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Sitnicarnica Kod srecne ruke. (Serbian).

Goran Petrovic Sitnicarnica Kod srecne ruke Belgrade. Narodna Knjiga 2000. 327 pages

GORAN PETROVIC'S novel Sitnicarnica Kod srecne ruke (Dime Store the Lucky One) received two prestigious literary awards and quickly ran through five printings. Narrated in reverse, the story takes place in Belgrade at the beginning of the twentieth century. The protagonists meet only by way of books, never in real life. The fact that they read the same books without seeing or even knowing each other unites them, even makes them fall in love. On the one side there is Anastas Branica, who lives with his loving mother and strict stepfather, a rich attorney, who sends him to Paris to study and advance in his profession. But Anastas never fulfills his stepfather's expectations. After ten years he returns to an empty house, since both his mother and stepfather have died.

Anastas's passion for reading overwhelms him. On the pages of numerous books he "meets" a French girl living in Belgrade. Slowly they get to know each other, even though they never come face to face. The French girl is closely looked after by a governess, but she manages to elude her from time to time. Anastas does not work, but instead spends his stepfather's wealth. He builds a luxurious house for his "beloved," filled with items of the highest quality and elegance. He hires the most renowned experts in architecture, landscaping, decorating, and everything else. This telepathic love affair comes to an abrupt end when the French girl marries and returns to France. Anastas decides to remove from his letters all descriptions of nature, the imaginary cottage, the beautiful park, et cetera, and to make a novel out of this epistolary relationship. His book, titled "My Endowment," receives very negative criticism, and Anastas, impoverished and pushed to the margins of existence, commits suicide by drowning.

There are other characters in the novel: the bookseller's daughter Natalija, who helps Anastas purchase hundreds of books and is in love with him; a young student of literature; a proofreader, Adam Lozanic, whose task is to edit "My Endowment." In real life, Adam becomes acquainted with Natalija's companion Jelena, a young student of English, and another love story ensues. "Dime Store" also abounds in such phantasmagoric scenes as the heroine's visit to the fourth floor of the nonexistent dime store to do her shopping. At the imaginary store, called "At the Lucky One," various characters buy their commodities.

As can be seen, the composition of the novel is quite complex, but Goran Petrovic (b. 1961) skillfully avoids all the pitfalls. It must be stressed that he has a fine feeling for language and its subtleties, desisting from the modern trend of making up new words which the reader often cannot understand. With such acclaimed works as "Advice for Easter" (1989), "Atlas Circumscribed by the Sky" (1993), "The Island and Other Stories" (1996), "The Siege of the Church of Saint Salvation" (1997), and now "Dime Store the Lucky One," Petrovic has become one of the most promising Serbian writers of today.
Nadezda Obradovic
University of Belgrade
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Author:Obradovic, Nadezda
Publication:World Literature Today
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 22, 2001
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