Alexander Motyl’s comic novel with half-serious underpinnings
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Motyl’s vivid descriptions give his tale a surreal dimension: Pitoon had a “large, rounded forehead held taut by two slivers of sweet pink flesh, his ears.” His long climb to respectability in the German secret police tested his determination. “He collected dissidents’ soiled underpants, stored them in airtight jars, and used them to direct canine noses in the righteous struggle against ideological diversion and bourgeois subversion.”
Pitoon’s background revealed his narrow mind. When a woman thought she noticed a slight accent in his German and wrongly guessed that he was from Trieste, he immediately had her shot, “not because she was right but because she was dead wrong, and he took his expressions seriously.”
As Volodymyr gets to know the devious Katorga, he discovers she is a Ukrainian Communist whose parents killed thousands for the cause. Katorga justifies the carnage: “You cannot, you know, make borscht without peeling beets.”
Yet he is tortured by his past and dreams of destroying it. “Who can destroy history?” he asks. “One may be able to make it or remake it, but surely one cannot unmake it. The notion is preposterous…”
This book is preposterous, but in the good sense. The author has woven characters from our past into an object lesson on the meaning of history and why it’s best to learn to deal with it, not change it. Volodymyr wonders at the end whether his efforts were worth the trouble. Might he have been wiser to have spent the time “more usefully and more fruitfully and certainly more profitably, going into the restaurant business or dressing well or buying tomatoes or something like that.”
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?