Gypsy, But the Fairest of Them All

OceanMore, 2016, 400 pages
Sample English and French translation available

Translation rights sold: Hungary (Metropolis Media), Norway (Cappelen Damm), Slovenia (Beletrina), Serbia (Književna radionica Rašić), Bulgaria (Paradox)
Option publisher: Amazon Crossing (WEL)
Film/TV rights sold to Antitalent

T-portal Best Novel Award
Ksaver Šandor Gjalski Award
Fran Galović Award

Gypsy, But the Fairest of Them All by Kristian Novak is strictly speaking a crime novel, with a central enigma of brutal murders of several Johns Doe – because victims without faces are hard to identify – and an overarching investigation. But don’t be too quick to label it, because this is a thriller as much as Crime and Punishment.

Gypsy is narrated by four narrators, in truncated transcripts: Milena, the middle-aged returnee to her birthplace; Nuzat, a Kurd from Mosul on his way to Calais; Sandokan nicknamed Sandy – a gypsy from North Croatia, and Plančić – the PR manager for the Zagreb Police Station.
The novel has a wide scope, entangling several lives between the rivers Drava and Mura in the northernmost part of Croatia, and the subject matter it raises is bound to receive more and more attention over the years. It charts two biographies from cradle to grave, it encompasses and reconstructs at least three cultural circles, it creates explosive psychoportraits of the four storytellers and mass psychology of a crowd that threatens to end things violently.
This is a book where you’ll find al-Anfal, Daesh (ISIS) and the refugee wave, forbidden love between a Croatian woman and a gypsy man, a Croatian Homeland War veteran securing peace in his village, a policeman having schizoid episodes in the dusk of his career, an orgy with Moldavians in a weekend house, theory and practice of theft and fist-fight, a spider weaving a web, Internet rage, splendour of language, thought and emotion.

In late 2017, the book was successfully adapted for the stage at the Croatian National Theater. In less than a year, an audience of a total 18.000 people has seen the play, and it has been one of the most popular Croatian plays in the last decade.

The pinnacle moments in Novak’s fiction, the moments when the reader takes a deep breath and thinks “that’s it, it cannot get any stronger than this” happen in a continuous stream already from page 20, taking us no further, just as life takes us nowhere in, say, Faulkner’s novels which have no entry point or ending.

Miljenko Jergović | Author of Sarajevo Marlboro and The Walnut Mansion

Kristian Novak built this pandemonium with skill, power, vigour, and yet – precision. The novel is a kaleidoscope of voices and scenes, a thick treacle of characters and (mis)fortunes, of happiness that’s just around the corner, and adversity that is somehow neither big nor inevitable: it seems that, for a second, everything could have turned out just right. But nothing ever will! Especially in a coincidental and impossible relationship between a middle-aged “white” woman Milena, already shunned from the “good society” and the young gypsy man Sandi: they were each other’s big opportunity, the last one, for a different and dignified life. And Novak wrote them one of the most impressive love stories in the last couple of decades.

Teofil Pančić, literary critic | Globus

The setting, and at times even the concept, reminds me of the first season of True Detective (the woods, the murder, two detectives, each peculiar in their own right), and I am convinced that, if adapted for the screen, it could be even better that the famous American TV show.

Davor Ivankovac, writer and literary critic |

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