The winter has come to Central Europe which gives yet another great excuse to stay in and catch up with the best and most timely books.
History always repeats itself
Destroyed Aleppo in 2016 has an uncanny resemblance to WW2 Warsaw – as pictured in wartime photographs. A Polish poet Miron Bialoszewski’s diaries give a harrowing account of civilians’ struggle in a besieged city.
A Memoir of the Warsaw Uprising by Miron Białoszewski; New York Review Books Classics, 288 pages
From the review: “the full uncensored version of a book that became the ultimate Polish testimony of the devastation wreaked by war.”
Food for thought
Hungary’s recent years told through its quintessential products.
Paprika, Foie Gras, and Red Mud: The Politics of Materiality in the European Union by Zsuzsa Gille; Global Research Studies, 180 pages
From the publisher: “In this original and provocative study, Zsuzsa Gille examines three scandals that have shaken Hungary since it joined the European Union: the 2004 ban on paprika due to contamination, the 2008 boycott of Hungarian foie gras by Austrian animal rights activists, and the “red mud” spill of 2010, Hungary’s worst environmental disaster.”
To all interested in the history of political philosophy, we recommend to at least skimm through a monumental first volume of A History of Modern Political Thought in East Central Europe: Negotiating Modernity in the ‘Long Nineteenth Century’ by Balázs Trencsényi, Maciej Janowski, Monika Baar, Maria Falina, and Michal Kopecek; Oxford University Press, 704 pages.
From the publisher: “Covering twenty national cultures and languages, the ensuing work goes beyond the conventional nation-centered narrative and offers a novel vision especially sensitive to the cross-cultural entanglement of discourses.”
Contemporary Women’s Writing in Slovakia
Julia Sherwood recommends one of the finest recent novels about the experience of illness and loss.
Scenes from the life of M [Obrazy zo života M] by Svetlana Žuchová
From the critic: “Marisia, a young Slovak woman working in Vienna, is trying to come to terms with her mother’s terminal illness and the process of dying, registering her thoughts, feelings, and every detail of her daily routine, very much a woman writer’s counterpart to Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle.”
Quintessential crime stories for all late night revellers.
Prague noir edited by Pavel Mandys, Paseka, 203 pages
From the publisher: “Prague Noir contains short stories by fourteen leading Czech authors, which explore the many forms of Prague crimes, mysteries and secrets, continuing the rich tradition of detective and mystery fiction with Prague motifs.”
Post-truth in the 80s
Late Péter Esterházy’s take on post-truth in real existing socialism in Hungary.
A Little Hungarian Pornography by Péter Esterházy, 216 pages
From the authors’ preface to first English translation 1995: “It was written in 1982-3, in the overripe period of the Kadar era, under small, Hungarian, pornographic circumstances where pornography should be understood as meaning lies, the lies of the body, the lies of the soul, our lies. Let us imagine, if we can, a country where everything is a lie, where the lack of democracy is called socialist democracy, economic chaos socialist economy, revolution anti-revolution, and so on.”
The magic mountain
Polish Nobel prize winner’s deliberately unfinished science fiction novel, finally translated into English.
The Mountains of Parnassus by Czeslaw Milosz. Translated from the Polish by Stanley Bill, Yale University Press, 184 pages
From the publisher: “Written in the 1970s and published posthumously in Polish in 2012, Milosz’s deliberately unfinished novel is set in a dystopian future where hierarchy, patriarchy, and religion no longer exist. Echoing the structure of The Captive Mind and written in an experimental, postmodern style, Milosz’s sole work of science fiction follows four individuals: Karel, a disaffected young rebel; Lino, an astronaut who abandons his life of privilege; Petro, a cardinal racked with doubt; and Ephraim, a potential prophet in exile.”
Bleak and surprising classic by László Krasznahorkai, the winner of 2015’’s Man Booker Prize, later adapted to screen by a legendary film director Béla Tarr.
Satantango by László Krasznahorkai, New Directions; 274 pages
From the translator: “At the center of Satantango,” George Szirtes has said, “is the eponymous drunken dance, referred to here sometimes as a tango and sometimes as a csardas. It takes place at the local inn where everyone is drunk…”