Svetislav Basara: The Cyclist Conspiracy

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Svetislav Basara The Cyclist Conspiracy
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    The Cyclist Conspiracy
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    Open Letter
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    Современная проза / на английском языке
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The Cyclist Conspiracy: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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The Cyclist Conspiracy tells the tale of a secret Brotherhood who meet in dreams, gain esoteric knowledge from contemplation of the bicycle, and seek to move in and out of history, manipulating events; the Brothers are part of a conspiracy so vast and so secret that, in many cases, the conspirators themselves are unaware of their participation in it. Told through a series of “historical documents”—memoirs, illustrations, letters, philosophical treatises, blue prints, and maps — the novel details the story of these interventions and the historical moments where the Brotherhood has made their influence felt, from the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand to a lost story of Sherlock Holmes. Masterfully intertwining the threads of waking and dreams into the fabric of the present, the past, and the future, Svetislav Basara’s Pynchon-esque The Cyclist Conspiracy is a bold, funny, and imaginative romp.

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Open Letter — the University of Rochester’s nonprofit, literary translation press — is one of only a handful of publishing houses dedicated to increasing access to world literature for English readers. Publishing ten titles in translation each year, Open Letter searches for works that are extraordinary and influential, works that we hope will become the classics of tomorrow.

Making world literature available in English is crucial to opening our cultural borders, and its availability plays a vital role in maintaining a healthy and vibrant book culture. Open Letter strives to cultivate an audience for these works by helping readers discover imaginative, stunning works of fiction and by creating a constellation of international writing that is engaging, stimulating, and enduring.

Current and forthcoming titles from Open Letter include works from Argentina, Bulgaria, Catalonia, China, Iceland, Poland, and many other countries.

~ ~ ~

* In ink that becomes visible only after two-hundred years, majordomo Grossman left the following note in the margins of the manuscript:

“On the order of the king-dishwasher I am copying this nonsense full of blasphemy and spitting upon me, Grossman, I who was just about to finish my doctorate and I who would be a doctor if evil tongues had not accused me of heresy. The fact is that he sees the future; any fool can prophesy. But what else can an educated man do in this time except to put up with the whims of madmen. Charles has become arrogant. He boasts of being the keeper of the faith, and he doesn’t believe in God, nor does God believe in him. A few years ago he knelt before the crucifix, just for the sake of things (may the omnipotent one forgive me), and the cross fell down and knocked old Hideous on the head. Since then the knot on his head has not receded. It makes him even more hideous, if that’s possible. In associating with me in that unfortunate tavern he learned a little bit about theology and now he constantly babbles about it to the courtiers who, pretending, flatter him and shout their approval. Why, recently he humiliated me in front of the followers while we were discussing whether women have souls. Non habet, I claimed, and was proving it, when Charles says: Huh, not only do they not have a soul, women don’t exist at all. And then he said that since he had placed the vagina as the center of the female organism he had cleared the way for Nicolaus Copernicus, and that since he claimed that women don’t exist, he was the forerunner of existentialism, some devilish thing. God save us! But even the Devil isn’t that dark. Realizing that he’d gone too far, he feigned to repent and confessed. But not for long. As soon as Father Albert, his confessor, came back from the blasphemy he had to listen to, the Hideous executed Queen Margot just because she returned a look from the Baron Von Kurtiz. He executed the baron as well, of course. He boasts of having driven nails into the back of the throne, that he is constantly crucifying himself. He did put the nails in, but he also took a file and shaved them dull by his own hand. And anyway, because of his rheumatism, he always wears an ox-hide vest. The genius of half truth. Now he wants to write the history of the world ahead of time, and I have to participate in that lunacy. May God have mercy on me and on Europe.”

** Note: The text of Majordomo Grossman is reproduced from the journal Oblique (3, 1967), dedicated in its entirety to the history of European heresies.

*** In 726, Leo III openly spoke out against the cult of icons for the first time. Bishops from Asia Minor, iconoclasts, certainly had an influence on him as they had visited Istanbul just before that; also, a powerful earthquake also had an influence on him, because he, in the spirit of the times, took that as a sign of God’s wrath, caused by icon worship. First, he held sermons in which he attempted to convince the people that respect of icons was against the Christian faith. (G. Ostrogorsky, The History of the Byzantine State)

**** The dream mentioned by Kowalsky is fairly well-known, and is related to dreams that come just before the alarm clock rings. In such cases, the long and logical flow of dreaming overlaps with the ringing.

***** Here is, among other things, what one of the members of the Order of the Bicyclists of the Rose Cross, Lewis Mumford, says: “The clock is, in addition, such an operational machine whose ‘products’ are seconds and minutes: in its essential nature it separated time from human events and helped to create belief in an independent world of mathematics and measurable sequences: an independent world of science. In everyday human experience there is proportionally little basis for that belief. During the year, days do not last the same amount of time, and the shorter travel from the east to the west changes astronomic time by a certain number of minutes.”

****** Headed straight in a familiar direction, I entered the desert…

******* Not far from that place is the building where the Dictionary of Technology will be authored 40 years later.

******** The later development of events showed that the visions of the Grand Master became a reality. It was no accident that the architect Speer was at the very top of the Nazi hierarchy, just as it was no accident that Tatlin’s project for the monument at the 3rd International was a slightly modified structure of the Tower of Babylon.

******** In the jargon of the camps, the words “charge,” “camp,” “sentence” were never used. Inmates usually used euphemisms in their communication with one another.

******** On his numerous journeys, Kowalsky stayed in Tibet several times and sojourned twice on Mt. Athos. In 1938, he spent two months in the Sinai desert with the monks, feeding on roots and insects. Kowalsky destroyed his notes from those journeys, and his diary as well.

******** Lenin himself had a bad, practically degrading, opinion of the personality of J. Humbert-Droz. In his Letter to Inessa Armand, (editor’s note) Lenin calls him “Tolstoy’s philistine.”

******** Evangelical Bicyclists: an athletic-esoteric association of refined and idle intellectuals, one of many that sprang up like mushrooms between the two World Wars. Some people are of the opinion that the legend of the bicyclists is just the advertising gimmick of one of the bicycle factories. (editor’s note)

******** There are some indications that, in the 1930s, the KGB formed a brigade for action in the dream-world, but that J. V. Stalin did away with it because it was unscientific.

******** If I had not given the superintendent the pen, that gentleman would have given him one, and I would have ended up on the gallows. That’s how things are connected.

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