‘Living On Air’ review in Politika newspaper, Serbia

A review of my novel ‘Living on Air’ has been published in Politika, Serbia’s the biggest and oldest newspaper. Below is an English translation from the Serbian original (click article scan to enlarge):

Nina Zivancevic Politika Review

Politika, /Culture, August 26, 2013, Belgrade, Serbia

Europeans in Search of Happiness

The British publisher, Barncott Press has published in their ebooks edition, a novel by a Belgrade poet, writer and translator who presently lives in Paris.

Just a few weeks ago, the British publisher “Barncott Press” has published a novel of a Belgrade poet, writer and a translator who has been teaching at La Sorbonne and living in Paris. Her novel “Living on Air” or rather “living off air” was originally written in English, but the shorter version of it, entitled “As I said before”, was published by Prosveta in Belgrade, 2004.

Nina Zivancevic is very happy that the novel has seen the light in it’s English, integral version. The author, who has entirely devoted her studies to Crnjanski’s work has underlined that it was lamentable that the original version of Crnjanski’s “Novel About London” (the Shoemakers) had been destroyed as “the translation can never reach the heights of an original literary work even if it had been conceived as the original version of a manuscript translated by the author himself”? That is, the translation never obtains all the nuances and the profundity of the original no matter what language it was written in. That’s why she thought that it was crucial for her novel to be published in English.

“Living on Air” is a non-formal, postmodern novel which explores it’s own possibilities within the genre as such. Written in an epistolary form, the novel follows the journey and the development of its heroine, a European woman who explores the possibilities of the brave New World, but at the same time it is a novel of self-exploration, of the picaresque wanderings as well as it is a search for “the holy grail” and the ultimate meaning of life.

It is a novel about Hollywood, as much as it is about New York, about the “more European take on the North America” as it often asks the questions such as : what had prompted the Europeans to explore the New World? Was it just their pioneers’ need for self-fulfilling existence and personal happiness, or was it simply their existential grind and greed that led them to conquer the land of the Indians?

Zivancevic’s fiction never accuses the actors for their actions, as it rather profoundly explores the essential reasons of human migrations. It also contemplates the wars and reasons for all (in)human conflicts which, according to the author inevitably lead to the manifestations of diseases, physical cum spiritual ones, as well as to the biological annulment of the population.

Somewhat like the contemporary literary critic Susan Sontag, Zivancevic sees disease as a metaphor. This meta-global novel explores in fact, many of the contemporary critical theories which the author has explored and has taught at the universities throughout the world.

Living On Air is available as an ebook from Barncott Press.

Lima Journal – International Poetry Festival 2013 (Lima, Peru)

114 poets from around the world attended the 2nd International Poetry Festival 4th- 7th July in Lima Peru.



In Lima I have some friends, at least an old friend from New York, a Sri Lankan poet/diplomat who has waited for me with impatience—we hadn’t seen one another for 20 years! I survived flight transfers at different airports; and with a certain pomp, after some 19 hours of travelling from Madrid arrived in Lima at 5 am. The airport (a real American one!) contained long lines waiting for passport and immigration control. Suddenly I had a taste of the deserted, abandoned regions of North America—even here the people were imitating the worst modes of behavior and administration rules. I was standing now in one of these immigration queues again; and out of boredom, I wrote the following sonnet about the destiny of a human being, or “gua” as the Indios would call it:

Letter from a GUA

I am just a Gua
While I am moving and breathing
from Trujillo to Lima, I see a python,
I see a flower, I see the pain of the last
Inca emperor dying of lice and scorbutic in Lima
I will never sit down
I will never sit down
Because the meaning of ‘Gua’ is the-one-who-never-sits –down
When I sit down I die
I am here, after all, to understand
How we can preserve the forest
And the Gua who belongs to the forest..

The immigrations officer has given me exactly what I asked for—permission to stay for ten days, stamped in my passport. He did not exaggerate with his generosity, but I did not ask him for more, as I figured this would give me enough time to read and to write a couple of poems, as I am Gua, a human being constantly on the move…

My Peruvian friends and fellow-poets waited for me at Lima airport. It was their winter season, a cold July morning in Lima, so the organiser of the festival tried to accommodate the three of us quickly. The taxi driver waved in a Columbian lady poet, her elderly Swedish husband, and myself. The organiser’s overwhelming concern for our well-being was lingering in the air — I am not able to describe their concern for our “gua”, which largely went beyond the normal concern of any ordinary poetry festival organiser. I became aware of an uncanny and imminent danger wafting about, a sentiment suggested to me by certain friends, and which some of them even spelled out in detail before my departure from Paris, as they had lived or travelled extensively in Latin America.

Human life has very little value here, and it is even less valued than “in some parts of Africa”, they would tell me and then say: “Take good care of yourself, Nina, don’t ever leave the hotel alone, do not even go to buy cigarettes in Lima unless you are accompanied. » But who am I to figure out this huge country on my own? I am aware of all the prejudice against Latin America which has been dominant in Europe for centuries.

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