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Frankenstein Book Report: No Signal Area, Robert Perišić
Translated by Ellen Elias-Bursać (Seven Stories, 2020). A great dark parody of entrepreneurism in post-Soviet Croatia.
Reminder: these book reports are deliberately not reviews—short on summary and long on shallow comparisons; comparisons to other cultural narratives that may or may not be more popular, may or may not be super accurate, but formed an ecosystem in my head at least, and yes that’s making the book feel like extruded meat but a lot of us love baloney.
I did not think I would enjoy this book. I’m all for universe-building but when the universe is composed entirely of male speakers and set in a dreary part of Eastern Europe, well, who wants to go there, right? It’s as the book title suggests: a no signal area, and unless it’s Strayed or some 127 Hours shit, I want a signal! But the universe-building here is almost literal. Two con men—Oleg and Nikola—decide to rebuild a machine which turns into a project team which turns into a town which turns into an economy which turns into an economic system which translates to local polity forming in the former Yugoslavia.
Maybe because desperate futures and dystopias become more reality than fiction, I found No Signal Area [(c, Croatian) Robert Perišić (c, English) Ellen Elias-Bursać, Seven Stories 2020] incredibly fun to read. It proves that regiment is a safety blanket shielding the psychic capacity for entrepreneurism. There’s a “…in this economy?” meme waiting to happen for this book if it became popular.
NSA will please fans of Breaking Bad if fans of Breaking Bad read translated fiction, but maybe it’s more like if Breaking Bad were a Netflix adaptation of a Vice episode about the failures of a Bravo show about flipping houses, except the houses are nuclear turbines.