In a series of fables set in Eastern Europe, Drakulic (Two Underdogs and a Cat: Three Reflections on Communism, 2009, etc.), a native of Croatia, explores with wit, grace and humor the collapse of communism.
The author begins her collection with the memoirs of Bohumil, a mouse now housed in a school cabinet in The Museum of Communism in Prague. The conceit of this first story is that Bohumil is leading Hans, a mouse from Würzburg, on a tour of the museum, which is full of “ugly things“ and hence a refuge from all the beautiful buildings in Prague. The museum even contains an interrogation room as an unnostalgic reminder of the recent political past. In the next story the narrator is Koki, a talking parrot who recounts his past history with Marshal Tito. Koki presents Tito not only as the establisher of a personality cult but as a dashing figure, a ladies’ man who “[exudes] charisma even when wearing shorts." The following story features Todor, a dancing bear from Bulgaria who wonders whether he’s in fact a symbol of society. (He is.) And so it goes. Other sections are narrated by a cat, a mole (who tunnels under the Berlin Wall), a pig (who notices she bears a striking resemblance to Miss Piggy), the oldest dog in Bucharest and, finally, a psychotic raven. The latter provides one of the most interesting turns in Drakulic’s fiction, for the raven has flown into a psychiatric hospital in Albania, and years later the psychiatrist who treated the raven left a journal of her notes to her son, who tries to make sense of his mother’s experience. The son believes his mother has written about Mr. Raven, as he is called, in a kind of code—that he’s not a raven at all but rather someone who entered the hospital and needed to disguise his identity.
It’s no coincidence that the epigraph of this fiction is from George Orwell, for Drakulic is similarly aware of moral failure and political excess.