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Italia mon amour This was a fantastic book, and one need not know a thing about Moldova to enjoy it The theme is universal the struggles and strivings of man, the idea that the grass is always greener, the search outside oneself for the answersthese things are present in any society The fact that it is set against the oppressive backdrop of Larga only serves to heighten the contrast between here and there The story ranges from outrageous and absurd, to sad, and even a bit profound I loved the messag This was a fantastic book, and one need not know a thing about Moldova to enjoy it The theme is universal the struggles and strivings of man, the idea that the grass is always greener, the search outside oneself for the answersthese things are present in any society The fact that it is set against the oppressive backdrop of Larga only serves to heighten the contrast between here and there The story ranges from outrageous and absurd, to sad, and even a bit profound I loved the message or what I actually took to be the moral of the story which I don t want to say because I don t know if that would be considered a spoiler or not Yes, it is a funny, quirky book, but it is muchas well.While I was eager to read this book, I was initially wary of a few things, one being that I usually don t get satirical works by foreign authors though I like to try I was also worried that when I saw the bit about flying tractors in the synopsis it was going to take a turn into the magical realism department as books of this nature sometimes do But even amidst all the ridiculousness, this story found a nice balance It was not absurd for the sake of absurdity In other words, it was smart.Generally speaking I don t enjoy shorter length works because I feel there is never enough time for character development Not true in this case I really sit in awe of how the author was able to work so much character into so few pages Also on the subject of characters, usually a book with a lot of characters or characters being introduced every chapter or so can drive me nuts This book does jump around from character to character, but each one has such a distinct personality andimportant a purpose, so it really worked well.The plot was also superb I don t want to get into all the details, because again with the spoilers, but the way the last quarter of the book brought everything together really made it for me Up until then, it was definitely an entertaining read, but the way the Lorchenkov worked his theme and concluded the story, was impressive, and what ultimately made me make the jump from 4 to 5 stars when all was said and done.I am thrilled to have found this author and this publisher Thanks to Goodreads for connecting us via the first reads program, and for the free copy in exchange for this review 3.5 It s great that many other reviewers find the humour works in translation though for me it didn t quite This short novel, about impoverished Moldovan villagers who go to desperate and surreal lengths to emigrate to Italy, is packed with black comedy shaped scenes, some at a Chris Morris level of sick but for indefinable reasons only a handful of them made me laugh Laughter like this is a reflexive, instinctual thing unfortunately the only phrase I can think of that conveys this is 3.5 It s great that many other reviewers find the humour works in translation though for me it didn t quite This short novel, about impoverished Moldovan villagers who go to desperate and surreal lengths to emigrate to Italy, is packed with black comedy shaped scenes, some at a Chris Morris level of sick but for indefinable reasons only a handful of them made me laugh Laughter like this is a reflexive, instinctual thing unfortunately the only phrase I can think of that conveys this is the utterly cringeworthy didn t tickle one s funnybone but there must be some better equivalent The writing translation is reasonable, but feels slightly too wordy and loose A GR reviewer who knows Russian notes that the relatively inexperienced translator has preserved a few too many Russian sentence structures, which may explain this I wonder what it means, if anything, to Moldovans that a satire on this topic is written in Russian, language of the old oppressor, rather than the majority language of Moldovan Romanian Here s another instance where I struggle to find the right word s to describe a facet of this book The chapters all relate to people from the same village and the same ultimate aim, but perhaps aren t necessarily chronological sometimes it s as if some previous events hadn t happened, though there s a general forward trajectory or theyobviously skip back and forth in time Possibly like Isaac Bashevis Singer s stories, but it s a long time since I read those Some favourite bits Refused a visa for a state visit to Italy because they ll only abscond , the Moldovan presidential delegation s plane tries to thwart radar so they can parachute in and get to the jobs their contacts have set up for them as takeaway chefs and cleaners Villagers learn the rules of curling because sports teams are allowed to travel and practice in dusty fields with rakes and a gigantic boulder on a skateboard Funniest if you followed the Winter Olympics closely Gypsies imprisoned and starved by a venal border guard dig a pond for pelicans so they can catch them for food A grandfather visited by anthropology students collecting folktales foxes them by structuring his stories around Greek myths he s read in a book Anyway, there is good background in the blurb, and this interview with the author This is a tragicomic novel about the poorest country in Europe Moldova whose entire population the President included wants to immigrate to Italy The novel has moments of genius images that for an American reader probably appear magic realist, but for anyone who is familiar with the reality of the area these are rather realist depictions of a grotesque reality overall, however, this is an uneven, not very well structured, work Generally speaking, the translator captures well the oral qua This is a tragicomic novel about the poorest country in Europe Moldova whose entire population the President included wants to immigrate to Italy The novel has moments of genius images that for an American reader probably appear magic realist, but for anyone who is familiar with the reality of the area these are rather realist depictions of a grotesque reality overall, however, this is an uneven, not very well structured, work Generally speaking, the translator captures well the oral quality of the novel, although one can also find instances of awkwardness Having spent years reading novels from Russia and Eastern Europe I ve learned there is an odd, almost bi polar lens people from this part of the world look at their own cultures through In Mikl s B nffy s novel They Were Counted we get a picture of Hungarians who, though fiercely proud of their heritage, are so caught up in pettiness, corruption, and tearing each other down that it s a wonder anything ever got done and, in fact, nothing ever did get done Jerzy Kosi ski s The Painted Bird Having spent years reading novels from Russia and Eastern Europe I ve learned there is an odd, almost bi polar lens people from this part of the world look at their own cultures through In Mikl s B nffy s novel They Were Counted we get a picture of Hungarians who, though fiercely proud of their heritage, are so caught up in pettiness, corruption, and tearing each other down that it s a wonder anything ever got done and, in fact, nothing ever did get done Jerzy Kosi ski s The Painted Bird a book I detested portrays all the Eastern European s as brutes and animals In B la Tarr s film S t ntang another Hungarian we get a portrait of a people continually drunk, living in the mud, poor, stupid, and easily taken advantage of by even the flimsiest pretexts And in nearly all Russian novels, both classic and contemporary, there is always the underlying psychology of a people who are uncomfortable with themselves Alexander Herzen in My Past and Thoughts explains this unease in comparing Russian insecurity to the rest of Europe They talk in Western Europe of our duplicity and wily cunning they mistake the desire to show off and swagger a bit for the desire to deceive , about how the Russians feel insecure and inferior about their own peculiar culture vs Western Europe s supposed refinement In the book club which I took part in to read this book a comment was made about how someone felt the book was offensive, that people from that part of the world had too long been the butt of jokes And while I agree continuing these stereotypes can only do harm, it is quite often the people from this part of the world who perpetuate it Yet since I am not from Hungary or Moldova or Poland I can t ever hope to know what this strange neurosis is people have about themselves and their fellow countrymen and women that would continue to make them look at themselves as stupid or lazy or in general insecure about their place in the world.Perhaps geography plays a role Perhaps being crushed between prosperous Western Europe on one side and massive Russia on the other is a determining factor in one s cultural self esteem This is a part of the world that has always been used as a buffer zone between the West and Russia the term buffer zone , to me, seems faroffensive than any stereotype And now that communism has fallen and this buffer region is responsible for its own fate, the people living here are perhapsanxious than ever This entire region seems to have always been defined to outsiders, anyway by the powers that crowd around it and so being left to do what they want seems to lead to major problems Much of the book actually deals with Moldovans wanting to attach themselves to another regime, the EU.Since I knew nothing of Moldova before reading this book I looked up what I could online and while it s not as bleak as Lorchenkov makes Moldova out to be, I can see why people might want to get the hell away there are no real opportunities in Moldova Anything that might have once existed in Moldova was dug up and carted off by the Soviets years ago leaving behind a lot of poor people and a fractured government unable to bring the people together For a book so funny, it s really awfully sad This book leaves you with the impression that the people of Moldova have given up and only look elsewhere for help the EU There does not seem to be a sense of history or culture or any hope to tie people to their country We learn nothing of what makes Moldova unique or beautiful or important, we only get a series of funny but sad and ever increasing outrageous plots to escape the sinking ship that is Moldova.But is Lorchenkov actually making fun of Moldova Is he actually saying the people of Moldova are stupid, dirt eating, sad sacks Lorchenkov explores asubtle theme in this book he is interested in the spin and propaganda nations use on each other and on their own people When two of the main characters have their rusty homemade pedal powered submarine blasted out of the water by a foreign Coast Guard, the newspapers make it seem as if a massive plot of Islamic extremists was thwarted on the high seas When a crusade is fired up by the local priest and hundreds of thousands of people attempt to march to Italy for freedom and jobs, the European newspapers claim the people of Moldova have risen up and are enacting reforms from within When things in this fictional Moldova can t get any worse, the government declares war on its own people because it s too weak to go to war with anyone else yet to the outside press this might be seen as the government tamping down dangerous rebels which, in a way, they are since all they want to do is leave I suppose a lot of the reason why this subtext exists in the book is due to how the Soviets were constantly putting forth their own propaganda to counter western ideals even though everyone knew the Soviet propaganda was nonsense or, at best, a fairy tale or mythology And this fairy tale quality exists all through the book not in that there s a princess well actually there sort of is or a happy ending, but in the strange magic unrealism of the novel Skylarks roost in people s mouths, a dead wife hangs from a tree for months with garlic drying around her neck, an entire village exists where everyone sells their internal organs, tractors can fly, and the President fakes his death in a plane crash on northern Italy This magic unrealism I call it unreal because it seems to exist as comic sadness and not as something deeper such as in One Hundred Years of Solitude goes a long way to help explain the temptation the people of this fictional Moldova and perhaps even the real Moldova, too have with joining the EU or escaping to Italy where they think they can get rich cleaning bathrooms or flipping pizzas They ve bought into their own brand of propaganda and they ve left reality behind, they ve left Moldova behind to neglect When we get a couple of characters who beg their fellow countrymen to try and better their own lives, to work hard and make Moldova a better place, these characters are, in the end, killed I do wish the book had been a bitserious, however I feel as if the author pushed the comedy too far at the expense of gaining some real insight into Moldova I also never felt like the book was as cohesive as it could be, partly because it s a rather short book that never spends much time exploring the many deeper issues floating just between the lines Granted my own lack of cultural context is preventing me from understanding a lot of this book, but the author could have doneto bring me in and help me understand Still, I did enjoy the book for what it is and I think it helps explain some of the unease people from this part of the world tend to look at their own culture with These are people who do want to better their lives but are prevented from doing so by their neighbors and, in the end, by themselves Having just read about fictional village life in Israel, this novel about fictional village life in Moldova, a former Soviet Republic, was a significantly different take on the theme of rural existence, being set in the village of Larga, Moldova, which does, according to maps on Google, actually exist.The form of the novel is a curious mix of, dare I say it, Tolstoy and Gabriel Garcia Marquez The former, courtesy of prose that describes in brutal detail the reality of dirt poor Kulak life, albe Having just read about fictional village life in Israel, this novel about fictional village life in Moldova, a former Soviet Republic, was a significantly different take on the theme of rural existence, being set in the village of Larga, Moldova, which does, according to maps on Google, actually exist.The form of the novel is a curious mix of, dare I say it, Tolstoy and Gabriel Garcia Marquez The former, courtesy of prose that describes in brutal detail the reality of dirt poor Kulak life, albeit a post communist one and the later, for the inclusion of flying tractors and pedal powered submarines, using darkly satirical magical realism.The story unfolds by way of increasingly surreal and everdesperate attempts, by the people of Larga, to fail to emigrate to a better life in Italy Each subsequent attempt takes on an evermystic and absurd life, whilst the challenges that they must face remain resolutely palpable and heroically insurmountable The story is a kind of East European Grapes of Wrath, but unlike the Joads, the Moldovans never even got to their destination I was left asking myself, what the characters would have done if they had actually succeeded, but that, of course is the point Personally I felt that this black, sardonic humour was somewhat overstated, but the book nevertheless manages to convey some serious messages, most of which end in ism , in a humorous, if slightly heavy handed way Enjoyable and made me look forward to my trip to Italy 3.5 starsAn absurdist, darkly humorous story about impoverished villagers trying to escape Moldova to go work in Italy This isn t as tightly plotted as your typical novel, but it s a short and quick read following the misadventures of several unfortunate Moldovans in the late 2000s Many of the situations are over the top, satirizing the situations of would be migrants and the intensity of their desire to go to Italy The humor is really dark though, much of it involving death I imagine this b 3.5 starsAn absurdist, darkly humorous story about impoverished villagers trying to escape Moldova to go work in Italy This isn t as tightly plotted as your typical novel, but it s a short and quick read following the misadventures of several unfortunate Moldovans in the late 2000s Many of the situations are over the top, satirizing the situations of would be migrants and the intensity of their desire to go to Italy The humor is really dark though, much of it involving death I imagine this book would be funnier andmeaningful to Moldovans, but as a foreigner I did feel able to appreciate it, and it is an easy read I ve not read a book in which curling was a major topic before this one.More like 3.5 stars Some very funny bits and pieces in this satire Well worth reading, especially if one is looking for a book set in Moldova or by an author from the country. It was funny that I happened to pick this book up right after finishing Life and Death are Wearing Me Out, as it is also about the everyday miseries and debasements of village life under communism and post communism They re very different books overall, but that theme engenders many small similarities, includingfarm animals than I m accustomed to The Good Life Elsewhere is funny, both in an earthy, slapstick way and a wry, bitter way It s a tall tale about the goofy lengths Moldovan v It was funny that I happened to pick this book up right after finishing Life and Death are Wearing Me Out, as it is also about the everyday miseries and debasements of village life under communism and post communism They re very different books overall, but that theme engenders many small similarities, includingfarm animals than I m accustomed to The Good Life Elsewhere is funny, both in an earthy, slapstick way and a wry, bitter way It s a tall tale about the goofy lengths Moldovan villagers will go to in pursuit of their dream of labor migration to Italy, and a poignant caricature of the winners and losers of European integration I couldn t help but be reminded of those Dilbert cartoons from the 90 s about the fictional land of Elbonia, whose chief export was mud Thankfully, this book has significantlyliterary merit, and by virtue of not distancing itself quite so much from the reality of grinding poverty less cruelty It s short, dark, fantastical and a little gruesome definitely worth the effort for anyone who s interested in Soviet and post Soviet literature, of which we have all too little in English The translation is an excellent effort from a young translator sometimes the Russian of the original intrudes a little too much into the syntax, but overall, the balance between linguistic foreignness and familiarity is very good Il piccolo villaggio moldavo di Larga in preda a una mania collettiva raggiungere l Italia, il paese dove per tutti c la possibilit di un lavoro ben pagato e di un futuro felice Gli abitanti del villaggio inseguono il loro sogno di benessere con qualunque mezzo trattori volanti, crociate di massa, sommergibili a pedali, vendita di organi, camuffamenti collettivi L ossessione per un Italia idealizzata e purtroppo inesistente , via di fuga dalle disgustose condizioni di vita moldave, contagia tutta la nazione, dal contadino pi povero fino alla massima autorit politica del paese, il presidente Voronin, che sogna di aprire una pizzeria in una cittadina del nord Italia Il romanzo ride e riflette sul sogno e la fuga, sui disagi e i desideri, e tanto pi far riflettere noi italiani, anche se i veri protagonisti sono i moldavi La trama si frantuma in tante piccole storie di sopravvivenza quotidiana e di tentata emigrazione Riusciranno alla fine i due eroi , Serafini e Vasilij, che tentano di emigrare via cielo e via mare modificando la carcassa di un trattore, a portare nel nostro paese le due anime della Moldavia, quella artistica dell umanista, innamorato della scultura di Michelangelo, e quella pratica del trattorista, che si commuove alla parola Fiat I m a bit torn about this one it s a biting satire and there are many funny, even grotesque moments But I do feel the author is almost mocking his characters There is perhaps not enough compassion for their plight and desperation.

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