The Time of Miracles

Borislav Pekic

translated from the Serbo-Croatian by Lovett F. Edwards
Northwestern University Press 1994 [1965]
A book review by Danny Yee © 2007
Borislav Pekic spent six years in prison with only the bible as reading material, which gave him the foundation for The Time of Miracles. In this he retells the stories of the New Testament miracles from the perspective of those on whom they were inflicted, covering miracles at Cana, Jabneel, Jerusalem, Siloam, Gadara, Magdala and Bethany; this is followed by accounts of deaths at Hinnom, Moriah, Gabbatha and Golgotha.

The New Testament stories have been reworked many times, but Pekic puts a unique twist on them: their consequences and side-effects are unexpected, unwanted, and unpleasant. His approach is decidedly non-orthodox, but his purpose is not to attack Christianity but to use the familiar framework as a base. He uses that to explore the meanings of prophecy, blindness, uncleanliness, sin, faith, and madness, and the power of ideas to mould lives, especially through the force of social convention.

The protagonists in the individual stories are vivid; in contrast, Jesus is a bland non-entity and the apostles unassuming. Only Judas, obsessed by the fulfilment of prophecy, takes centre stage. The separate stories and characters could stand alone, but come together to make a powerful novel.

The Time of Miracles is darkly comic, with the humour in the characterisation and in the wildly divergent views of the same events held by different characters. And when it comes to hypocrisy and the blind following of convention, Pekic is cutting, sparing no one and nothing.

The Time of Miracles is often disturbing but always compelling, entertaining, and provoking. For me, Pekic stands out even among the other giants of Yugoslavian literature.

September 2007

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%T The Time of Miracles
%A Pekic, Borislav
%M Serbo-Croatian
%F Edwards, Lovett F.
%I Northwestern University Press
%D 1994 [1965]
%O paperback
%G ISBN 0810111179
%P 320pp