Zoran Živković: A Biographical Sketch

Zoran Zivkovic

Only a few years after his birth in 1948, Zoran Živković fell in love with literature. Like so many, he was initially drawn by the "irresistibly enchanting impression that whenever I opened a book it was as if I had opened a portal to an alternate world." Years later, as a graduate student at the University of Belgrade, he specialized in American sf from 1950 to 1957. After earning his master's degree in 1979 with a dissertation on works by Arthur C. Clarke, he began doctoral study.

In the mid-1970s, Živković started to actively promote sf (speculative fiction) in Yugoslavia. For three years he co-edited the annual sf almanac Andromeda. He also regularly contributed to the magazine Sirius. After earning his doctorate in 1982, Živković committed totally to bringing sf to his homeland. During the 1980s he worked as an editor for publisher Izdava∂ki Zavod Jugoslavija, translating nearly fifty books, mostly American sf. He also founded his own press, Polaris, "as a sort of resistance movement against the proverbial slowness and clumsiness of state-owned publishing houses." Polaris rapidly became the pivotal publisher of sf in the former Yugoslavia. From its inception in 1982 to its termination in 2000, Polaris published over two hundred translated books. In 1984 Živković developed and starred in the television show The Starry Screen, each episode of which explored a major sf film.

This phase of his career culminated in 1990 with publication of his massive Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, then only the fourth comprehensive sf encyclopedia ever written. Three years later, he published his first novel, The Fourth Circle, after which he began to focus increasingly on writing fiction, which, curiously, contained no sf elements whatsoever. In 2000 he decided to become a full-time writer: "I was fifty-two then, old enough not to be able anymore to have two professions at the same time—a publisher and a writer—simply because they both were very demanding and time-consuming. Moreover, to write fiction properly requires one's total devotion."

From the start, Živković's fiction began winning awards. Prominent among these is the Stefan Mitrov Ljubiša Award, which he received in 2007 for his entire fictional opus. Internationally, his major recognitions came in 2003, when The Library won the World Fantasy Award, and in 2009 when he was named Guest of Honor of the World Fantasy Convention, the first writer whose native language is not English to be so honored.

Živković is now among the most widely translated central European authors. Although he writes in Serbian, all of his fiction is available in English. Alice Copple-Tošić, translator of all but two of his works, masterfully captures the nuances, subtleties, and precision of his prose. Translations of his books have appeared to date in twenty-three countries.

Currently a professor of creative writing in the Faculty of Philology at the University of Belgrade, Živković lives in Belgrade with his wife, Mia; their twin sons, Uroš and Andreja; their dog, Zoe, and cats Micuko, Sivka, and Buca.

Editorial note: To read more about Zoran Živković, see Michael Morrison’s essay, “The Metaphysical Fantasias of Zoran Živković,” in the November 2011 issue, along with Živković’s story “Rendezvous in front of the House.” For more online, read Živković’s story “The Teashop” and Morrison's interivew, "Fantastika and the Literature of Serbia: A Conversation with Zoran Živković.

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