Description of a Struggle: The Vintage Book of Contemporary Eastern European Writing

Michael March, Author, Ivan Klima, Introduction by Vintage Books USA $14 (403p) ISBN 978-0-679-74514-3
Editor March's outstanding collection presents 43 short stories from 16 Eastern European nations. Westerners, naturally, will search them for some shared socialist imprint. In his introduction, Czech novelist Klima clues readers where to look: the universal piercing despair and the surreal or absurd attempts to escape it. Despite exquisite, visceral renderings of the likes of Slavenka Draculic, Peter Esterhazy, Bohumil Hrabal and Ismail Kadare, Westerners may never fathom the state control and attendant breakdown of humanity. Nowhere is the bitterness more evident than in the stories from Bulgaria, best represented by Ivan Kulekov's three-page ``My Past, My Future,'' an acerbic contrast of beauty and brutality. Poland's Hanna Krall dispassionately re-creates the life of a terrorist, a life that links the violence of Hitler's camps to the Red Army faction. Latvian Andra Neiburga traces death in quotidian banality, while his countryman Andrei Levkin paints an impressionistic journey of vast futility. The surreal flourishes amid decay in Victor Lapitskii's Russian story, ``Ants,'' while Igor Klekh expounds on the Ukrainian national character. There are some gentle stories, like Albanian Mimoza Ahmeti's wise, lyrical love story. The selections are all well-crafted, moving achievements, expressed with singular focus and metaphor. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 10/31/1994
Release date: 11/01/1994
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