CAFE EUROPA by Slavenka Drakulic


Life After Communism
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 Drakuli's eloquent and brave essays demand that the citizens of post-Communist Eastern Europe take personal responsibility for their roles in the new civil society. Over the past five years, Croatian journalist and novelist Drakuli (The Balkan Express, 1993; Holograms of Fear, 1992) has emerged in the English-speaking world as a consistent, honest, stylish, and canny interpreter of Eastern Europe and ex-Yugoslavia. Her latest contribution continues that tradition (some may argue to the point of repetition), offering Drakuli's trademark essays that reach for the pulse of a country or an era by homing in on everyday events and encounters. Like her previous work, Cafe Europa serves as a protest against an East European tendency, based on decades- long experience under paternalist dictators, to shirk civic responsibility. ``How does a person who is a product of a totalitarian society,'' she asks, ``learn responsibility, individuality, initiative? By saying `no.' '' Although her canvas encompasses all of the Balkans and Eastern Europe, her own Croatia bears the brunt of Drakuli's penetrating criticism. One unforgettable essay depicts Croatian president Franjo Tudjman as an object of vitriolic contempt. Both the everyday and the political milieu of post-Communist Croatia are ready subjects for Drakuli's combination of wit, scorn, and introspection. From the renaming of the streets and cutting down of trees in Zagreb, to a colleague's uncritical interview with an unrepentant Croatian Fascist, to the author's own experiences as a consumer in America and as a Croat in Israel, the Croatian essays form the backbone of this collection. Nevertheless, these 24 essays, written between 1992 and 1996, are informed by the author's image of the lands of Eastern Europe as the ``infantile nations of our continent,'' sharing a common desire--``our longing for Europe and all that it stands for.'' General readers interested in understanding the gritty realities of post-Communist Eastern Europe should grab a coffee and sit down with Cafe Europa. (Author tour)

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-393-04012-7
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 1996


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