Stochastic Bookmark

abstruse unfinished commentary

about correspondence


Better that it had never been written

Borislav Pekić, The Time of Miracles (trans Lovett F. Edwards): Lest the header mislead, this is an excellent book; Pekić seems something of a Serbian Saramago (whose Gospel According to Jesus Christ I have yet to read, but it's on the list). Pekić's foreword opens with a passage from Ecclesiastes, then recapitulates the Old Testament up through Isaiah's prophecy, concluding
And behold, the Scripture was fulfilled.
He came during the reign of Octavian Augustus.
This is the true story about him, his teaching and his disciples, his miracles and his passion. This is the true tale of how his new kingdom above all kingdoms was born. [...]

The story asks (sorry, interrogates) for whom were the miracles performed? the prophecies fulfilled? and against whom? and the sacrifices? in whose service?

The book is split into two parts, "The Time of Miracles" and "The Time of Dying", each part limited omniscient narratives (of miracles, of deaths) bracketed by first-person accounts (or testaments): "Simon, son of Jona, by the Lord's will Peter, apostle and servant of Our Lord Jesus Christ" opens, and "Hamri Elcanaan, servant and friend" of Lazurus closes the first part, while Judas' bookkeeping, the longest chapter of the novel, begins the second part, which ends with the account told from the cross (the only chapter in which the idea exceeds the execution). Judas' insistence that the prophecies be carried out to the letter is the driving force behind the story; thus, the title to this post, so it is written.

So, too, an afterword. According to Angela Richter, in Serbian Studies 15.1 (Pekić issue [spoilert]), in a '91 interview, asked whether in retrospect he would configure Christ differently than in '65, he answered:
Certainly I would. Nowadays, I wouldn't write this book. I wouldn't commit such a sin, not because of my religious beliefs but because of a human being's point of view, because even back then I believed in God—the only problem I had was with the holy nature of Christ. If I would have chosen for my literary effort to get straight with the communist Messianism, with every ideological Messianism, or any other historical paradigm, then I would have expressed my truth using Aesop's language, which, at that time, was the only language I had access to. I made the worst choice possible. For a long time I wanted to distance myself from the book. However, I recognised that such acts are worthless. What's done is done. You cannot delete something that has become part of the Book of Life.

(Excerpts from Parts I and II, courtesy of his widow, Ljiljana Pekić.)


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