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 Told through a series of “historical documents”—memoirs, illustrations, letters, philosophical treatises, blue prints, and maps — the novel details the story of these interventions and the historical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.

Svetislav Basara: другие книги автора

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Do you understand? No, Sire. Even better. Write. The division in the churches is necessary because of historical progress. The Eastern Church mustered the strength to bear the cross and become a martyr. The deadly sin of her sister, the Roman curia, was not debauchery, not Simony, not the sale of indulgences, but architecture. It will spread in the west in order to raise its buildings, in order to spread its earthly kingdom. Will Maxim the Confessor discover America? No. Christopher Columbus will find it. But not before the Renaissance. Sire, you keep mentioning the Renaissance. Yes, if you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes reality. That’s the everyday magic of words. Just as I kept repeating Grossman, Grossman, Grossman, until you finally appeared at my side in that damned tavern, full of quotations and rage, real, but also false. So I keep repeating the Renaissance, the Renaissance, the Renaissance. And the result? In 1369 — Bogdan Suchodolski will write — Leonardo Bruni will be born. That’s the wrong date. The real date is 1368. But that changes nothing. Write, so that Suchodolski will have someone to copy from: 1380 — the birth of Poggio Bracciolini, 1377 — Filippo Brunelleschi, 1378 — Lorenzo Gilberti; in 1386 the famous Donatello will be born, Fra Angelico circa 1390, Jan Van Eyck in 1397, that same year (underline it) Johann Gutenberg. The material basis of desacralization is, essentially, laid; the dates are perhaps not accurate, but there’s not much use in chronology anyway. We have to wait for the year 1401 for one of our own to be born, Nicholas of Kues. And don’t ask superfluous questions. Do not try to discover that which you cannot find out. Remember once and for all, Grossman, we are not interested in history. We are interested in its ruin. Others are here to see that history is made. We are meant to undermine it. Don’t forget that the characteristic of our time, according to Suchodolski, and I quote, is “the mystical hope of fixing the world by destroying it.” I don’t understand, Sire; these contradictions aren’t clear to me. You don’t understand, Grossman. You have a German name with two ornate Ss, and you don’t know that the WEST in German is ABENDLAND — the land of twilight. No, Sire. What language are we speaking then? What alphabet are you using to write down my words? Nothing can be confirmed with certainty. Why is that so, Sire? Because everything is relative. Does that mean anything to you? No, Sire. Let me explain: Everything is relative because E=MC2.

To keep Grossman from accusing me of heresy, I’m thinking in cursive. I closed my eyes and I’m watching him through the slit between my eyelashes, which confuses me because my eyelashes are down there, on my body, on the throne. One way or the other, it is impossible to avoid anthropomorphism. I am watching, as I said, Grossman. Thinking that I am asleep, he’s adding in his disloyal footnotes. From down on the throne, I could (since the connections are never broken) cry out: Guards, arrest Grossman! But what’s the point? Like the professors of whom he is the forerunner, he has simply convinced himself that he can smuggle in the truth, and somehow deserve his place in some sort of musty book. Those are the very historical errors with which I am constantly obsessed. Why do the superficial souls so easily accept the thesis that history is a continuum in which one event causes another, which is complete nonsense? I can see, I swear to God, everything that has happened and everything that will happen, insofar as that is possible for a man. There is no cause-effect relationship. It is all just a whim of mine. The Spirit allowed me to write history. Not because of my abilities. Just as easily it could have given that task to Grossman, and nothing would change. I don’t know how to explain that. If this is all not just a dream, I can see the future of the miserable New Europe with absolute clarity, not because that future is a necessity, but because I want it to be that way. Let me repeat: the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Gothic, the Baroque, the Enlightenment, Rationalism, Bacon, Boehme, Descartes, Spinoza, Malebranche, Locke, Grotius, Hobbes, Cudworth, Pufendorf, Newton, Leibnitz, Wolf, Berkeley, Hume, Helvétius, Rousseau, Jacobi, Kant, Fichte, Schlegel, Novalis, Schelling, Hegel, Marx. Then came two of our own: Joseph Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili, no, first came Joseph Fitzgerald Queensdale, then he. Just names that I dreamed up, but which will usurp those bodies and minds, thinking that they are a necessity and not just a whim. All those learned gentlemen will feel challenged to discuss the past, never guessing that they are just a tile in a mosaic that should be taken apart. All of that is being demolished. Atomized. History is nothing more than the process of the continuous atomization of property. Once long ago, the owner of the Earth was its creator, God. Then the Earth was ruled by kings. Then came feudalism, followed by capitalism, and finally socialism where everyone is the owner, where everyone owns everything, but there is nothing left to own.

From time to time, I’m overcome by doubt. It is not to be excluded that all of this is just a dream. Perhaps those future positivists, with that fellow Meier among them, are correct after all when they claim that I am just an ordinary mystification. I will leave that possibility open, but things will unwind just as I foresaw them and predetermined them, regardless of my ontological status. And not just that. I know the conditions under which all of this will collapse in flames. It is possible to do that even now, I mean in terms of metaphysics; but the technological knowledge of my epoch has not reached the state where it can solve the purely technical problem of the apocalypse. I must leave that to the future generations, to the new sort who will, defying gravity, ride on magical two-wheelers, despised by the world, just like our Lord who rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. There you have it, including such hesitations in my reflections, I am once again proving that I have a democratic orientation. Which is one more historical paradox: the democrats of the future will not allow their dreams to be called into doubt. With their heads full of the thoughts of the dead who came before them, doubting nothing whatsoever, they will bravely march forward and become dead men themselves. True enough, we will help them with all our might. Having slipped in among their ranks, clandestinely. We will construct their machines, which Grossman believes to be the contraptions of the Devil. The fool. The Devil was never so obvious. But the machines are a theological problem after all. Just as God created man, and man rebelled against his creator, so will man create machines and the machines will rebel against people. Hegel will write about this in the parable of the master and the slave. One day, machines will be able to think. Huh, if such a thought ever crossed Grossman’s mind, he would tie himself to the stake and set himself on fire. The dogmatic consciousness that sees only here and now, never dreaming that they have already become the past. And not only will machines think, they will think faster and better than people. There you have it, the beginnings of cybernetics! People will stop thinking. They will become stunted. They will grow dull from their laziness and vices. The difference is great between them and, let’s say, me: I have the ability to reflect on all of that, observe Grossman, and at the same time I am holding an audience of tavern owners and passing judgments in the ridiculous court cases of my subjects. Why, even Grossman, in comparison to the future generations, seems to be a genius. All kinds of thoughts are roaming through his head at the same time while he is writing down my soliloquy, but all of that, as Lenin would (and will) say is… petit-bourgeois, petty-minded. Grossman can think of nothing without getting himself involved, without calculating whether something is profitable for him or not. A typical modern man. One night I psychoanalyzed him, just for fun, and he thought I was interrogating him. And this was my conclusion: Grossman is an orthodox Christian just because Christianity is the state religion of our time, not to mention a matter of decorum, a rule of proper manners. However, if he were accidentally born at the beginning of the 20th century, I’ll bet that he would be in the first ranks to charge the Winter Palace. As pedantic as he is, he would create a fine career for himself, but sooner or later Dzhugashvili would get rid of him, just as I will, sooner or later, get rid of him, though in a subtle way so that he thinks he is dying a natural death and has a place waiting for him in heaven. But the means of getting rid of someone are a matter of the tastes of a time. In any case, because of his faithful service, he will be buried in his marvelous mausoleum, embellished with his name including two large Ss.

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