Life as fiction
When, one day, Vladimir decided to become a writer, his mother asked him, “What will you write about?”
He smiled and said, “Life.”
There was no point in telling her that he would use his own life, and the lives of those he knew, as inspiration for his stories. She, too, smiled and said nothing else. Using life as fiction was nothing new and the first novella that he wrote, only 112 pages long, was about a poor single mother trying to raise a mentally handicapped son on her own. The novella, titled Broken Wings in its English translation, was based on the life of one of Vladimir’s aunts whose son was mentally handicapped and her lover had left her on her own shortly after the child was born. Instead of complaining about life, or blaming her son Milos for her misfortune, the poor mother raised her son as best as she could. And even though there were times when she cried and complained about her life to Vladimir’s mother, not once did she said that she regretted having her son. The boy had a short life, and so did Vladimir’s aunt, because, one day, the bus they were travelling on crashed against a truck and all of its passengers died. Ironically, the only person that didn’t die in the accident was the drunk driver of the truck, but he killed himself shortly afterwards while in jail.
Vladimir Živković became a one-night sensation with the publication of Broken Wings, and his second book, the racially titled Breasts of all sizes, was based on the women he loved, based on his life.
“Why change the formula?” he thought.
That book, Breasts of all sizes, was another bestseller throughout the world, and for two years after its publication, Vladimir didn’t write another word. He was 27 by then, living in a small bedroom in Paris on his own, and during that time all he did was visit museums and spend time at his girlfriend Yvonne’s place in Versailles. Every Friday morning he would go and see her and every Monday or Tuesday he would return to his bedroom. One day Yvonne said, “Why don’t we just move in together?”
He nodded and said he would think about it, and two days later, on a Thursday, he was back at her place, and when she saw him standing by the front door she thought, “Oh no. He’s coming to put an end to our relationship.”
Instead he proposed to her and she said, “Yes.”
Two weeks later he packed his bags and moved in with her. Straight away he started working on his third book, a love story called Later Days about a writer living in Paris who falls in love. The book was finished in three months. Then he spent another three months revising it and typing it. That book was barely out when he started to work on his fourth novel, titled Scars. That book, the fourth one, was set in the Backa region, in 1942, and it told the story of Vladimir’s grandfather, a Serbian Jew who managed to escape the Nazis but lost most of his family along the way. Scars came out a year and a month later after Later Days, and a few weeks later, tired of being constantly pursued by French photographers, Vladimir Živković and his wife Yvonne Rothschild-Živković moved to Brooklyn. By then she was already one month pregnant and they decided to raise their child in the Jewish-friendly Brooklyn. On the flight to America Vladimir had an idea for a short-story called Snow. The story grew and grew and it became a 600-page novel, again set in Serbia, this time set after the war, around the time that Josip Broz Tito became the first president of Communist Yugoslavia, and also around the time that Vladimir’s father was born. After Snow came Slobodan, his 700-page epic novel. Then came a long silence followed by a few short stories. The writing had taken a lot out of Vladimir, the writing and constant appearances on telly, and after the birth of their third child, Yvonne and Vladimir moved to Jerusalem where he’s now happy working on his little farm. Whenever someone asks Yvonne when Vladimir’s new book is coming out she says, “Soon.”
But the truth is that he isn’t even writing that much anymore.
My book Free City is out on Amazon