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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Hidden Camera

Zoran Živković

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To purchase Hidden Camera

Title: Hidden Camera
Author: Zoran Živković
Genre: Novel
Written: 2003 (Eng. 2005)
Length: 217 pages
Original in: Serbo-Croatian
Availability: Hidden Camera - US
Hidden Camera - UK
Hidden Camera - Canada
Hidden Camera - India
Versteckte Kamera - Deutschland
  • Serbo-Croatian title: Skrivena kamera
  • Translated by Alice Copple-Tošić

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Our Assessment:

B : a good concept, but hard to sustain the tension for the length of the novel

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Guardian . 4/2/2006 Michael Moorcock
The New Yorker . 2/1/2006 .
VLS . 8/11/2005 Joshua Cohen

  From the Reviews:
  • "A short, meaty book, this is an antimodernist parable heavy enough for you to know you've absorbed real substance, yet ironic enough to ensure you don't want to kill yourself when it's over." - Michael Moorcock, The Guardian

  • "Hidden Camera is written as if it were already a movie, with the Communist paranoia of Zivkovic's youth glossed onto celluloid, The Castle with Sam Spade as K. Like all good genre, Hidden Camera is masterfully paced." - Joshua Cohen, Voice Literary Supplement

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Hidden Camera is narrated by an undertaker (whose job is starting to get to him -- he's thinking of taking early retirement). Returning home one day he finds an envelope wedged in his door. There's no writing on it, and all there is inside is a movie-ticket. He figures it's some sort of advertising, a promotion by some company looking to lure people in order to sell them something, and since it's almost six o'clock (the time printed on the ticket) and he'd have to rush to even get there he figures he'll just forget about it -- but changes his mind at the last moment.
       He gets to the cinema a bit late, but (ominously) the doorman tells him it's no bother: "We certainly wouldn't have started without you." Going inside the auditorium isn't any more reassuring: it's anything but a sell-out, with only one place taken. And when the film finally starts he's unsettled to find that he features in it: someone apparently filmed him while he was sitting on a park bench reading a book.
       The weirdness -- and the envelopes -- keep coming. When the lights go on he finds an invitation to a bookstore -- though again he'd have to rush to reach it. Then it's the zoo.
       The undertaker thinks that, as in the park where he was filmed unawares, he has been targeted by some reality-show, and is performing for a hidden camera. He tries to adjust his behaviour accordingly -- go along with it ? try to avoid it ? try to avoid embarrassing situations ? -- and finds this path he's embarked on inescapable, with the few people who were at the cinema cropping up repeatedly in new roles. Discoveries along the way -- such as a book he supposedly wrote at the bookstore -- and repeated black-outs complicate matters.
       An eerie quest-tale, Živković dangles hints at what this is all about along the way, but it's still the step-by-step action that has to drive the novel along, and that's a lot to ask. The air of mystery gets pretty dense occasionally, and the narrator's stumbling can drag. There are some inspired moments -- an ice-statue, for example, or some of the places the narrator finds himself -- but the book doesn't quite manage to build up to that final big pay-off, sputtering along the way. This seems material for a short story rather than a 200-plus page novel.
       The patient reader is rewarded, but it's not an entirely satisfying ride.

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Hidden Camera: Reviews: Zoran Živković: Other books by Zoran Zivkovic under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Zoran Živković was born in Belgrade in 1948.

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