- Published on Amazon.com
This book is a rarity in today's literary finds: a discussion of contemporary post-communist eastern European writers, most of whom have been translated into English. Written in a conversational tone, the eminent Professor Wachtel utilizes loads of literary references and quotations (so please thoroughly expect your to-do reading list to expand exponentially). Throughout the text, interspersed within chapters like "Writers and Politics" and "Writers and Journalism," he discusses some of my established EE faves like Havel, Ugresic, Drakulic and Limonov.
I got introduced to feminist writers like Oksana Zabuzhko (Ukraine); Liliana Ursu (Romania) and Kinga Dunin of Poland. Wachtel makes an excellent point that writers like Dunin will need to continue using academic/feminist jargon concerning women's issues since Eastern Europe is, in my opinion, 30 years behind the US on such matters. I also got acquainted with the Russian writer Vladimir Makanin, although I felt the author's review of his Underground was too lengthy.
In the middle of the book, the author goes into a fairly lengthy discussion of Andrei Makine's Dreams of my Russian summers and the journalistic work of Tatyana Tolstaya. Neither emerge too favorably as it is felt that their works portray Russian in a too cliched-ridden and stereotype-promoting mode.
Wachtel devotes much ink to Russian writer and political activist Edvard Limonov, one of the more interesting nationalist politicians of our time. Limonov is discussed indepth in no less than two sections of the book and there are even some b&w fotos of him in military garb.
If you're like me and found Jachym Topol's City Sister Silver a difficult read, you'll appreciate the author's excellent, insightful breakdown into this important (although obscure) work.
In the final chapter on Popular Fiction in Eastern Europe, Michal Viewegh's Bringing up girls in Bohemia is discussed intelligently (although it may carry the popular fiction label).
One would think that Russian writer Viktor Pelevin would garner more ink in this seminal work, but he is only mentioned spporadically throughout the book.
All in all, Prof. Wachtel does a great job of dissecting the place of writers today in post-communist Eastern Europe. And at $29.00, it's a steal.