THE PAPER DEVILS

ZORAN PILIĆ

Profil International, 2011, 374 pages
• 20-pages excerpt available in English

What makes Pilić so successful? We are talking about an author that superbly knows how to edit multiple digressions and various branches of a plot, an author who knows how to extract out of reality the very best for his fiction, who relies on cinematic and literary references when needed and who can link the seemingly unlinkable, for instance laughter and violence or male psychology and literary concepts.  

Jagna Pogačnik | Literary critic

Basing itself precisely on the produced factographical information, Tatoo, a novel within the novel, approaches the theme of teenage bullying and coldblooded murder from the intriguing executioners’ point of view and structures itself as a classic psychological thriller which strongly debates the idea of an ethical responsibility within a text and the social relevance of its theme. Although the intent of this novel within a novel isn’t to psychologize its anti-heroes or to represent the social genesis of their killer instincts, it still indirectly argues about the dangers of a virtual society that treats this “unbearable lightness of killing” both as a narrative and as a global trend.

Anera Ryznar | University professor, Quorum

A dynamic plot, idiosyncratic characters and a book with a completely different feel to it, give us the right to assume that the Coen brothers’ cinematic characters have seemingly relocated to the pages of this book.

 

In explosions of violence and laughter, somewhere in between reality and delusion, invisible scissors are snipping, leaving paper devils behind, characters at times so real that you could even bump into them in the street today, if you were to be so unlucky.
Two stories coalesce in The Paper Devils: one, a satire of the everyday life of two writers, and the other, a tragic story of the violence among teenagers. Šamski and Fred were on the very fringe of Zagreb’s literary scene. Šamski believes that his prose should correspond with reality and thus reach a wide audience, while Fred would be happiest if he could live out his entire literary career away from the public’s eye and as far away as possible from the critics.
Around the time of the tenth anniversary of the Columbine massacre and right after his girlfriend had left him, Šamski started working on a manuscript called Tattoo in which he tried to tell the story of the brutal violence among teenagers from the point of view of two juvenile killers. Convinced that the 1999 Columbine high-school massacre was a crucial tipping point which marked the beginning of a new era in violence, Šamski connected his fictional narrative with five other real massacres – two in Finland, two in Germany and another one in the U. S. (Virginia Tech). All of them were tied, one way or another, to the Columbine shooters, Harris and Klebold.
A sensationalist approach from a part of the American and global media, in the time following the shooting, created requirements for the birth of a dark cult which worshipped Harris and Klebold as heroes.
While Šamski staggered between reality and fiction, still not quite understanding what had drawn him to write this story, Fred was experiencing the last thing he ever wanted – literary success. His entire life Fred had wholeheartedly tried to stay in the shelter of anonymity, to go by unnoticed, to survive with only a dozen of readers but then, completely suddenly and unexpectedly, his novel Franzen’s pan found itself in the running for one of the region’s most lucrative literary prizes.
Fred was truly terrified with his sudden emergence from the shadows and Šamski, as much as he wanted to enjoy the irony of this situation, was falling deeper and deeper into the dark world of his manuscript from which he found he was unable to distance himself. The diabolical characters of the killers from New Zagreb seemed to have gotten out of control and were starting to live a life independent of their creator. By the time he finished the manuscript, he realized what related him to this story of violence. In one of the lower grades of primary school, he witnessed one of his classmates being bullied and did nothing. In reality these passive observers make up the majority of people – those who will do nothing out of fear for themselves and because of that the hellish circle of violence, in which yesterday’s victims often become tomorrow’s abusers, will continue indefinitely.

Faced with the truth that had been hidden in his subconscious for years, Šamski became aware of the fact that by writing one could make the devil visible, draw attention to him, but one couldn’t destroy him.

In the same way or very similarly, Fred was incapable of once again becoming unknown – he could only suffer defeat, a step before he climbed to the top and experienced literary immortality.