The history of communism has been chewed over in a whole manner of tongues over the decades, but animals have rarely been part of the story, let alone the storytellers.
In a Guided Tour Through the Museum of Communism: Fables from a Mouse, a Parrot, a Bear, a Cat, a Mole, a Pig, a Dog & a Raven (published, rather appropriately, by Penguin), Croatian author Slavenka Drakulic looks at the rise and fall of communism in the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, former Yugoslavia, Poland, former East Germany, Hungary, Romania, and Albania, through the eyes of eight animals.
It’s an odd concept, especially as the book is aimed at adults rather than children, but it’s matter-of-fact messages and quirky sense of humour distinguish it as an effective and particularly memorable study of Central and Eastern European politics.
In the first fable, our narrator (a mouse) shares his love of Prague’s Museum of Communism, despite it being “full of ugly things,” while a shaggy-haired dog proclaims that the wild hounds that roam modern-day Bucharest are the great-great-grandchildren of the dogs let loose when Nicolae Ceausescu levelled the historic city centre.
Meanwhile, in Berlin, a mole talks of the differences between East and West Germany with wonderfully rounded treatises on capitalism and religion, while a Croatian parrot reminisces about Marshall Tito’s jealous wife and the fate of 20 million Yugoslavs.
Flawless in both fact and tone, Drakulic has delivered a book worth savoring.