July Books 8) Café Europa

8) Café Europa: Life after Communism, by Slavenka Drakulić

Collection of short pieces (presumably newspaper columns) by this Croatian writer, who I have not previously read. To be honest, after the first third of it, I was ready to put the book down: too much whining about the state of the world, very much reminding me of why I didn’t much like living in Zagreb in 1998: Croatia then seemed both smug and fragile, a curious combination. (Edited to clarify: There was too much whining about the way the rest of the world was treating Croats (who, unlike most of the rest of the former Yugoslavs, actually were never required to get visas, and enjoyed better access to the EU than Romanians and Bulgarians until surprisingly recently); too much slagging off of the peasantry and bemoaning the fact that they had gained power at the expense of the sophisticated urban elite to which she belongs.)

Things have improved, however, and every time I return to the country now I find myself liking it more and more as normality takes deeper root. The same was true of Drakulić’s book: there were two really good pieces about Croatia’s failure to deal with its fascist historical legacy, and about the psychology of Arkan’s uniform, and after that it somehow all seemed to make more sense and become more readable. So, worth persevering with, though perhaps the editors should have chopped a bit more of the early stuff.

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