prose

Želimir Periš: Excerpt from Mima and Squaring the Debt

"A writer enters into the lives and personalities of his characters, their living situations as well as their emotional ones. That’s the immeasurable richness writing offers." (Periš, Želimir. Interviewed by Melita Vrsaljko, ziher.hr, 23.11.2013).

Read an excerpt from Periš's novel, Mima and Squaring the Debt, below. Translation by Paula Jurišić.



 

Mtg. Café by the sea. Jopa was looking around as usual, carefully making sure that they are not arousing suspicion, and Mima, for first time that week, felt relaxed. He was leaned back in his chair with his hands behind his head enjoying himself. Those long coffee hours out in the street, in the deep shade are some of the comforts of the Mediterranean. A true break on a hectic day, distraction from thoughts about the electricity cut off, debts or estranged daughters, or drug dealers and hackers gone wild. All you can feel is the smell of your espresso and pine trees, the sound of crickets in the air and the mighty sun above the shade.

“What’s up kid? Please, make it good news only for today?”

“Great news, Mima, great news.We’ve annexed Arcadia”, Jopa claped his hands joyuously. “A world of almost five thousand people. There was this harsh feudalism, we moved slowly and bit by bit, they have awoken. We had to start a war, however, dammit, a big battle took place this weekend, I’m not saying that the end justifies the means, but things get complex. The crowd has no idea what’s good for them. But the important thing is that we have Arcadia. It’s what mattered to us. Because of the name, get it? Arcadia – the old school utopia.”

Jopa was into computer games. He spent every minute in virtual reality, bringing on virtual revolutions, tearing down imaginary systems. Gamers live parallel lives, he used to say. An extra value added to your everyday life, game as the VAT on life.

“Way to go kid. Are you the president?”

“Anarchist utopia knows no presidents, you dumbass.”

Mima was not going to let that upset him. He kept enjoying himself with his eyes closed. He could smell coffee and pine trees, exhaust coming from the cars passing by and, for a brief moment, he thought the breeze brought the smell of the sea. That’s how good his day was.

“Actually”, says Jopa reluctantly, “we do have something like a representative. She is not the president because Utopia knows no traditional power structures, but she is, in a way, a prominent representative. And I am the captain of the council”, he adds shyly.

“A woman? You are hanging out with a woman?”

“Well…technically, I’m not sure if she is a woman. You never know with the internet.” Jopa nervously hides his face behind a large glass of iced coffee and takes a sip. “But she might be a woman.”

A couple of sparrows approach their table and Jopa prepares them a small meal. He empties two sachets of sugar on a tiny plate and spills some water over it. He stirs it with his finger and then licks it, it seems just fine so he serves the meal on a sidewalk.

“Eat, you poor and helpless. Everyone is entitled to his own dose of sweet”, he preached to the birds. At first, the sparrows were suspiciously approaching the plate cautiously pecking the sugar, but soon they felt safe. In a few minutes there were already a couple of them enjoying the treat, and nearby, a pigeon appeared as well.

“Always the pigeons”, Jopa sighed.

Mima was blissfully dozing off and enjoying the freshness of an imaginary breeze.

“I called you because of Medo, the drug dealer” says Jopa ruining his moment of peace and quiet.

“What about him?”

“I asked around about the court policy and I realized we have a problem.”

“I don’t wanna hear about it.”

“It’s about Medanic”, Jopa went on ignoring him. “You see, he told the police he used to buy drug at the Small Market. You denied it and removed all the evidence from your computer. If it stays that way we should be OK for a while – he said, she said – the police shouldn’t be able to connect the dots. But, if Medo, the dealer repeats that in the court and it goes on the record, we’re screwed; the judge might want to look into it. Even if he doesn’t do it right away, he will most definitely do it once the Small Market is mentioned again in the court room. Shortly, Medo, the dealer isn’t supposed to mention the Small Market in the court room, otherwise we’re fucked.

It was a risk they were always aware of. Unavoidable scenario that would release all the internet stuff into the real world was a lurking danger. They weren’t fooling themselves, they are not stupid. When working the Small Market you might as well expect some shit sooner or later.

They were cautious from day one, even though things were then nothing like today. Jopa had a nickname Malatesta at a time and he was a devoted anarchist always ready for an argument and discussion. He was twenty three years old and he never worked a day in his life. Mima was thirty three back then. He shared one and a half bedroom apartment with his mother and would travel to Zagreb twice a year so he could spend an afternoon with his daughter. The thing he and Jopa had in common was their hatred towards the ruling kleptocracy, the bastards in the Opposition and the parody of a second-hand democracy.

They kept taking a dig at the state over coffee, and the state responded in every single way. Week by week they scraped a living, systems engineer and a self-taught programmer unfit for a life in the city, a city with an unemployment rate higher than the birth rate, incapable of making a decent living.

And then, out of the blue, Jopa came to shine. Excited and aroused he waved those hands of his fervently performing his act. We’ll create a web, he said. Internet is the future, a system crushing platform. And I am not talking about the lousy Google, public web; I am talking about the secret Internet. Online places accessible only to those who know where are they are headed and what they are looking for. Places that can only be accessed through special browsers. Browsers protecting your privacy, so no one could tell who you are or see where you come from. That’s what I’m talking about. Nowadays, technology can guarantee privacy and secrecy – now is the moment. We’ll create a web, an online anarchist society of equals with no state to control them, Jopa preached enthusiastically.

He locked himself in his room and three months later he came up with a well-thought solution. He has programmed The Crib – an online anarchist society, online utopia, a place where all anarchists would be able to operate in secrecy and bring down the whole system. The world was at their feet. Less than three years after the world was after them.

“How safe is it to shut down the Small Market?” asked Mima.

“Don’t bullshit me Mima. You know damn well I am on it.”

“We can’t be traced.”

“There’s nothing, we’re clean as a whistle. Not even saint Peter with his heavenly hounds could trace us; connect us with the Small Market. Not the server lease, not an access log, nothing. All we have to do now is sell Bitcoins. Withdraw the cash. Take the money and run.”

At Small Market you trade with virtual money. When he programmed it, Jopa knew exactly what he wanted. – money no institution controls, no bank deals with, money belonging to the people, to its users. There was an Internet solution, a stable currency based on computer algorithms, not directory boards of state institutions. An account with a virtual currency cannot be frozen, taxed or tracked. Bitcoins were the perfect currency for the anarchist utopia. The only problem was the real money.

“We need an account in a Croatian bank so we could transfer the money. Since yours is completely useless, you might wanna open a new one”, Jopa suggested.

“Why don’t you open one?”

“Well, fuck that shit, I’ll never do that.”

By Želimir Periš

Translated by Paula Jurišić

panorama

An Interview with Bekim Sejranovic

Read Bekim Sejranović's thoughts on adventure, the flow of life and why Rijeka is why one of the most special places in the world to him.

panorama

Zagreb's Amazing Daughters

International Women’s Day offers the opportunity to reflect on amazing women that have made a lasting impression on the world. But recognizing the important ways women shape and impact our world shouldn’t be limited to one day out of the year. Check out some of Zagreb’s most memorable women in the link below.

panorama

Untranslatable Croatian Phrases

What’s the best way for an open-minded foreigner to get straight to the heart of another culture and get a feel for what makes people tick? Don’t just sample the local food and drink and see the major sights, perk up your ears and listen. There’s nothing that gives away the local flavor of a culture more than the common phrases people use, especially ones that have no direct translation.

Check out a quirky list of untranslatable Croatian phrases from Croatian cultural guide extraordinaire, Andrea Pisac, in the link below:

panorama

Jonathon Bousfield on the Museum of Broken Relationships

Just got out of a serious relationship and don't know what to do with all those keepsakes and mementos of your former loved one? The very popular and probably most unique museum in Zagreb, the Museum of Broken Relationships, dedicated to preserving keepsakes alongside the diverse stories of relationships gone wrong, will gladly take them. Find out how the museum got started and take an in-depth look at some of its quirkiest pieces in the link below.

panorama

The Lasting Impact of the 1980s on Zagreb

Find out how the 1980s, which saw the pinnacle of the domestic music scene, uncertain and rapidly changing political circumstances, and a more open and critical media, shaped the soul of modern-day Zagreb.

panorama

Cool Things To Do in Zagreb

Zagreb is Croatia’s relaxed, charming and pedestrian-friendly capital. Check out Time Out’s definitive Zagreb guide for a diverse set of options of what to explore in the city from unusual museums to legendary flea markets and everything in between.

panorama

Jonathan Bousfield on Diocletian's Legacy in Split

Diocletian’s Palace is the main attraction in Split, the heart and soul of the city. Because of the palace, Split’s city center can be described as a living museum and it draws in the thousands of tourists that visit the city annually. But how much do we really know about the palace’s namesake who built it, the last ruler of a receding empire? Jonathan Bousfield contends that history only gives us a partial answer.

interview

The Poetry of Zagreb

Cities have served as sources of inspiration, frustration, and discovery for millennia. The subject of sonnets, stories, plays, the power centers of entire cultures, hotbeds of innovation, and the cause of wars, cities are mainstays of the present and the future with millions more people flocking to them every year.

Let the poet, Zagreb native Tomica Bajsić, take you on a lyrical tour of the city. Walk the streets conjured by his graceful words and take in the gentle beauty of the Zagreb of his childhood memories and present day observation.

panorama

Jonathon Bousfield's Take on the Croatian Cultural Landscape in 2018

What could possibly tie together island musicals, political thrillers, 60s Yugoslavian culture, contemporary Croatian authors, graphic novels set amongst a backdrop of urban decay, Le Cobustier inspired architecture and a classic 20th century author’s firsthand account of 1920s Russia? Proving that he really does have his finger on the pulse of Croatian’s cultural scene, Jonathon Bousfield expounds on all of this and more in his 2018 Croatian Cultural Guide, check it out in the link below.

review

Jonathon Bousfield Reviews the English Translation of Krleža's Journey to Russia

Krleža, a giant of 20th century European literature, is woefully undertranslated into English. Read Jonathon Bousfield’s compelling review of the master Krleza’s part travelogue, part prose account of the time he spent in Russia as a young man in the mid-1920s, Journey to Russia, which is accessible to English readers for the first time.

panorama

Jonathon Bousfield on the Heyday of the Iconic Yugoslav Record Label, Jugoton

Jonathon Bousfield recounts the rise of Jugoton, the iconic Zagreb-based Yugoslavian record label that both brought Western music to Yugoslavia and later was at the forefront of the massive post-punk and new wave scenes in the region.

panorama

Mirogoj Cemetery: An Architectural Jewel

Going to a cemetery may not be the first idea that pops into your mind when visiting a new city. But the stunning Mirogoj cemetery in Zagreb, which was designed by the renowned Austrian architect, Herman Bolle, is definitely worth a bit of your time. Read more below to find out why.

panorama

You Haven't Experienced Zagreb if You Haven't Been to the Dolac Market

Dolac, the main city market, is a Zagreb institution. Selling all the fresh ingredients you need to whip up a fabulous dinner, from fruits and vegetables to fish, meat and homemade cheese and sausages, the sellers come from all over Croatia. Positioned right above the main square, the colorful market is a beacon of a simpler way of life and is just as bustling as it was a century ago.

panorama

Croatian Phrases Translated into English

Do you find phrases and sayings give personality and flair to a language? Have you ever pondered how the culture and history of a place shape the common phrases? Check out some common sayings in Croatian with their literal translations and actual meanings below.

panorama

Discover Croatia's Archaeological Secrets

Discover Croatia’s rich archaeological secrets, from the well known ancient Roman city of Salona near Split or the Neanderthal museum in Krapina to the often overlooked Andautonia Archaeological Park, just outside of Zagreb, which boasts the excavated ruins of a Roman town or the oldest continuously inhabited town in Europe, Vinkovci.

report

Hollywood and Dubrovnik

The medieval city in Croatia is having a geek-culture moment as the setting for King’s Landing in the HBO series “Game of Thrones”.
Hollywood seems to have discovered Dubrovnik. Parts of The Last Jedi, the eighth episode in the Star Wars saga, also take place in the fortress town. Filming wrapped this year on a new Robin Hood film starring Taron Eagerton, Jamie Foxx, and Jamie Dornan (and produced by Leonard DiCaprio). The 25th James Bond film is reported to begin shooting in the city in January 2018.
But not everyone appreciates all the attention.

panorama

Great films shot in Zagreb

There's a surprising raft of indelible productions shot in and around Croatia's capital, like the world-dominating spy-caper 'James Bond: From Russia with Love' and Orson Welles' interpretation of Kafka's absurd, existentialist novel 'The Trial'...

report

A very rough guide to LitLink. The Author's View. By: Joanna Kavenna

Each night there is a bilingual Croatian-English event. Translations are projected behind the writers as they read. It becomes apparent that many contemporary Croatian writers are high ironists, forging dark comedy from aspects of life that most disturb them – war, corruption, the riotous hypocrisy of those who claim to govern us.
The tour runs from Zagreb to Pula to Rijeka...

panorama

Croatian Sites on UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List

A little know fact is that Croatia, together with Spain, have the most cultural and historical heritage under the protection of UNESCO, and Croatia has the highest number of UNESCO intangible goods of any European country.

panorama

Croatian National Theatre in Zagreb

The National Theater in Zagreb, Croatia’s capital, is one of those things which always finds its way to every visitor’s busy schedule.

panorama

Zagreb Festivals and Cultural Events

Numerous festivals, shows and exhibitions are held annually in Zagreb. Search our what's on guide to arts & entertainment.

Authors' pages

Književna Republika Relations PRAVOnaPROFESIJU LitLink mk zg