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Seven Stories Press

Works of Radical Imagination

Book cover for No-Signal Area
Book cover for No-Signal AreaBook cover for No-Signal Area

Translated by Ellen Elias-Bursać

The second novel by the highly praised post-war Croatian writer.

Oleg and Nikola—hustlers, entrepreneurs, ambassadors of capitalism—have come to the town of N to build an obsolete turbine, never mind why. Enlisting the help of former engineer Sobotka, they reopen the old turbine factory, preaching the gospel of “self-organization” and bringing new life to the depressed post-communist town. But as the project spins out of control, Oleg and Nikola find themselves increasingly entangled with the locals, for whom this return to past prosperity brings bitter reckonings and reunions. At once a savage sendup of our current political moment and a rueful elegy for what might have been, this sprawling novel blends tragedy and comedy in its portrayal of ordinary people wondering where it all went wrong, and whether it could have gone any other way.

Witty and ambitious, No-Signal Area is a sprawling novel, smart and just cynical enough to frame and give an edge to the abiding nostalgia that is its real subject. Robert Perišić's second novel to be translated into English is a cause for delight.

Robert Peresic
Robert Perisic
No Signal Area
No Signal
Ellen Elias Bursac
Ellen Elias-Bursac

Book cover for No-Signal Area
Book cover for No-Signal AreaBook cover for No-Signal Area

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“In Perisic’s poignant telling, the erasure of Yugoslavia and its socialist experiment continues to haunt its people, exes now adrift in a postwar vacancy. This void may be familiar to any reader who no longer feels connection to the divided, damaged nation he or she inhabits.”

No-Signal Area is a mind-blowing read—a story of crime and heroism in the real-life aftermath of an all-white race war, told with wisdom, sophistication, and passion.”

“Robert Perišić is a light bright with intelligence and twinkling with irony, flashing us the news that postwar Croatia not only endures but matters.”

“In No-Signal Area Perišić brilliantly captures the absurdity and chaos of a society in transition. A poetic punk ethos saturates the book--defiant, anarchic, exuberant, and ironic—perfect for a story about hustlers and workers and dreamers and mercenaries in post-war, post-truth Croatia.”

“A novel that shows postwar Croatia suspended between socialism and capitalism and between hopelessness and hilarity. The farcical tone that opens the latest from the highly acclaimed author leads to darker and deeper implications within an expansive novel that suggests insanity might be the best way to adapt to the new normal of a world gone mad and that language has blurred any distinction between truth and lies... Ultimately, these are people caught between -isms, between an unworkable past and an unthinkable future... Toward the end, the third-person narration gives way to a series of first-person soliloquies, and at first it can be a challenge to tell who is speaking—but that confusion ultimately reinforces the sense that individual voices, lives, and fates are being subsumed within the chaos of systems falling apart. The climax finds art markets and revenue streams converging in a way that seems both impossible and inevitable. A sharp, subversive novel of ideas that seems to reflect an era in which ideas themselves are bankrupt.

“Two men arrive in a rural Eastern European town to arrange for the reopening of a local factory in this sharp portrayal of modern capitalism from Perisic (Our Man in Iraq). Upon arriving in “N,” Oleg and Nikola plan to reopen the factory, which has been shut for many years after the break-up of the Soviet Union, with the help of the locals in order to manufacture two industrial turbines to fulfil a contract Oleg has arranged with “the Colonel,” the leader of a Middle Eastern country. Once the factory is running, Perisic broadens the story’s focus, moving back in time to give Nikola and Oleg’s backstories, exploring the lives of villagers and those who have left or been forced from the village, and circling back to a crashing grand finale. Impressively blending the absurd, dire, and comic, Perisic relates often tragic events, but his characters somehow manage to persevere. This clever, ambitious take on the influences of capitalism on Eastern Europe will be perfect for fans of Umberto Eco.

“Writing that is always rich in detail and attentive to the many perspectives of his characters…an exceptionally engaging novel.”

“No-Signal Area...depicts a region transitioning from socialism to capitalism, with wit, insight and grace. But it is Perišić’s grasp of human self-delusion, fear, and denial, that makes No-Signal Area a timeless, stateless work, that beckons its readers to step into the light.”

“While Perišić’s previous novel Our Man in Iraq was primarily set in contemporary Zagreb, No-Signal Area purposefully extends its geographic scope in order to demonstrate how the human potential of a whole region has been wasted over a quarter century of war and economic turbulence – a period of “transition” to which there is never any end. Siberia, North Africa and London also play important episodic roles, indicating how peripheral places like N have become in globalized networks of news and power. Deploying a cast of well-drawn characters with complex back-stories, Perišić conjures up a believable, organic community with plenty of potential for narrative changes of direction. It is hardly surprising that No-Signal Area is currently being made into a TV series with director Dalibor Matanić at the helm. An impressively rich book with a large cast, multiple viewpoints, sharp dialogue and strong female characters (who increasingly drive the plot as the book enters its final third), No-Signal Area is a big novel that delves deep into contemporary themes, dexterously handled by a writer at the peak of his powers.”

Robert Perišić

Robert Perišić's novel Our Man in Iraq garnered rave reviews from the New Yorker, the Times Literary Supplement, and NPR’s “All Things Considered,” among others, and was praised as “a must-read” by the Guardian. Perišić has published award-winning nonfiction, fiction, poetry, and criticism in his native Croatia, where both Our Man in Iraq and No-Signal Area were best sellers. He began writing short stories in the 1990s with a clear anti-war sentiment, during the days following the devastating war that tore apart the former Yugoslavia, and is now considered to be one of the most important writers and literary critics in the region. Perišić lives in Zagreb. 

Ellen Elias-Bursać

ELLEN ELIAS-BURSAĆ translates fiction and nonfiction from Bosnian, Croatian, and Serbian. She has taught in the Harvard University Slavic Department and is a contributing editor to Asymptote. She has translated both of Ivana Bodrožić’s previous books for Seven Stories along with Robert Perisic’s novel No-Signal Area. She lives in Boston.