Diary of Conquered Architects
Collection of short stories
Year of publication: 2006
Word count: 41.390
Copyright belongs to the author
This is a collection of exciting and well-written short stories – precisely the ones that open the door to characters forgotten by history. The author is this time a shrewd archaeologist who digs for “the remains of stories” in the dark nooks of “great” historical events at the very end of WWII in Belgrade, finding them in Belgrade’s elite district of Neimar-Kotež (“neimar” – Serbian, builder).
There he finds exciting life dramas of interesting, ”small” people for whom fate has written strange and wicked didaskalia between the lines of their (on the first sight only) quite ordinary lives. There are negligible people, who leave no trace behind. “But even they do not fall into oblivion” said the Master. Some weird Swedes decided to remember them. All over the independent Sweden, which did not witness the devastation of WWII, they founded bureaus to note only the insignificant lives of not just Swedes, but of all people in the world”, says the narrator, who belongs to that literary movement himself. The movement that writes “The Encyclopaedia of the Dead” on the territory of the already mentioned Neimar.
Thus we get a book of eight short stories with action taking place between 1944 and 1948. At the time of new liberators arriving, we read life stories of unusual characters who meet the victors with a certain anxiety, even fear, completely confused and mainly bundled within their previous lives.
The collection opens with one of Gatalica’s best stories about a Russian countess in Neimar and her servant, a pianist with nine moveable fingers. Aleksandar Gatalica then gives us a compelling picture of the characters’ ramified ways, to show us the downfall of their lives in the end: there is a story of former assistant in an imported merchandise shop, who becomes a merciless partisan victor chasing his former friends down the streets of Neimar; there is a story of a painter who commits a whole range of transgressions because of a war-time portrait, in order to conceal it – the war-time one; there is an extraordinary story about invoking ghosts through cards; finally, there is a story of a colonel called He, who goes mad and ushers himself into a communist paradise where shoes are changed on a daily basis, and every family has got their own dirigible...
Although writing clearly, through the voice of the narrator, the voice full of mystery keeping the reader involved with the story till the very end, Aleksandar Gatalica’s short stories collected in this book are crisp, full, never hollow, with good vicissitudes that turn many things into conflict of opposites.