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Articles tagged "Communism"

Is This How Women Grow Up?

It is all a matter of décor Change your bed change your body What’s the use since it is still Me betraying myself Indolent and scattered And my shadow undresses In the arms of girls, all alike, Where I thought I’d found a country —“Is this how men live” Louis Aragon August 1994. The afternoon seemed endless, the heat relentless. She was stretched out on the bed, hardly dressed, reading, smoking, splashing herself with water, dropping off...

Mihail Sebastian’s “The Accident”

A first encounter with the Romanian writer Mihail Sebastian (1907-1945), and his novel The Accident, might benefit from some personal context—a little of mine, and a good bit of the author’s. I was born in Romania in 1979, emigrated when I was a child, and returned to the country in 2004 to work in film.  One of the fondest memories I have of the two years I lived in Bucharest is of the evening a friend treated me to a gramophone recording of Sebastian’s play The Star...

from “The Same Way Every Day”

A plump face, an old suit with a too-long skirt, her hair permed.  Nana looked like that when she’d met us, at the beginning of the first year at the university.  Older than she would seem ten years later, when, thanks to me, she’d meet her future husband.  Was he the first?  The second?  I'll never know. When she still put her hair in rag curlers she brought from home, those evenings in the cramped room stinking of crowded bodies, of Nivea cream...

from “Gypsy Mandalas”

10th Mandala I realized early on inside my mother’s belly that I’d be born a Gypsy. The realization made me drown at least twice in the embryonic fluid, but then I decided to resurrect myself. After all, being a Gypsy can’t be any worse than the state of the world itself. I’ll muddle through it somehow, just like all the other Gypsies.   14th Mandala While my father was taking an extension course in jail—due partly to having beaten up one of the...

The China Doll

The stranger looked familiar. He might have come from Dorog, or possibly the county seat. István Jósvai said his name was Csurmándi. Csurmándi was a bundle of energy and self-confidence. His dark eyes gleamed above wide cheekbones. The locks of hair falling over his forehead were like the wings of a bird about to take to flight. His hunched shoulders too suggested staunch determination. You could tell  that he was supporting walls on his swarthy shoulders,...

from “Communist Monte Cristo”

Question:  “In 1956, who awaited Father Christmas most eagerly?” Answer:  “Comrade Stalin. He already put his boots out in October.” Budapest joke, 1956   The state police came for Great Granddad only in April, and just when he’d made such a nice adjustment to the people’s republic and its tattered legitimacy! He rose at five, went to work by six, didn’t shoot his mouth off, and didn’t read the papers. His lifestyle...

from “Ru”

I came into the world early in the Year of the Monkey, during the Tet Offensive, when long strings of fireworks hanging from the houses exploded in polyphony with the sound of machine guns. Saigon was my birthplace, and thousands of bits of old firecrackers covered the soil in red as if they were petals from a cherry tree, or the blood of two million soldiers, scattered through the towns and villages of a Vietnam torn in two. I was born in the shadows of skies embroidered with...

from “Purge”

When the Baltic Germans were invited into Germany in the fall of 1939, one of the sisters’ German classmates from school and confirmation classes came to say good-bye, and promised to return. She was just going to make a tour of a country that she’d never seen before, and then she would come back and tell them what Germany was really like. They waved good-bye and Aliide watched as Hans’s hands wrapped around Ingel’s waist and moved toward her rear end. Their...

Animal Farm; or, a Short and Somewhat Political History of Comics in Poland

The Goat Polish comics began in 1919 with the publication in the Lvov satirical weekly Szczutek (“Fillip”) of With Fire and Sword; or, The Adventures of Mad Grześ, about a young soldier who battles enemies of Poland on various fronts.  For the next twenty years, the comics market developed slowly but systematically. Comics were published in magazines for both children and adults. Most were imported—among them Prince Valiant, Tarzan, and Mickey Mouse. The...

Balloon to Solaris

Polish speculative fiction has been developing for over two hundred years, although it was only sixty years ago that science fiction began to be treated as a separate segment of the publishing market, with its own publishing series, authors, and critical apparatus. As in the case of Polish culture more generally, extraliterary events—both historical and political—have had an enormous influence on the genre’s form, achievements, and reception in the stormy last two...

State of Siege

Wherever to go and whatever from can always be said for certain: because it's Sunday and three cars in front of the house hour after hour Marx Engels Lenin Stalin in the back seat ad usum delphini They've come straight from Utopia Headquarters in Berlin-Lichtenberg smoking and reading the paper and waiting for objections coming from my poor and hesitant words newly hatched migrants trailblazers heading to a place where "talk of trees" does not involve silence...

From “Pol Pot’s Smile”

1 The road through the landscape. You have to drive well below the speed limit of 70 kph unless you already know the wheeltracks, the potholes, the curves. Roads in Cambodia aren’t much different. An ancient pathway that has grown wider over the centuries. Coated with asphalt in modern times. A surface now thinning and cracked. The society builders are looking in another direction. My car dates from 1971. Its once-red paintwork is blotchy and on the upper left corner of its cracked...

from “Mausolée”

1 On a freezing day in February 1964 Sacho the Violin was arrested, an elegant man in his fifties, a former cabaret violinist known and loved by what remains of Sofia's bon-vivant community. Under the crowd's gray gaze, a dozen militiamen bluntly push him into a small van. Passersby turn away, ostensibly feigning indifference. They haven't seen anything. Did you see someone who might have? No one. Was there anything to see for that matter? Nothing. A small van slowly made...

from “I Can’t Stand Still”: An Interview with Jáchym Topol

Weiss: What was your first time out of the country? Topol: My first time was in East Germany with my mom. She took my brother and me to the seaside there. That change—all of a sudden by the sea in the GDR instead of in Poříčí1 as usual—happened thanks to my mother's coworkers. Apparently they explained that you're supposed to go away on vacation with your kids. That ended the era of staying at home or with our grandma. Vacations at home...

Pink Pigeons—Was It They Who Won?

An early August wind whispers through the lush green trees of Alma Ata. The tiny leaves break into applause. "What are these trees called?" I ask the interpreter. "Tuzhi," the ravishing, delicate Tatar beauty responds gently, in a distinctly American accent. Her name is Gulnaz. So beautiful, fragile-looking, adorable! Like a refreshing vision of paradise itself. And the words flow from her mouth in a cascade of flowers. A persistent breeze keeps blowing her short blonde hair across her...

An Interview with Wu Wenjian

From the series "Eternal Sorrow," by Wu Wenjian With the help of two artist friends, I recently met Wu Wenjian, a worker-turned-painter, at the 798 Arts Factory, a thriving colony of studios and art galleries converted from old factories and warehouses, in Beijing's Chaoyang District. It was a sunny day. Wu was dressed in a blazing red shirt and seemed to be in high spirits. After a brief chat, we went to a nearby restaurant that served food from Northeastern China to conduct the...

From “Prison Memoirs”

Wang Dan was a leader of the 1989 student pro-democracy protest in Tiananmen Square. Following the government crackdown on June 4, Wang, who was on the government's most wanted list, went into hiding. He was arrested in 1990 and sentenced to four years imprisonment in 1991. After being released on parole in 1993, Wang wrote publicly about the pro-democracy movement to overseas publications and was rearrested in 1995 for conspiring to overthrow the Communist Party. He was sentenced in...

Farewell to the Queue

An era can be judged by street conversations. "Look, there's a line." "What're they giving out?" "Just get on it, then we'll find out." "How much should I get?" "As much as they'll give you." This touching dialogue from the Brezhnev era should be etched on the stern granite of Lenin's mausoleum—in memory of the great era of socialist paradise. And if anyone were to think seriously about a monument to that period, I would suggest that the empty...

from “Black Sky, Black Sea”

May 1977 The Byzantine aqueduct stretched from the houses by the fire station over the boulevard and then curved in toward the back of the city theater. Four lanes of traffic flowed under its still solid arches. Saraçhane Square lay in the middle of a park by the same name, surrounded by the ruins of the aqueduct, the Şehzade Mosque, and the City Hall. It was a bustling and lively area, with public offices, theaters, cinemas, and thundering traffic. But the most remarkable...

The Arrest of Heberto Padilla and Belkis Cuza Malé

Translator's Note: Belkis Cuza Malé's account of her arrest and that of her husband, Heberto Padilla, reveals intimate household details of what happens after the notorious knock at the door, the dreaded harbinger of the dangers to be faced when the full weight of a totalitarian state falls on an individual. The two Cuban poets, initial supporters of the Cuban Revolution, worked in state-sponsored cultural institutions. Padilla had held several government positions. His...

The Communist of Montmartre

In April 1935, the Paris Central of the Communist Party found itself in an acutely embarrassing dilemma. Moscow had asked them to bring one representative from each ethnic group oppressed by French imperialism to the Festival of Peace scheduled for that coming summer. But although when they went through the membership rolls it was no trouble at all to find a trustworthy Algerian and an active Vietnamese, likewise Polynesians and Caribbean mulattoes who enthusiastically embraced the...

from Great General Mighty Wing

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Their Boots Were Made for Walking: El Taller de la Gráfica Popular

Figure 1. A politician from the party that now holds the presidential seat, riding the PRI dinosaur, says: "It's about time troops and police enter Oaxaca!" A legendarily short story by Tito Monterroso reads, in its entirety: "Y cuando despertó, el dinosaurio todavía estaba allí" ("And when he awoke, the dinosaur was still there"). This expresses my feelings about the PRI perfectly; when I was born, when I first opened my eyes, it was the dinosaur that...

A Drawing Textbook

The main characters: Sergei Ilyich Tatarnikov: a dissolute and disaffected sixty-year-old historian. Roza Crantz: a middle-aged academic, an art historian and culturologist, enthusiastic about the fall of Soviet Communism, ambitious, and keenly attuned to Western intellectual currents. German Basmanov: a seasoned Party functionary who has adroitly exploited the transition to post-Soviet politics and business life. He has recently been named the director of the Russian branch of...

The Man Who Couldn’t Die

It had been Marina's idea. Keep Alexei Afanasievich from finding out about the changes in the outside world. Keep him in the same sunlit but frozen time when the unexpected stroke had cut him down. "Mama, his heart!" Marina had pleaded, having grasped instantly that, no matter how burdensome this recumbent body might be, it consumed much less than it yielded. At the very first, clear-eyed Marina may have been moved by more than this primitive practicality. There had been a period...

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