UTOPIAS ELSEWHERE by Anthony Daniels

UTOPIAS ELSEWHERE

Journeys in a Vanishing World
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Biting account of the outer squalor and inner landscape of totalitarianism found in Albania, North Korea, Romania, Vietnam, and Cuba; by British psychiatrist and travel-writer Daniels (Coups and Cocaine, 1986, etc.), who in 1989 visited Communist states still refusing the pull toward democracy then engulfing the Soviet sphere. Straight away, writing of Marx and Lenin, Daniels trumpets his anti-Communist stance: ``Below the surface of their compassion for the poor seethed the molten lava of their hatred, which they had not enough self-knowledge to realize.'' He then presents a scathing travelogue of five different styles of inhumanity and deceit used with little success by five small Communist states to bring about ``The New Man.'' Among the chillingly absurd scenes of subjection he describes is a visit to North Korea's ``Department Store No. 1,'' shown to visitors to testify to consumer-goods production; Daniels says that the thousands of ``shoppers'' riding the escalators and browsing are not permitted to buy any of the shoddy goods on display but actually are paid (with a pair of ugly brown socks) to pretend to shop. In Romania under the Ceausescus, he says, shortages of necessities were planned to ``keep people's minds strictly on bread and sausages, and divert their energies to procuring them so that there was no time or inclination left for subversion.'' Amid the gray concrete housing blocks of Albania (where, Daniels claims, an entire family is sent to the mines if a member escapes the country), he finds a pyramidal museum devoted to founding dictator Enver Hoxha's life--a life, we're told, that has been rewritten by the government to make mediocrity appear godlike. A hardly unbiased study of the banality of evil under authoritarian Communism.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1991
ISBN: 0-517-58548-0
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: Crown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1991