COMPARTMENTS by Zoran Zivkovic
As I said previously, there are a number of wonderful books about to be published--or already published, in the case of Zoran Zivkovic's Compartments, a short novel or long novella already available in English in continental Europe, and soon to be published in the UK magazine Postscripts from PS Publishing.
Compartments follows an unnamed individual through the various compartments of a train, wherein he encounters any number of odd or humorous people. It's hard to convey the sense of dry humor and yet melancholy that permeates Compartments. But it's a potent combination, combined with some very effective description and specific detail. The structure is similar to Stepan Chapman's "Minutes of the Last Meeting" from Leviathan 2, but the effect is entirely different. Is it allegory? Perhaps. But what I most enjoyed about it were the little moments, the interplay between the narrator and the people he discovers. I also found this novella to be different in tone from the Calvino-meets-Twilight-Zone melange of some of Zivkovic's short stories. Highly recommended, and hopefully more readily available in English soon.
Here's a short excerpt from the book.
I ran as fast as my legs would carry me.
The carriage had just pulled away from the buffer at the end of the track. Even though it was still moving slowly, had I been carrying any luggage, particularly anything heavy, I wouldn't have made it. Luckily, all I was holding was my coat and hat.
I didn't know how to get onto a moving carriage. Was I first supposed to jump onto the step on the platform of the last car and then grab hold of the handrail, or the other way around? Who knows what I would have done if the back door hadn't opened just as I caught up to the car. The conductor came out onto the platform.
"Give me your hand!" he shouted.
I stretched out the arm with my coat thrown over it. He grabbed my hand and heaved mightily. The next instant I was standing next to him on the platform.
"Wonderful!" said the conductor with a smile.
"I'm sorry," I replied, out of breath.
"Come, now! You have no reason to excuse yourself. Quite the contrary. I'm delighted that you joined us. Welcome!"
He patted me lightly on the shoulder. We stood there for several moments without speaking, smiling at each other.
"I'm afraid I don't have a ticket," I said contritely.
"The ticket isn't important. The essential thing is that you made it."
"I'm extremely grateful to you."
"Let's go in," said the conductor, moving aside to let me enter first.