I’ve always loved books, but I was relatively late in realising that I would deal seriously with literature
My father was a professor of literature, so a library occupied the central spot in our home, but my mother was the one to introduce me to the science fiction genre. I grew up reading the works of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, comics that won over the hearts and souls of the kids of the then Yugoslavia, the adventure novels of Karl May, short fantasy prose works that appeared in Zagreb-based magazine Sirius, the best fantasy works in the Andromeda almanacs and Biblioteka Kentaur [Centaur Library]. Still, it seems that the greatest turning point for me was the moment I realised I could read books in English, without the need for translation.
I was about 14 at the time, and an entirely new universe had opened up to me. I suddenly no longer had to wait for local publishers to release translations of books that interested me – in Belgrade back then, in the second half of the 1970s, several bookshops sold (very affordable) pocketsized paperback books in English and other languages and, of course, almost all of my pocket money went on Robert E. Howard’s books about Conan or Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels (or, more precisely, whatever pocket money was left after I’d purchased the latest long-play gramophone records or, as they’re called today, vinyl).
It was while studying law that I got acquainted with the exciting world of contemporary horror literature, first via the books of Stephen King, such as Night Shift or Christine, and then those of other bestselling horror writers, like James Herbert or Dan Simmons. Back then, I was already trying to write my own short prose works, although I was convinced that, upon finishing my studies, I’d start working at some law office and spend my entire working life practising criminal law. Then, sometime in 1987, the aforementioned Sirius magazine, which was as indispensable to my generation as the Alan Ford comic book or the famous Stripoteka comic magazine, agreed to publish my story Poklon s neba [Gift from the Heavens]. That was an exceptional honour for a twenty-five-year-old: the country’s highest authority in the domain of Sci-Fi publishing considered something that I’d written worth publishing! That was fantastic motivation and an incentive for me to continue writing.
I mostly address my own generation with the books I now write; the generation that recognises the influence of the youth and adventure literature that we all grew up with, but likewise also younger people, for whom the internet replaced the school and children’s libraries during that same formative period of growing up. The latest two-volume novel that I wrote together with Ivan Nešić, Firentinski dublet [The Florentine Doublet], was written precisely with that objective in mind – to return that seductive and irresistible joy of reading to readers.
In parallel with conceiving stories that could prove interesting and exciting to fans of the genre, I also began translating. I found my main motivation for that in a desire to share the literary works that delighted me with my nearest and dearest, who lacked sufficient knowledge of English to read the original versions. During the 1980s and early ‘90s, I played a very active role in Belgrade’s Lazar Komarčić Science Fiction Association and translated many works for its newsletter, the Emitor fanzine, and not only fictional works, but also articles and journalistic features from foreign magazines of the genre. At the end of 1987, I read Stephen King’s then-magnum opus, It, and wanted to translate that magnificent novel for a local publisher. I suggested to Boban Knežević that he publish it, but he wasn’t interested in such a voluminous work, so he concisely proposed something that would otherwise never have crossed my mind: that I publish that book myself! No sooner said than done: I acquired the rights (I still keep that contract, the last page of which has King’s signature right next to mine!), and following the translation work that lasted almost a year (the text covers almost 1,500 standard pages), It went on sale, in two volumes. And all of a sudden that translation, as they say, “put me on the map”.
I mostly address my own generation with the books I now write; the generation that recognises the influence of the youth and adventure literature that we all grew up with, but likewise also younger people, for whom the internet replaced the school and children’s libraries during that same formative period of growing up. The latest two-volume novel that I wrote together with Ivan Nešić, Firentinski dublet [The Florentine Doublet], was written precisely with that objective in mind – to return that seductive and irresistible joy of reading to readers. And judging by their reactions, we succeeded in that. And in a way we closed the circle, or, as today’s kids would say, “we turned the game around”. Thinking of that always brings a smile to my face.