Life as an uninterrupted game (afterword by Anita Peti-Stantić)
Aliquot by Jasna Horvat, writer and scholar, a Renaissance author in constant quest for knowledge, cognition and discovery of the unknown at the intersection of past and present, is in many ways a multi-layered novel whose internal organisation gives rise to numerous, and possibly quite divergent interpretations. An assemblage of characters revolves around those that appear to live in the present, and those that might seem to have lived in the past, but, existing in a cyclical world such as the Aliquot’s, the latter actually still live in their intensively busy present.
The representative of the present, and of bridges, is Dane Puljiz, who strives to understand the clash between the Western European and Ottoman culture, and attempts to experience that clash by travelling the world. Very few people show even a glimpse of understanding for his travels, simply because these searches fit neither into the expectations of everyday life nor into issues that seem relevant to the majority. At the other side of his journey are Vasco da Gama and Melek Jaša, both sprouting out of a legend, but the roles have been cast contrary to our expectations. Strength and determination, giving and taking, followed by uncompromising sharing, is on the side of Dubrovnik-born Melek Jaša, who was forcefully taken away, initially submissive, but risen out of his own shadow, rather than on the side of Vasco da Gama, universally acknowledged as one of history’s greats. Anchored in all the available writings, starting from a 1925 study by Vladimir Mažuranić “Melek Jaša Dubrovčanin in India in the years 1480-1528 and his predecessors in Islam ten centuries ago”, to the historical adventure novel “Jaša Dalmatin: Viceroy of Gujarat” by Ivana Brlić Mažuranić published in 1937, but also woven out of imagination and poetic dreaminess, Aliquot is a novel that comes from (and requires) erudition, but allows both reading with a key, and an intuitive adventure of text (re)creation.
It is a voyage from Osijek and Slavonia to Dubrovnik, and then, expectedly, over distant seas to parts unknown. The past brought to life in the novel is relevant for the present. It is a past that, summed-up and multiplied, makes a whole with the present, in the same way that an aliquot makes a whole with the number of which it is an aliquot part, inseparable from it in this specific interconnectedness, and yet having its own character, independent in its wholeness and uniqueness. As the past and present interlace, there are numerous other characters that pull the reader into the adventure, whether it be one apparently ordinary Ružica, who is anything but ordinary, or mathematical greats such as Pythagoras, Eratosthenes or Ulam. Whoever it is about, the story is focused on fractals of life of the chosen individuals that have, according to the author, devoted themselves unreservedly to their visions and their times.
Because of its complexity and multi-layered structure, Aliquot, the author’s first novel, is very much a reflection of her intuitive and intellectual world, conceived of and realized as a metatext guided by mathematical principles, presented here for deciphering to those who are patient enough.