Do you sometimes feel guilty about not having read a certain book? It does sometimes happen to me, I admit the older I the more resistant to this feeling I am, but it still happens. This was one of such books.
Unfortunately it didn’t work for me. We have here a story of an aging writer who used praise the socialist realism, but who now sides with the dissidents. One day those same dissidents visit him in his apartment with an unusual request. They want him to burn himself on the same day during a Party event, as an act of self-immolation. A comical discussion ensues, where they debate why exactly was our protagonist selected and not someone else.
Our writer tentatively agrees, and thus his days odyssey starts. As he travels through the city to get his canister of petrol and then with many difficulties obtain a box of matches (remember this is communism, shortages of everything are common). As the day progresses the city falls into madness. He meets love of his life, many dissidents, as well as party members. All those people circling around him in a form of danse macabre leading him on and on. And he miserably, desperately follows, hoping for some form of salvation.
The book is full of pompous musings. I do realize it is a parody, but it just didn’t move me. I think it’s too much rooted in that specific time, that I do not know first hand, which makes it difficult to relate to on an emotional level (I do know the damage communism did to societies). Milan Kundera touches on similar times and topics, yet his books seem more timeless, maybe because they very strongly relate to human experience, in addition to the political situation. Or even they look at the political situation in the context of how it is experienced by people, how if affects them. The Book of Laughter and Forgetting was one of the best books I read this year. Yet I could not connect with the Minor Apocalypse. It was too much of a pastiche, too crazy, too much, everything pushed to the extreme of reasonableness and beyond.
Do you read books about or from communism? What is your favorite?