Posted by: istop4books | June 25, 2009

Cafe Europa: Life After Communism by Slavenka Drakulic

Cafe Europa: Life After Communism Cafe Europa: Life After Communism by Slavenka Drakulić

My review


Cafe Europa is the non fiction account of what life is life in the old communist countries of Yugoslavia, The Czech Republic and others in the Balkin states. It’s told as sheer commentary from the point of view of one lady, born in 1949 in Croatia, right after the war, married to an Swede, and living in Austria. Her point of view is naturally very subjective to her experience – and – this book was written in 1996 – which makes it very dated in the year 2009, as the explosion of internet technology has changed even the most remote parts of the world.

Having said that, and having lived through 3 years of communist government in South America – so much of what she wrote about rang true, poor dental health, the desire to be European or American, yet taking immense pride in one’s own flawed country, trying to smuggle things like blue jeans and nail polish into the country, buying cheap things on sale even when you can afford better quality – so many of these idiosyncracies are shared with her experience, that the book was worth it for that reason.

On the negative side, I wish there had been a map included, I wish that there had been a brief refresher course on the recent history of that area, because as she dropped political names and countries and cities, they all rang familiar, but I couldn’t quite place each one in context. I also felt that there was very little positive to be said of her part of the world – the fleecing of tourists, the unsmiling shopkeepers, the harsh customs agents, the unhappy people – the whole thing was a bit hopeless and seemed to be written in anger, as though after a particularly bad day she had come home to write an essay in her diary and therefore felt better about things. The coffee was bad, the pastries nothing like what was served in Austria, the items for sale were cheaply constructed and overpriced and on and on and on. Not even her father had redeeming features. In that sense her writing somewhat reflects the countries she is trying to describe.

View all my reviews.

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