The Guinea Pigs

The Guinea Pigs

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by Ludvik Vaculik, Jan Vaculik
     
 

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The Guinea Pigs is a chilling fable about dehumanization and alienation representing Vaculik's vision of the menace of Soviet domination in the wake of the 1969 invasion. Written in 1970, it is a sweeping condemnation of totalitarianism, embedded in a rich, imaginative, highly experimental narrative. In the words of the New York Review of Books it is

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Overview

The Guinea Pigs is a chilling fable about dehumanization and alienation representing Vaculik's vision of the menace of Soviet domination in the wake of the 1969 invasion. Written in 1970, it is a sweeping condemnation of totalitarianism, embedded in a rich, imaginative, highly experimental narrative. In the words of the New York Review of Books it is "one of the major works of literature produced in postwar Europe."

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"The juicy, mischevious earthiness of the language Vaculik uses to narrate his monstrous parable about men and guinea pigs presents special problems. Fortunately for Káca Polácková is an excellent translator, well equal to the challenge."

—Antonin J. Liehm

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781934824344
Publisher:
Open Letter
Publication date:
05/17/2011
Pages:
180
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.70(d)

Meet the Author

Ludvík Vaculík (23 July 1926 in Brumov) is a Czech writer and journalist. A prominent samizdat writer, he is most famous as the author of the "Two Thousand Words" manifesto of June 1968.

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Guinea Pigs 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
SAHARATEA More than 1 year ago
I began reading The Guinea Pigs amused and entertained by the main character, Vasek, a family man who wishes to get his city-bound family back to nature. Since buying a rural cottage is unrealistic, he instead acquires a guinea pig for his family who live in Prague. Vasek appears to be a firm but doting father, and the first-person narration seemed almost sweet at first, as he narrates the story as if telling a child's bedtime story or guide for the care of small animals. Yet as I read, I found an underlying bit of darkness that is revealed more as the book proceeds. In the case of the guinea pig, a gift for his son Pavel, an allusion is made that I missed at first: "It had all the attributes of a good gift.To think of a present like that, a person would first have to be to be really clever and observant; then, he would have to be quick; furthermore, he would have to have a feeling for the rarity of the moment: to know the desire of the recipient, to have a certain feeling towards him and know how to estimate the response. He would have to possess good taste combined with a sense of humor, be profound.He would also have to be a considerate person, not to have bought the weasel." It seems at first like good-natured humor, praising his own success with the beloved gift, but the line about the weasel--Who would buy a guinea pig AND a weasel? Knowing that the sweet piglet would be destroyed? Only a sadist would buy both, yet clearly the narrator considered it. A clue. Vasek works for the state-run banking system in Prague, yet he clearly has no head for numbers: he's convinced that Edgar Allan Poe was an economist. Worse yet, the bank he works for makes stealing money even more difficult by the day. With the boring job comes an astonishing amount of time left over for theorizing and contemplating all sorts of conspiracies. At work, it appears that a financial meltdown is imminent, yet no one seems to care. One supervisor, an older man who is ignored by most, becomes a focus of Vasek's daytime speculation. The nighttime is when Vasek studies the guinea pigs instead, his fascination only increasing daily. Yet while he gets to know his gentle little pets, they somehow end up with mysterious injuries. He is obsessed, and the family branches out to get even more of them. While his children and wife revolve around the periphery of his life, the guinea pigs are his main focus. And strangely enough, the threat of the financial meltdown begins to parallel what is happening with the family pets. Written by Ludvik Vaculik shortly after the Prague Spring in 1968 (only recently translated to English by Open Letter), the novel is full of symbolism. This is significant because Vaculik was ostracized by the Communist Party for his opinions. It was necessary to speak in riddles or symbols to avoid further persecution. Thus, The Guinea Pigs can be read in more than one way, depending on how you interpret the symbols. For example, even the concept of 'guinea pig' goes beyond a small animal, having an additional meaning as a 'subject for experiment'. Vaculik often suggested that the Czech people were being experimented upon in terms of political power and financial schemes. Even the names given to the guinea pigs owned by Vasek could be considered symbolic (yes, one of them is named "Red").