December 14, 2009

The White King

Gyorgy Dragoman: The White King

The life of the former „Eastern Block” form the point of view of a child. Djata is a 11 years old boy, his father is at a forced labor camp. This is the most important motive in the book, which contains of several grotesque and absurd, but still anecdotic stories from the life in Romania in the middle of the 1980’s.

Well, a 11 years old child is our narrator, which means, there is a conflict between what we know about life and what Djata tells us about it. It is similar to the Fatelessness by Imre Kertesz. First of all because this book gives quite often the feeling, everything what happens is normal. This is the “normal” way of life. And of course there are several moments which are typical for an 11 years old boy, but still there are always something bizarre and terrible in the background. Djata is always waiting home his father, and there are small signals, sometimes just some words in his storytelling, that their life becomes harder and harder. And even there is a conflict within the family, between his mother and his grandparents (the parrent’s of his father), which makes the situation more complicated.

Not only the point of view is from a child, but the way of storytelling. He uses sometimes very long sentences, as usually a child, who wants to tell the people many-many things, and he wants to tell it as fast as possible, and he looks like almost to forget to breathe.

The title of the book refers to the white king of the chess board, and this motive appears only a few times in the stories.

I’ve said at the start of this post, this is a book about the life in the former Eastern Block. Well, it is not quite accurate, because there were quite large differences between the countries in this part of Europe in that period. Although some things are very familiar to our former life here in Hungary, for example the motive of the brutal and tyrannical teachers, or even the scene, when Djata and his friend find the private screening room for the VIPs of the Party in the cinema (this is like a scene from the grotesque film of Peter Bacso, The Witness), and during reading the book there was nothing really shocking in this book, I should say, we have had still more freedom, a better and easier life here in Hungary.

And although there are some ( for me) uninteresting stories in this book, the end, the last story was really worth to wait.

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