Critical Context

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

The virtues of Peanik lie in both its themes and its artistic excellence; the universality of the main themes is accompanied by a style that is both bold and accomplished. Ki employs a distinctive approach in which the subject is seen from three different angles. First, the scene is set by a realistic description in a style which resembles that of Rembrandt van Rijn: Every motion, sound, and sight is recorded as if on a canvas or a tape. This approach represents reality as it is seen at first glance, without any attempt to analyze or penetrate it. Ki’s second technique consists of diary notes written by Sam, in which he records his reactions, both mental and emotional, to outward stimuli. This diary also gives him an opportunity to voice his opinion on various matters—the only chance he has amid general distrust and mutual disregard. The third approach is employed in the chapters on the investigation in the police station. In a highly dramatic technique of rapid questions and answers, the reality, only described in the first approach and mused upon in the second, is mercilessly pierced and torn asunder, revealing the unspeakable tension under which every moment of the protagonist’s life is spent. Ki approaches his subject from these three angles because he believes that only in such a way can the truth be obtained. In addition, the book’s versatility and changes of pace make for lively reading, though they also make the novel somewhat more complex, demanding the active participation of the reader.

Approaching the form of the novel in such a complex and demanding manner, Ki exhibits the qualities that make him one of the most sophisticated and prominent writers in late twentieth century Serbian and Yugoslav literature. It is no surprise, therefore, that he has been one of the most translated writers in Yugoslavia.