Nikolov, MomchilPrint This Post
Momchil Nikolov (b. 1970) graduated in medicine, but for the past fifteen years has been primarily dedicated to writing. He has published eight books: Travelers (a novella), Short Stories, Fragments of a Room (short stories), Mad Doris (short stories), Hash Oil (a novel), The Top Floor (a novel), The Spherical Fish (a novel), and Machinery for Love (a novel).
All of Momchil Nikolov’s books have gone through multiple reprints and enjoy wide popularity among readers and critics. He has won numerous literary awards, including the most prestigious prize in Bulgaria, the Helicon Prize, for The Spherical Fish. Critics have compared Nikolov’s writing, with its surrealistic, seriocomic flavor, to that of Haruki Murakami, Thomas Pynchon and Tom Robbins – most likely thanks to his knack for filtering psychological stories through the prism of the mysterious, the mystical and the paranormal, all served up with a sense of humor. An excerpt from his latest novel Dreams was published in the first issue of the Bulgarian edition of Granta magazine alongside authors such as Paul Auster, Stephen King, Arthur Miller, and Don DeLillo.
Besides literature, he also writes screenplays.
Synopsis of the novel The Spherical Fish by Momchil Nikolov
In various places across the US, an unusual flying object has been sighted. On his way to Florida, Marvin, an agent from the secret services assigned to the case, gets into an accident and suffers amnesia – the only thing he can remember is that he has to find the flying man. Marvin settles in Tarpon Springs, Florida – the place where the flying man was last seen.
His search of the area brings him to Crystal River. There he meets a beautiful girl, Leah, who unexpectedly shows great interest in him. After hearing his story, Leah tells him the flying man had lived in Crystal River and rented a room from Frieda Zimmerman, an elderly artist from New York. However, he was killed in a particularly brutal way by a young man named Fabien with serious psychiatric problems – torched by a flamethrower bought from an antique store.
Marvin visits Frieda and manages to win her trust. She shows him videotapes on which she has recorded the life of her boarder, whose name was Ramiel. To understand why she spied on Ramiel, Marvin must hear the story of her life – the life of a girl who thanks to a strange chain of events ends up in New York and spends almost her entire life there, torn between her father’s dream of her becoming a physicist and her own dream.
From Frieda, and later from the videotapes, Marvin finds out something exceptionally unbelievable – Ramiel had been pregnant. He carried the fetus and gave birth to it in the ocean. A few days after that, he was tragically killed by Fabien. Frieda, searching for explanations, has reached the conclusion that Ramiel was an angel. Despite his strong attraction to Leah, Marvin goes back to Tarpon Springs to search for evidence supporting Frieda’s story, as outlandish as it may sound. He goes to the St. Nicholas Church to see Father John Alexandropoulus, who is famous for his collection of antique books on religious subjects.
Father John recalls the mass suicide of a cult tied to the Order of the Golden Dawn that had taken place 30 years earlier. A strange book was found on the cult’s ranch – a manuscript in Latin from the 10th-12th century, which spoke of the “People of God.” Father John figures out that by “People of God,” the anonymous author means those whom Enoch called “The Watchers” – 200 angels who were banished to the earth by God in ancient times and chained up for 70 generations as punishment. According to Father John, the sentence is already up and the Watchers, of whom Ramiel was one, are now free.
The book found on the ranch touches on some of the aspects of the “People of God’s” reproduction, claiming they are bi-gendered and can fertilize themselves like hermaphroditic plants. The women are used only to carry the fetus in their wombs, which the People of God place there with their hands. The anonymous author also describes another option for carrying the fetus to term which, according to him, is wide-spread among the People of God: they can carry it themselves, in which case the fetus develops in their stomachs. The pregnancy would last several months, at which point the fetus would break through the skin in the region of the stomach, turn itself upright, crawl to the Person of God’s breast and begin nursing. This, however, could only happen in a “paradisiacal climate” – a purely aquatic environment which maintains the proper temperature for a long time.
Marvin suddenly realizes what had happened: The pregnant Watcher Ramiel had given birth in Crystal Bay, which was known for the constantly high temperature of its waters – which was why the manatees winter there. He had not only given birth there, but clearly had foreseen his impending death and had left his child to be brought up by the manatees. But what kind of creature exactly had Ramiel given birth to? And where could Marvin discover the answer to this question?
On the trail of the mysterious suicide cult, Marvin comes across an organization which goes by the acronym H.O.G.D. – The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. The organization’s headquarters is in the town of Elfers. Marvin goes there and has an extremely strange experience, which could be described as a journey through space and time. He first goes to a house where a woman and an autistic boy live. Tina, the woman, tells him about a dream in which she saw a glowing silhouette above her. She woke up with a scar on her chest – in the same shape as the silhouette from her dream. A month later, Tina started dating a man who turned out to be an initiate of the Order of the Golden Dawn. He took her to one of their angelic conferences, where suddenly an angel by the name of Ramiel began communication with Tina. He told her about the structure of the universe, about the energy that moves everything, about the countless worlds and dimensions. In the end, he informed Tina that she was carrying his child, but that she was not the child’s mother – she was simply an incubator. That night when she had dreamed of him, he had placed the embryo inside her. She tells Marvin that on the following day, she and the child must leave. They will go to the desert and live there for a year. Then everyone will die. Only the boy will survive. His son. Fabien.
Marvin is confused – everything that Tina is telling him should have happened thirty years earlier. Tina explains that time is not a straight line with a clear-cut beginning and end, but something more complicated.
As proof of this, Marvin suddenly ends up in present-day Elfers, in a shopping mall where the headquarters of H.O.G.D. is located. Marvin tries to learn more about the story of the mass suicide in the desert, but the hucksterish boss denies that the organization has any connection whatsoever with the cult – all that happened a long time ago. Marvin leaves, but on the lower level he notices the Order’s souvenir shop, where he buys an Egyptian stylus – just like the one the god Toth, whom the order honors, is always drawn holding.
Back in Tarpon Springs, Marvin can’t figure out how he could have been in Elfers simultaneously thirty years ago and now. Everything seems like a dream, but he finds the stylus in his pocket. Marvin realizes with horror that on his chest there is a tattoo that looks exactly like Tina’s scar. Marvin is terribly confused, as reality seems to be getting entangled with his visions. The world around him takes on different shapes and Marvin begins to doubt it. His behavior becomes so bizarre that the neighbors call the police. With the police come the men in white coats, who whisk him off to a psychiatric clinic.
There is someone else in his hospital room, sleeping with the covers pulled up over his head. Despite the doctor’s explanations that Marvin has a serious condition which requires ongoing treatment, Marvin is absolutely convinced that he is perfectly healthy. He goes on a hunger strike and refuses to speak in protest. His roommate continues to stubbornly hide beneath his blankets.
Marvin tears off the blanket – the man hiding beneath it is Fabien. He tells Marvin the story from his point of view. He reveals why he torched Ramiel, his father – and what the angel had told him before dying: That the heavenly tailor is already in our midst and he would do that which they, the Watchers, had not the strength to complete. He would impose order. Divide the heavens from the earth. Darkness from light. Good from bad.
After this conversation with Fabien, Marvin realizes that things have finally come full circle and that he is part of it. He also realizes what he has to do. He places the stylus on top of the tattoo. It is the key – while he is the keyhole. It works – Marvin begins hearing countless voices. The voices are reading simultaneously from various and numerous books. From those books in which everything is written – from the first to the last day. The loudest of those voices is reading the book of the future.
It tells of the round fish, born of Ramiel and brought up by manatees. The heavenly tailor, who has come to change the world. Marvin starts listening to this voice. He begins writing down everything he hears. The story of the earth in future times. The detailed description of the End and the New Beginning. With this description of the future, which has already taken place, the novel The Spherical Fish begins.
To what extent is the story which Marvin tells true? How much is it a figment of his imagination? Is Marvin really who he thinks he is?
- Momchil Nikolov: