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The Guinea Pigs – Ludvík Vaculík

 
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Posted September 4, 2016 by

The Guinea Pigs – Ludvík Vaculík – 1977

Reviewed by: J. Kotrie           Date: 21 May 2004

Ludvík Vaculík was and is a political commentator and literary figure of great stature in Czechoslovakia in its various incarnations. His “Guineau Pigs” is an exploration of totalitarianism through personal exploration which is at once playful, psychologically illuminating, and infuriating. Action centres around a first person who buys a guineau pig, ostensibly for one of his sons, but is fascinated by its behaviour to the extent that he becomes its gurdian, and even its occasional torturer, performing benevolent experiments to bridge the gap of understanding between bank employee and rodent. A parallel plot in this stream of conciousness narration is the protagonist’s experiences at the bank at which he is employed. Money is going missing, apparently stolen by the guards who have confiscated it from mischievous bank staff. However, alarm grows beneath the surface of the apparent, when it is discovered that this stolen money is not being returned into circulation. Only Chlebeček, a bank colleague, seems to have any answers. An economic “maelstrom” lurks, now apparently harmless, but possessing untold and terrible destructive power. The Guineau Pigs is an dangerously inticing statement, part of a great 20th century Czech literary culture of cohering the comic personal and the dark shadows of political reality.

The Guinea Pigs
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