A Jesuit and an English ambassador make a journey to Petrograd across a gloomy, often desolate eighteenth-century Eastern Europe in order to sight a rare transit of the sun by Venus. A Moldovan student coming of age at the end of the twentieth century, and in the aftermath of the Soviet Union’s break-up, flees to the west in search of a less gloomy life, only to find more of the sordid, inhumane experience she had hoped to leave behind. A boy known only as the Writer, under the sway of Paul Auster’s novels, searches for his theme and finally settles on an eighteenth-century Yugoslav Jesuit known for his fascination with rare astronomical events. In these subtly linked novellas, Muharem Bazdulj takes the reader across several centuries of Yugoslav history, finding in three very different sets of circumstances a common longing to escape the desperation and depression of life in the east.
Muharem Bazdulj (1977) is one of the leading writers to emerge from the Balkans after the disintegration of Yugoslavia. His essays and short stories have appeared in twenty languages. Two of his previous books were published in English: The Second Book (2005) and Byron and the Beauty (2016). Upon original publication, The Second Book won a leading literary prize for best book of short stories in Bosnia. Byron and the Beauty was selected by Eileen Battersby of The Irish Times as one of the forty best books published in English in 2016. His work was featured in the anthologies Best European Fiction 2012 and The Wall in My Head. Bazdulj is also a winner of three of the most prestigious journalistic awards in Bosnia and Serbia. After fifteen years in Sarajevo, he is currently living in Belgrade.