Book Review: Peter Pist’anek ~ Rivers of Babylon (Translator Peter Petro) (1991)(2007)

I never imagined I’d warmly recommend a Slovak novel but here we are. The storyline relates to the break-up of communist east European countries in the late 1980s and the emergence of gangster-capitalism. As British people know full well the fall of communism led to oligarchs and to their shift into, principally, London and the Home Counties. Behind these gangster-capitalists has come inflated house prices in prestige areas; football teams as trophy possessions; and murderous ‘sorting-out’ of enemies from the Old Country (Russia, and eastern Europe).

The principal character, Racz, is an ignorant farmer from a small village. He’s ignorant but he has primeval cunning. His eye for the main chance is unerring and with a mix of brutal strength and bribery he finally achieves an unofficial ownership of a state owned hotel. He meets, intimidates and ultimately controls, all the petty criminals feeding off foreign tourists. The sale of the hotel in the great privatisation plus adroit use of the western banking system means he owns swathes of Bratislava.

This is the first of a trilogy. The review which led me to it in the first place says this is his masterpiece. I wouldn’t know. But I do know that if you want to spread your wings this is a very good place to start. About £2 from Kindle.

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