharsis approximates the end, the whole complicated web of nightmare pieces become a crystally clear image, while human bloodthirstiness stares bare and confused from the stage. However, it is from these pieces that join all the obverses and reverses of the art which are often ugly, and always wonderful, that we can take the meaning of the whole damn farce. Eventually, the creator of My Antonio Diavolo herself concludes that “one should look at the whole, and not the detail, follow the destiny of humanity, and never the destiny of a nation or an individual, one should know how to be satisfied with the reason and not to research the consequence”.
Published in Zarez, 17.04.2008, # 229.
Translated by Elizabeta Bakovska