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The Cyclist Conspiracy by Svetislav Basara
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The Cyclist Conspiracy (1988)

by Svetislav Basara

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I really liked it. I guess I'm just not sure of its importance: it's fun to read, like a puzzle; it's more about figuring out what's going on than anything else. I don't think it's deep, really; it's parodying depth, or people trying to be deep, or mysticism, but it's trying to partake of the thing it's parodying. He's trying to be a mixture of Eco and Borges, but Borges' virtue is in part in his brevity, and Eco can keep both a plot and a parody of mysticism going. Part of the fun of conspiracy novels is seeing how many disparate historical events things you can draw together under one mantle, and he didn't even attempt to do that - he simply invents incidents, like the Sherlock Holmes part, and there's no real overarching plot. ( )
  elucubrare | Dec 29, 2016 |
I found this too fragmented and not very engaging. Somewhat Borgesian but not in an exciting way. Constantly felt the urge to skim, and sometimes gave in. ( )
  thatotter | Feb 6, 2014 |
This is one of those clever metafictional novels that mix fiction and fact, reference the book and author in the story, and provide the plot with a sheen versimilitude by presenting an assortment of documents. I found it to be fun, funny and interesting but it’s not for everyone. The author initially describes how he found some of the documents in a book and began investigating the odd religious group described in them. The assortment of styles found in the documents makes for fun reading and the descriptions of the group’s heretical beliefs and their thoughts on reality are well-written. I also enjoyed the flights into fantasy.

The book opens with a diary of Charles the Hideous, a 14th c king, whose descriptions of his kingdom, subjects and himself are fairly ridiculous and entertaining. He’s also conversant with matters relating to the 20th century. Initially, the story is presented as apocryphal, adding to the overall document confusion. As a side note, he mentions welcoming a heretic group who constantly rode on bicycles. His verbally-abused majordomo Grossman writes about their history in the next sections – they have many weird ideas, including the bicycle as a holy machine. A couple renegade priests lead the sect and only one with some followers escapes the Inquisition. Their odd beliefs are interesting to read about – including ideas from philosophy or religion of this world being only a mirror, have a conflicted relationship with time, believe Byzantium is the true kingdom, and have a desire, like many religions, to leave society. The documents of the stranded Captain Queensdale show the Bicyclists on a mysterious island and introduce the idea of the members meeting and controlling things in dreams.

Some of the funniest sections describe encounters of supposed members of the sect with Sherlock Holmes and Sigmund Freud. The case of the man who shoots clocks puzzles Holmes and Freud diagnoses a man who describes the dream meetings of the order then disappears. In the 20th century, the order of the Evangelical Bicyclists of the Rose Cross appears to be responsible for the death of Archduke Ferdinand and the rise of Stalin, with whom they have a mixed relationship. Joseph Kowalsky emerges as one of the leaders of the group as seen in documents by several members. However, others doubt their existence and the few documents released by the group, as well as Kowalsky’s writings, are analyzed in mock-serious jargon-filled papers. A group trip to Dharamsala is really a cover for members to take on important tasks which seem random – one has to hide papers in a book, another stares at a pebble for 8 years. Kowalsky’s story with its ambiguous end is given. His ideological twisting and turning relates to the 20th c. profusion of ideas and his affinity with the east, though in line with the group’s beliefs, perhaps relates to the influence of both east and west in Serbian history. The later documents relate to various dream buildings and an ultimate conformations with evil. Some of the events here – Nazi dream assassins destroying part of their dream cathedral – can seem like something out of an action flick, but the documents have a contrasting pragmatism. Weird and interesting, but probably more for fans of metafiction. ( )
2 vote DieFledermaus | Feb 13, 2012 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Svetislav Basaraprimary authorall editionscalculated
Major, Randall A.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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