A debut collection of short fiction that takes documentary day-in-the-life snapshots from the lives of six evil exemplars.
American-born Piatigorsky makes his home in Toronto. His libretto for the chamber opera, Airline Icarus, won the Italian Primo Fedora Award. A playwright, he has won the Dora Mavor Moore Award twice. His success in the theater has not translated to his debut fiction. In “Tea is Better Than Pepsi,” we meet Idi Amin. He is a cook for British and Ugandan soldiers. Amin dreams big; his dream comes true. Sâr, who grows up to be Pol Pot, seems naïve, amorous and conflicted in “A Plaything For the King’s Superfluous Wives.” In “The Consummation,” young Mao Tse-Tung is defiant and abashed, unable to do the deed to consummate his arranged marriage. We meet Stalin before he is Stalin, already insisting on his nickname Koba, during his tenure as a conniving and vengeful seminarian in Tiflis. Rafael Trujillo, called chipita or bottle cap, is an obsessive-compulsive dandy. Hitler is grandiose, obsessed with Wagner, the malevolence of whores and his father’s abuse. Without our knowledge of their futures, these young men appear unremarkable. But this collection does not do more than that; it does not tell us anything we don’t already know about the vagaries and surprises of maturation. That some men grow up to be dictators is a truism Piatigorsky fails to make compelling.
The concept cannot overcome the weakness of the execution.