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Rivers of Babylon Hardcover – November 6, 2007
Peter PiÅ¡t'anekâs reputation is assured by Rivers of Babylon and by its hero, the most mesmerizing character of Slovak literature, RÃ¡cz, an idiot of genius, a psychopathic gangster. RÃ¡cz and Rivers of Babylon tell the story of a Central Europe, where criminals, intellectuals and ex-secret policemen have infiltrated a new âdemocracyâ. Slovaks see Peter PiÅ¡t'anek as their most flamboyant and fearless writer, stripping the nation of its myths and false self-esteem. The novel has been translated by Peter Petro of British Columbia University, in collaboration with the author .
William Boyd (The Guardian): an astonishing findâ¦ fuelled with formidable energy and ice-cool satire. It displays a fierce black humour that is both ruthless and exhilarating.
Tibor Fischer (The Telegraph): the best fiction I've read on the âwild westâ period
Johnny le Falbe (Literary Review): fast and very funnyâ¦ translation is excellent
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If this misogynistic mindset is representative sentiment of the contemporary male in today's Slovak Republic, then may our sympathies be extended to Slovak women please? Think of women's status circa 1950s in the USA; well, that is where central Europeans may very well be today. Women's civil rights haven't even been broached yet, let alone put into active practice.
Violence against women runs rampant throughout ROB, as do pornographic images of women getting tortured. One wonders whether the author of such things is a cave-dweller himself, or if such hatred towards women is widespread in Slovakia. The first female we encounter in the story is Silvia--"a cheap Slovak whore" (which we are told repeatedly is the norm in Blava as compared to other European prostitutes). Silvia is painted as a golddigger, natch, and by page 80, becomes Racz's personal "property." She's no dummy, though and muses "Men don't like very intelligent women...she will have to arouse his protective instincts, a desire to defend a fragile being." Racz actually has an opinion on this as well.
On page 201, he theorizes that "Women need looking after. They have to have an eye kept on them. They have to be protected and so do a man's interests. That's how it has to be."
Toward the end of our story, Racz meets Lenka, who actually IS intelligent and attending university. A friend of Racz's is forthright in his view that Lenka "deserves to be Racz's pawn;" furthermore, "he'll knock all the BS out of her head." For their first intimate encounter, Racz basically rapes poor, resisting Lenka, then has the gall to later make her out to be a nymphomaniac. She eventually gets pregnant and "interrupts her studies indefinitely."
Another Slovak woman brought down.
Sigh. There is one bright note in all of this wallowing misogyny. On page 115, a nameless female in the story comes right out with "Men make messes that women have to clean up. Don't women have any rights? Women want a life, too."
But that's the sole note of fairness to women in ROB.