Such cerebral imagery is typical of Marinković, whose narrative epic—set in the former Yugoslavia in the early 1940s—is based on Ulysses, which had appeared in Croatian a few years before Cyclops. The narrator’s compulsion to turn every experience into an intellectual exercise, partially as a response to the horror of World War II, puts Cyclops squarely in the genre that James Wood has called hysterical realism. Melkior, a theater critic who lives alone in a boardinghouse populated by eccentrics, seeks to escape his aimlessness—and his fear of the encroaching fascists—by endlessly perambulating the frenetic city of Zagreb and the insular world of his own thoughts. His mind is a “torture chamber” to which he willingly confines himself, believing that in the mental “labyrinths around which he raced blithely shouting, ‘I’ve disappeared, I’m not here,’ he would really and truly disappear from the sight of the absurdity that lay in wait for him.”
Incidentally, this is another strong translation by Yale’s Margellos World Republic of Letters series. A good space to watch for future translations.
And even more incidentally, we now know what is the Best Translated Book in 2010, at least by our standards.