Techno, as any DJ will tell you, is a circular form of music. Its structure is built from repeating patterns called loops which the enterprising DJ can stitch into a long, continuous track. In this way, Brane Mozetič’s Lost Story (translated from the Slovenian by Erica Johnson Debeljak), resembles a techno track. Written in the form of a diary, Lost Story follows a young gay Slovenian, Bojan, who’s stuck in a loop of drugs, clubs, sex.
This sounds like a familiar tune, but Mozetič’s European sensibility changes up the rhythm. Neither the club life nor the drug use are sensationalized; instead, they seem to be a normal aspect of Bojan’s life. It’s Friday? Time for Propaganda. Saturday? Let’s drive to Izola for the Embassy Gavioli. The characters gobble up ecstasy, acid, cocaine, marijuana, and liquor without moralizing or glamorizing. (Heroin, however, is the notable exception; Bojan explodes at characters to delve into it.)
Mozetič’s matter-of-fact handling of these subjects hints at his larger purpose: he’s less interested in club culture and more in the deadened youth who participate in it. Even Bojan’s interiority goes only skin-deep: he tracks his moment-by-moment emotions, but his motivations and desires are mysterious even to him. Though Mozetič name-checks headline techno acts of the late 90s (Robert Miles, Laurent Garnier, Sven Väth), Lost Story feels almost dislocated from time. The diary (purported to have been “found” by Mozetič himself) gives specific date markers, but no years. It doesn’t implicate a specific youth culture for its fatalistic and self-destructive attitude, but youth culture in general.
Indeed, even though Bojan has a steady boyfriend, Tim, neither are strangers to polyamory. But just as there’s no emotional connection between Bojan and Tim, there’s none with their other partners, either. In fact, the eroticism in the story is tied to drug use, as if drugs are the only way they can access emotions. The very idea of sexuality, as well, becomes fluid under the influence; putatively “straight” young men allow themselves to be seduced, depending on how beholden they feel to their suppliers.
Many of the complaints that people level against techno (it’s repetitive; can’t tell when one part ends and another begins; it all sounds the same) could be leveled against Lost Story itself. But this misses an essential element: the repetitive nature of techno also allows for variations to become that much more prominent. When an established pattern is disrupted, the change sounds huge.
The major disruption in Lost Story is the arrival of Arjun, a young half-Indian man. His appearance on the scene provides an element that gives Bojan more of an emotional pitch. When Tim leaves for a drug-and-party bender, Bojan never feels his absence; the appearances and disappearances of Arjun, however, leave Bojan alternately bereft or even more numbed. As the object of affection, Arjun himself is, at turns, annoying, obsessive, and charming—in other words, maddeningly real.
Mozetič manages to keep these elements spinning harmoniously, though early on, he does have one trainwreck mix—when the DJ mis-syncs two records, resulting in an off-putting clatter. In Mozetič’s case, he replicates two chat sessions, which, on one hand, speaks to the alterability of identity (Bojan impersonates Tim looking for tricks), but, on the other, is meaningless (as Internet chat transcripts tend to be).
Arjun’s presence starts to open up Bojan, little by little. He begins to imagine more, to fantasize, to see himself outside of his loops. But even though the novel shifts dramatically out ofSlovenia, Bojan discovers that the patterns in his life are perhaps too ingrained. Bojan is stuck in a locked groove, where the record’s stylus enters a circle and repeats endlessly, endlessly, endlessly…
By Brane Mozetič (translated by Erica Johnson Debeljak)
Talisman House Paperback, 9781584980865, 148pp November 2011