The Knight of the White Deer is the latest literary work by Branko Pihač, a well-known Croatian science fiction writer. Although the author is known as a writer of hard science fiction, in this novel he combines it with motifs of pure fiction and is therefore a hybrid between the two genres. The topics this novel touches on range from scientific, historical, political, artistic, philosophical, moral, psychological, and last but not least love. Precisely in the wide range of issues that the author deals with the complexity, creativity, rich inspiration, but also the maturity of the writer are manifested. The plot of the novel takes place far in the future when people have already realized the possibility of interplanetary travel, but the civilization they encounter on their journey has almost medieval features, as indicated by the title of the novel. The Daneon kingdom on the planet Teuron is a world they encounter and is nuancedly different from the history of the Earth, and it is precisely these similarities that are the very core of the novel. There are also people who have similar characteristics to those on Earth, and the planet itself is full of various striking features, mostly flora and fauna, but also mysterious properties. The story that this novel tells takes place through the eyes of the main character, Valdemar, the captain of the spaceship “Light Arrow V”, but on two narrative levels – in the past and the present. On one side is the world of advanced technology represented by Captain Valdemar, and on the other the fantastic world of Alai Bimbur, a violin teacher, and Fedor, Prince of the Daneon Kingdom. Both worlds, i.e. the levels of narration, are intertwined and connected in ways that draw the reader into mosaic and complex relationships between their temporal, spatial, moral and other dimensions. On the one hand, the novel is deeply imbued with dynamic action, tension, twists, motifs that are conventional for the science fiction genre, and on the other hand with humanistic motifs and a philosophical message. One of the key motives is music, which in a broader sense can be understood as art, and in this novel it is manifested in the violin. Friendship is also a motive that transcends the boundaries of the usual notion of interpersonal relationships, it is the initiator of the action, its essence and guiding thought. Furthermore, the author focuses on the philosophical concepts of good and (radical) evil, and consequently on the issues of destiny, freedom and responsibility for one’s own deeds. But these individual questions impose a broader sphere of questioning – the relationship between body and soul, that is, science and humanity. The peculiarity of the almost black-and-white characterization, unusual for postmodern literature, results in the romanticization of the characters, which at the very end of the novel makes an even stronger impression and offers a powerful moral message. The boundaries of genres and classic features of the novel are surpassed by a kaleidoscope of motifs and themes that provide a comprehensive reading experience, and the open end hints at the continuation of the fantastic story of the Knight of the White Deer and provides an opportunity for another exciting reading.
A book Confessions of a Stranger is an impressive novel about a stranger coming to Croatia during the civil war where he meets numerous people who were greatly affected by war atrocities. Amongst them is Ana, a woman who suffered her father’s and her husband’s deaths and who came to Zagreb in a refugee convoy with her mother and son. She is suffering from a serious depression, and a stranger, whose name is not mentioned and who is having a dialogue with his other Self – which is his life story – invites her to move in with him. With no consideration for Ana’s condition, her boy’s growing up and her sick mother, the stranger is playing a diabolical game, as back home he is married with two children. This novel is dedicated to fates of war affected people.
In the network of contemporary communications, behind the computer screens, people all over the world are seeking for a myriad of things, some, or maybe even many of them, are trying to fulfil their secret, most profound and most intimate wishes, desires and failed life dreams. Thus the novel «Obsession» introduces the reader into such a world, existing in a chat-room, with invisible, virtual threads connecting people hundreds, even thousands of kilometres apart in real lives. The virtual world is enchanting with the illusion of intimacy and almost tangible connection between the two main characters, Lidija from Croatia and Menelik from the Netherlands, which in real life eventually has a tragic, fatal ending. This novel discloses a virtual dialogue and the world of fiction and illusion dramatically shattering relentless borders of reality where it reaches its utter breakdown. The book was published with the support of Croatian Ministry of Culture.
After years of academic career in the research of oriental philosophies, an area in which the author published several philosophical studies and books, in this novel titled “A Cherry Blossom. A Japanese Story” the author decided to transform her knowledge of Japanese culture into a Romanesque creation in a form of a novel. The story is situated in a Zen monastery near Kyoto in 12 century, with main characters who are historical individuals, recorded throughout the development of Zen Buddhism. The author attempted to bring them to life in a Romanesque manner as to transform fundamental categories of Zen Buddhism such as “koan”, “impassable passage” and “enlightenment” into a vivid story through a story of Japanese culture and a love story that was imbedded into it. A story of three historical characters – Enrika, a Buddhist disciple, Hakuinen, a Zen teacher, and Emsho, a Buddhist disciple – carries a vivacity and dynamics in the very story and all aspects of Japanese culture, from the tea ceremony to interpreting and studying in a Zen monastery rendering thus a firm structure of culture and particularly valued personal experience of reality.
Chat rooms were part of a virtual world. That virtual world, however, revealed a lot about the true reality although it was, as the main character Nela realised over a period of time, completely fictional and fake and everything opposing the true image of the world. Nela started wondering what virtual reality really was – was it a mixture of each and every part there was, as she rendered them in her arabesques and mosaics, of all pieces and bits of human experience shaping up from various perspectives into a single, unique image. Nela thought the virtual world was probably made of such pieces of realty flowing from the real into the virtual, but never really able to completely disguise the virtual. Therefore virtual reality did not really exist itself. There was only a transformation of reality into virtuality through the filter of the untouchable. That was what deeply interested Nela, the virtual reality where we only, regardless what true reality is, what we feel it like, what we touch or smell or observe it like – these being also present – hypostatized into the world that isn’t, yet very much is, regarding everything that takes place right in that virtual world which, if it were merged with the reality, sometimes reflects true images, sometimes however the reverse side thereof, an image between the reality and virtuality.
“The Chinese Orchid Bud. An Incredible Story” is a kind of an outline of the era from 1980 onwards, when the beginning of artistic painting started, as influenced by the philosophies of life, the art and the literature of the East and Eastern traditions. This is when fine art students Lidija, the main character, and her best boy friend, Ognjen, started discovering new dimensions of expressions in painting, new painting techniques and new forms of the conscious and lifestyles. It was the time when avant-garde blossomed, along with experimenting in all types of arts and philosophies of life. Lidija and Ognjen’s personal development and evolving are set in those college times of uncovering one’s own views; hippie movement and the avant-garde were the concoction defining the life paths of the main characters. The generation of 1980s painters grew up in times allowing freedom for all kinds of artistic expressions. Lidija and Ognjen, having broken up with their love partners, found employment in the secondary school for fine arts, which was the ultimate failure for both artists as independent creators, which they both had always dreamt of. Today, in their 50s, forgotten and pushed away to the cultural margins of Zagreb, they have come to terms with never reaching again what they had in their youth. Yet, they remained true to their artistic freedom ever since they were students. Lidija kept painting, whereas Ognjen settled down as a book and magazine designer, which he found comforting after his works being misunderstood and rejected ever since his studies. The treadmill sustained until Lidija started having the same dream all over again; two people kept coming to her dreams – Zhuang and Enrike, the two Chinese characters who showed her various scenes of living from all over the world. The dream was fraught with images and the following morning Lidija would put down these images on her canvas. She decided to look for an explanation in various new-age lines of readings, went through the whole new-age subculture shebang, until she finally found an answer in Chinese wisdom books. These dreams were the incentive to both Lidija and Ognjen to finally realise their dreams they had in their youths.
In the near future the life happens in separated environments defined by people’s numbers. A short novel “Lami” depicts grim lost world where science and technology are not used to humanity’s benefit but only to the advantage of the privileged who use all scientific achievements to reinforce their own rule by introducing mysterious sets of values upon the undereducated population and by limiting any freedom. In the far future a crew from a terrestrial spaceship finds an unusual planet where the ruling class maintains their supremacy by implementing a bizarre mixture of para-logic, meta-science and fantasy – all concentrated in a familiar atmosphere of belief and fear the Earth itself was not immune to. The behaviour of the indigenous population is a test of the integrity and morality of the crew. The book was written in Canada and is an extension of previous author’s work.