A Guided Tour Through the Museum of Communism Kindle

A Guided Tour Through the Museum of Communism A wry, cutting deconstruction of the Communist empire by one of Eastern Europe s exceptional authors Called a perceptive and amusing social critic, with a wonderful eye for detail by The Washington Post, Slavenka Drakulic a native of Croatia has emerged as one of the most popular and respected critics of Communism to come out of the former Eastern Bloc In A Guided Tour Through the Museum of Communism, she offers a eight part exploration of Communism by way of an unusual cast of narrators, each from a different country, who reflect on the fall of Communism Together they constitute an Orwellian send up of absurdities during the final years of European Communism that showcase this author s tremendous talent I enjoyed these short stories about communism in Eastern Europe so much Being someone who tends to learn about history through fiction, these stories worked perfectly for elucidating certain parts of European 20th century history that I should certainly already know in detail Each story is about a different animal, who explores the impact of communism in a particular country To begin with, I wondered what the point of this use of animals was but in fact it worked incredibly well the animal I enjoyed these short stories about communism in Eastern Europe so much Being someone who tends to learn about history through fiction, these stories worked perfectly for elucidating certain parts of European 20th century history that I should certainly already know in detail Each story is about a different animal, who explores the impact of communism in a particular country To begin with, I wondered what the point of this use of animals was but in fact it worked incredibly well the animals don t quite understand human behaviour and are constantly questioning it and trying to make sense of it What this does is reveal how nonsensical and painfully illogical so much of what happened in these countries was Looking at humans and human behaviour at a distance in particular the use and abuse of power on the one hand and the toleration of being subjugated on the other helps to really situate and assess what went wrong and how many people s lives were affected Such an original and powerful collection of stories What a reading experience After reading Animal Farm, The Life of Insects, Kafka s Metamorphosis and various novels and historical accounts on post Communist countries and individuals, most recently Svetlana Alexievich, I expected to be on familiar ground But apart from the author s direct reference to Orwell in the beginning, and to Aesopian language as a means of psychological analysis in one of the stories, it was something completely different from other modern novels written in the form of What a reading experience After reading Animal Farm, The Life of Insects, Kafka s Metamorphosis and various novels and historical accounts on post Communist countries and individuals, most recently Svetlana Alexievich, I expected to be on familiar ground But apart from the author s direct reference to Orwell in the beginning, and to Aesopian language as a means of psychological analysis in one of the stories, it was something completely different from other modern novels written in the form of fables In eight short stories, different animals talk about their life in Communist Europe, all of them representing different species, social functions and countries It sounds like a rather silly idea, but the light hearted approach quickly turns into something deeper and darker, as the London based pig lady from Hungary admits at the end of her introduction to cooking At the end, dear patient reader, I am aware that I started this long but necessary introduction in a light tone and ended up embroiled in politics, history, and identity just like a typical East European intellectual and I don t apologize for that The interesting twist in this collection of stories is the fact the various animals experience their environment clearly, and according to their personal needs and characteristics, but with a human reflective mind They allow themselves to question objectively the situations that human beings would be far too personally affected by to describe without bias and political opinion The animals thus illustrate that it is possible to reject the system itself and feel compassion for and understanding of the human beings within it at the same time One of the most thrilling stories concerns a raven who turns psychotic after witnessing or instigating a suicide The narrator turns the classic raven in the tradition of Poe into its opposite instead of creating an atmosphere of ominous foreshadowing itself, it is the victim of an oppressive, dangerous and incomprehensible situation that it can t handle The symbol of fear has to go to psychoanalysis to overcome its panic attacks What a sad and ironic metaphor The story that touched me most was the one told by a mole in Berlin, trying to make sense of the wall He describes his struggle to understand the motivation for people to escape from one side to the other by taking up the mole s profession digging tunnels In the materialistic, detached concept of the moles, human beings try to get into the prison that constitutes West Berlin in order to be able to eat bananas, which are a mystery to moles but can be compared to an especially delicious worm After that I had no other option but to conclude that, in these ancient times of the Wall s , what Men defined as freedom was moving from one banana place to another I could not help laughing tears at this First of all because it is still true We do indeed want to be able to move from one banana place republic to another, and we want to have the option to eat bananas, even if we don t actually like them Secondly, it reminded me of the time at the beginning of the 1990s, when I went to school in a West German town, and people started to move there from Eastern towns Bananas were indeed not a joke It was a real topic, a symbol for the difference between the two Germanys There are a lot of questions underneath the surface of that ironical storyline As Draculic herself states in the introduction I am aware that, if you are not familiar with Eastern Europe under Communism, some stories from this book might appear to you highly fictitious, if not outright fantasy Therefore, I would like to assure you that, unfortunately, this is not the case From the point of view of persons and events described, regardless of whether a story is narrated by a dog, a cat, or some other domestic, wild, or exotic animal, it all really happened This is easy enough to check Indeed, as a fiction writer I often felt ashamed by the imagination of politicians, of which there is ample proof in this book This is an argument I have heard from giants of magical realism in South America and Asia as well, such as Marquez or Salman Rushdie, and thelife experience I gain, theI tend to agree with them The benefit of introducing animal storytellers to relate the historical facts is simply to add a platform for interpretation from a different angle, and it works beautifully It is unlikely the reader will forget the characters described in this novel, and it should be part of any library concerned with human beings living within timeframe of the social experiments of the 20th century, like Koestler, Pasternak, Doris Lessing, Milan Kundera, Milosz etc They all added a dimension to the task of writing down history so it won t be repeated in all its surrealism and folly, and they did so writing brilliant fiction.As Kipling said If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten Interesting, but repetitive I had to read this for my study abroad Political Science class on communism soAt least I got to go to Europe and visit the Czech Republic, Poland, Austria, Slovakia, and Hungary Although often clever and poignant in its observations not only about the distorting dynamics of power in Eastern European communist states but also the gap in consciousness between those who lived through and those born after that era i.e., of experience and benign ignorance I didn t find this book as compelling as the others I ve read by Drakulic It seemed aimed at those with little to no familiarity with those Eastern bloc states, but also written in a style that assumed that the allusions Although often clever and poignant in its observations not only about the distorting dynamics of power in Eastern European communist states but also the gap in consciousness between those who lived through and those born after that era i.e., of experience and benign ignorance I didn t find this book as compelling as the others I ve read by Drakulic It seemed aimed at those with little to no familiarity with those Eastern bloc states, but also written in a style that assumed that the allusions and satire would be understood The conceit of this book is the story of those states told from the perspective of various animals some of whom had intimate vantage points from which to observe the inanities of these socialist states and or those in charge of them e.g., Tito s parrot , others who piece together the histories through indirect accounts or evidence e.g., a mole from the former East Berlin , but all of whom wonder at the bizarre nature of human beings I found Drakulic s workappealing in the past because she shared directly personal stories of her own and from others that revealed the fundamental indignity and inhumanity that even the smallest aspects of life in those societies presented for those who lived in them In this book, the focus seems to beon the elite and their perverse view of the world and themselves and the contortions and manipulations that this created Perhaps the 20 year distance from the collapse of communism left Drakulic with less direct material or at least enough that was left consciously or not unsmudged by time to write the kind of social critiques as she had before

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