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A Guided Tour Through the Museum of Communism: Fables from a Mouse, a Parrot, a Bear, a Cat, a Mole, a Pig, a Dog, and a Raven Paperback – February 22, 2011

4.0 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Drakulic, Croatian journalist and author of Café Europa, presents a condensed and whimsical history of communism filtered through the perspective of animals who share little tales that largely focus on figures like Tito and Ceausescu. Along the way, Drakulic achieves a measured (if silly) survey of communism and its fall that is neither vitriolic nor nostalgic, nor wholly cynical or awed by Western capitalism. Running throughout is an awareness of how the past is eroding, with young people blissfully unaware of history. The animal narrators—a mouse, a bear, a dog among them—are generally charming, though the harshness of the book's subject and the quaintness of its methodology makes for odd pairings, with some of the attempted lightheartedness coming off as awkward or just plain botched (as with the pig who is supposedly writing an introduction to a cookbook but instead goes on a political screed). It's a strange project, partially successful, and likely to hold undeniable appeal to a limited audience. (Mar.)
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About the Author

Slavenka Drakulic was born in Croatia in 1949. The author of several works of nonfiction and novels, she has written for The New York Times, The Nation, The New Republic, and numerous publications around the world.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (February 22, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143118633
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143118633
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.5 x 7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #796,816 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Lonya VINE VOICE on June 17, 2012
Format: Paperback
Go where you belong from now on--into the dustbin of history!" Leon Trotsky.

It is with no small amount of irony perhaps that the dustbin through which the reader travels in Slavenka Drakulic's "A Guided Tour Through the Museum of Communism" is not the dustbin envisioned by Leon Trotsky in 1917 but, rather, the ash heap envisioned by U.S. President Reagan in his speech to the British House of Commons in 1982.

Drakulic's tour takes you through each of the countries of the former eastern bloc. With more than a slight nod to George Orwell (the book's front plate contains Orwell's epigram "Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past), the tour is conducted in each country by a different animal. In the Czech Republic a mouse give the tour, in Poland a cat and so on. The use of animals to spin these fables worked pretty well here. First, it added a bit of a whimsical air to a subject that could easily fall into holes of anger or recrimination. Second, by using animals, mostly pets, as narrators, Drakulic was able to actually tell these tales with a bit of detachment and some understanding (if not sympathy). The use of Tito's parrot or the Polish leader's cat to tell their tales of life under the old regime actually served to humanize the fallen leaders without it being seen as a defense of those leaders. Drakulic paints the animals as rather neutral observers of the human condition and that, I think, allows them to speak with more objectivity than if the narrators had been human.

I think most readers should enjoy Guided Tour. One cautionary note for potential readers: I have a basic, if not particularly deep, knowledge of Eastern Europe's post World War II history.
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Even better than the author's brilliant first book (Cafe Europa).

The author tells some dark stories of various communist countries history, using animals to de-humanize them. Great book for children or adults who don't know much about Hungary, Albania or Tito, and don't want to be depressed learning about it.

Highly recommended.
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Format: Paperback
A Guided Tour Through The Museum of Communism: Fables from a Mouse, a Parrot, A Beart, a Cat, a Mole, a Pig, a Dog and Raven is a small collection of stories and anecdotes from various animals during and after the era of Socialism in Eastern Europe.

If the reader wish to be entertained, they are in for a disappointment.
If the reader wish to be enlightened, they are also in for a disappointment.

Each chapter represent a different country under the era of Socialism and while they are no doubt well-researched they are merely not entertaining as fiction. And as the narrators are animals, the style changes quite a lot but unfortunately their idea of what life was for a human seems vague at best.

Most chapters seem far too factually dry to entertain the common man, and yet fails to bring an idea to the reader what life under communism was.

Only two chapters stand out to me as worthy of a read, one being the chapter about the parrot, but only because the language is lively and paints a picture of Tito as an interesting man, but fails to capture life in Yugoslavia for the common people, and hardly describes the later wars in the early 90es. The other being the chapter about the raven, but only as it contains a great deal of suspension and keeps the reader eager to know more.

All in all, should the reader want something similar to "Animal Farm" by George Orwell, they might as well ignore this book, though is has some charm and some references, the characters are far too uninteresting to be remembered unlike those found in "Animal Farm". Should the reader want to learn what life was like under the Socialist-era, they won't find out, the animals are far too concerned about their own story to actually paint an accurate picture of life for humans.
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Format: Paperback
This little handbook could just have easily been entitled Drakulic's Fables as it mimics Aesop's cautionary tales drawing from the tragedy of Communist Eastern Europe. Her rendering of profound moral learning in the form of simple narratives relayed in commonplace terms by everyday creatures is masterly. As someone who had lived through and suffered so many of the harsh realities she describes it must have taken extraordinary skills to lift her gaze and construct such seemingly humourous tales about such serious events. Four fables stood out most powerfully for me - the Czech Mouse whose reflections open the collection, the Yugoslav Parrot, the Albanian Raven and the Polish cat. The latter in particular with its observations on justice and revenge could serve as a challenging case study in a postgraduate ethics class.
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This is an excellent book by one of Eastern Europe's premier writers. Ms. Drakulic uses animals as a metaphor to explain the collapse of each of the Soviet Bloc states in Europe and their re-integration into world society. She is an excellent writer and her provocative works provide some of the best views on politics in Eastern Europe. This slim volume is well worth the read.
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