There's a little of Bohumil Hrabal's playfulness and Karel Capek's bracing good-natured contempt for image cultivators and ideologues in this fine collection of three astringent tales, by a versatile Slovakian writer, about life in Communist-dominated Mitteleuropa. The eerie title novella presents the (heavily self-edited) memoirs of a retired spy; it's a wry, cagey, hall-of-mirrors "confession" that reads like an Arthur Koestler novel rewritten by Samuel Beckett. "Everything I Know About Central Europeanism" redefines its title's concept through its narrator's memories of a (fictional) meeting with Albert Camus. And the long story "A Horse Upstairs, a Blind Man in Vrable" is a richly comic, episodic memoir that slyly subverts Communist rhetoric and posturing while relating a series of raffish anecdotes—all capped by a hilarious account of "hiding" a soldier's horse in an already overcrowded apartment building. Captivating, thought-provoking fiction.
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