Description of a Struggle and The Romanian Writers Challenge Begins

Romanian Writers' Challenge

My friend Ally, of Snow Feathers, is hosting a Romanian Writers Challenge in which I am eagerly participating. It runs from March 1 through December 1, 2016.

I have purchased Description of a Struggle to read for her challenge, which is a compilation of stories from writers in Eastern Europe.


“Recent writings — passionate, reckless, comic, and tragic by turn — from the trenches of splintered Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. Behind the Communist wall, literature was routinely both revered and feared, Czech novelist Ivan Klíma (My Golden Trades, p. 1013) points out in his introduction; paradoxically, it grew powerful through government suppression and censorship. The resulting mix of confidence and despair among Eastern European writers is evident in many of these short works, nearly all fictional — from the sly wit of Serbian Bora Cosic’s “”Russians By Trade,”” a tale of the effect on local villagers of the Russian presence in 1936, to “”Ants,”” Russian samizdat writer Viktor Lapitskii’s haunting story of a man who learns to love the insects that infest his body. In between, Hanna Krall tells, in “”Retina,”” of a Polish man whose silence regarding his experience in Hitler’s concentration camps leads to his son’s terrorist activities; Bohumil Hrabal, in a letter entitled “”The Pink Scarf,”” describes petty rebellious acts committed in Czechoslovakia in 1989; and Mao schemes to destroy European femininity in “”The Concert,”” an excerpt from Albanian Ismail Kadare’s 1994 novel of the same name. Styles vary intriguingly among nations from the sorrowful simplicity of Polish Pawel Huelle’s “”Mina,”” whose protagonist is committed to a mental institution, to the cynical humor of Bulgarian Viktor Paskov’s “”Big Business,”” in which Bulgarian exiles pose as Romanian refugees in hopes of garnering greater begging income in the Paris MÉtro. Most memorable are Bulgarian Ivailo Dichev’s “”Desires: The Erotica of Communism,”” a convincing demonstration of how Communism can stimulate the libido, and Latvian Andra Neiburga’s “”Mousy Death,”” in which a woman collapses from the effects of environmental pollution. Established authors are mixed with newcomers here by March (Goya, not reviewed), traditional storytellers with experimentalists. What comes across loud and clear is that all have had their fill of silence. Captivating, kaleidoscopic, vital fiction, as informative as today’s newspaper.” ~Kirkus review

The Table of Contents includes:


  • Writing from the empire behind the wall / Ivan Klima

Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia : Russians by trade / Bora Cosic

  • Repetition / Drago Jancar
  • The Balkan express / Slavenka Drakulic
  • The Pope / David Albahari

Poland :

  • Annihilation / Piotr Szewc
  • Retina / Hanna Krall
  • The register of adulteresses / Jerzy Pilch
  • Mina / Pawel Huelle

Hungary :

  • Vivisection / Peter Nadas
  • The sunken apple tree / Laszlo Marton
  • Down the Danube / Peter Esterhazy
  • The contents of suitcases / Lajos Grendel

Czech Republic :

  • The pink scarf / Bohumil Hrabal
  • The unborn / Eda Kriseova
  • He wakes up / Alexandra Berkova
  • Brownian motion / Ondrej Neff

Slovakia :

  • Escalation of feeling
  • Pavel Vilikovsky
  • Memorial to Don Giovanni / Jan Johanides
  • On the threshold/ Dusan Mitana
  • The white dog / Rudolf Sloboda

Bulgaria :

  • Desires: the erotica of Communism / Ivailo Dichev
  • Big business / Victor Paskov
  • My past, my future / Ivan Kulekov
  • A Bulgarian tourist chats to an English pigeon in Trafalgar Square / Stanislav Stratiev

Romania :

  • The dream / Mircea Cartarescu
  • The open window / Ana Blandiana
  • The war / George Cusnarencu
  • The art of war / Stefan Agopian

Albania :

  • The concert / Ismail Kadare
  • The secret of my youth / Mimoza Ahmeti
  • The pain of a distant winter / Teodor Laco

Lithuania :

  • Two stories about suicides / Jurga Ivanauskaite
  • I’m going out, to buy a lightbulb / Valdas Papievis

Latvia :

  • The history of yellow / Andrei Levkin
  • Mousy death / Andra Neiburga

Estonia :

  • The beauty of history / Viivi Luik
  • We gaze up into the tops of the spruce trees / Rein Tootmaa
  • (to be continued)(Continued) Belarus : Variations on the seasons / Yurii Petkevich

Ukraine :

  • Hog’s fat, pancake, and the sausage / Igor Klekh

Russia :

  • The time of peonies: a novel / Svetlana Vasilieva
  • Stereoscopic Slavs / Zufar Gareev
  • Ants / Viktor Lapitskii
  • Philemon and Baucis / Olga Novikova


Thanks, Ally, for hosting this new challenge; I can’t wait to begin.