“Tesla: A Portrait with Masks” by Vladimir Pistalo



In this novel, Pistalo’s first to be translated into English, Nikola Tesla is not only an inventor but a prophet as well, as inspired, fervent, and (unfortunately) unheeded as any in the Old Testament. Throughout his boyhood in the Serbian countryside, his student days in Graz, and his career as an engineer and inventor in New York City, Tesla is deeply aware of the universe’s natural phenomena and imagines their application toward the betterment of humanity. His alternating-current motor makes him a celebrity, but his greatest hopes are never fully realized, as his fickle benefactors—including J.P. Morgan, one of many historical figures to appear here—reject his ideas or lose patience with his research. While Tesla’s indifference to romance and wealth spares him the petty angst he ignores in others, his devotion to science doesn’t prevent him from struggling with debt and despair. Pistalo’s third-person narration moves seamlessly between Tesla’s psyche and the world around him, between reality and vision: “He walked on water and danced his mental waltz. His elfish ears touched heaven. Stars revolved in his hair. The walls and frames that provided worldly limitations disappeared in those moments of creation.” Tesla leaves this reader hoping that more of Pistalo’s works will be available in English soon.

–Available January 6th from Graywolf Press. Translated by Bogdan Rakic and John Jeffries. 472 pages. $18.00


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