Since ""democrats"" can't fully assimilate the horrors of Communism, Tyrmand, author of Notebooks of a Dilettante (1969),...



Since ""democrats"" can't fully assimilate the horrors of Communism, Tyrmand, author of Notebooks of a Dilettante (1969), says he is obliged to use hyperbole; but what he actually resorts to is a blend of the derisive and the denunciatory that only a Nietzsche could pull off. Horrors of all magnitude are lumped together: political repression, secret police, arbitrary trial, and the invasion of privacy are clucked over on the same level as shopping problems, the replacement of Santa Claus by Father Christmas, parents' pressures on teachers, and other phenomena not wholly unknown to the benign capitalist world. Bad toothpaste and faltering cooperatives -- whence the Tom Wolfe whistle title -- are dwelt upon as much as the hypocrisies of revisionism and the grotesqueries of socialist realism: the most political and most profound of the Eastern European regimes' crimes, like the Kuron-Modjelewski repression in Poland, are bypassed; although Tyrmand's first-hand experience is with Poland, to which he makes abundant references, the 1970 workers' uprising is also overlooked. Any serious criticism of the Soviet bloc regimes has to deal with looting by the Russians and Western investors, the 1968 invasion and its motives, Libermanism and trade policies, standards of living (Tyrmand makes the ridiculous remark that ""the people are worse off than at any time in these countries' histories"") but there's little of any of this here. But even on its own terms, as a sort of neo-Cold War glossy polemic, the book is a flop, because for every passable lampoon (the Polish engineer who got his invention adopted by discussing it over the phone) there are two flat ones. On balance an agreeably written transliteration of a series of flaccid Readers indigestibilities.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1971


Page Count: -

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1971