Friday, April 20, 2007

Comrade Loulou and the Fun Factory Chapter 1: Introduction

(by Cali Ruchala)

Chapter One: Introduction

Somewhere on the outskirts, between Stalinville and Mao Valley, there is a special place in hell reserved for Enver Hoxha.

It's not exactly prime real estate, to be sure. He has a modest house there, perhaps a duplex. Down the block lives Todor Zhivkov. Around the corner are Nick and Elena Ceausescu. Janos Kadar and Ho Chi Mihn are frequent dinner guests; sometimes they get a little tipsy and swap wives. Together, they form a special club: inherently evil, they lacked the power, resources and sheer numbers of potential victims to commit murder on a truly genocidal scale. They are abandoned by scholars who flock to the statistical sexiness of Stalin and Mao.

Unable to top Auschwitz or the Gulag Archipelago, all that is left of them now is half-forgotten memories of the more bizarre aspects of their rule. Ceausescu forbade private ownership of typewriters, and held back colour television until the early 1980s for fear the little pictures would be too much distraction to the exhausted Romanian proles. Zhivkov is chiefly remembered for asking Leonid Brezhnev if Bulgaria could join the Soviet Union. Enver Hoxha banned bearded visitors, Americans and God.

This is the little hell made for little men, little dictators of tin-pot kingdoms. While Chairman Mao and Uncle Joe sip blood at the right hand of the beastmaster, Satan sees the residents of dreary Hoxhatown as boorish, uninvited houseguests. There's little he can learn from them, unless he has a taste for really kick-ass goulash.

Such is the fate of mass murderers with few morals but even fewer bodies. These dictators are like British cops: they snarl and sneer but everyone knows they don't carry guns. All they can do is go home at the end of the day and take out their frustrations on the wife, kids, and any small animals that get in their way.

1 comment:

dajerz said...

As a "devotee" of the long since People's Republic of Albania I think that I can speak with some knowledge of Enver Hoxha, etc. When I was growing up I had two interests, one was following sports, and the other was Eastern European Communists. Yes, kind of weird I admit, but now you might know how I could gather arcane facts about such an obscure dictator.

I've read some of Comrade Loulou and the Fun Factory. I thought it was ok, but a little bit too what I call "self-justified". Yes, Enver Hoxha was as despotic a ruler as depicted. He idolized Stalin, even copying his uniform in the '40's. Everything about Stalin fascinated Hoxha and convinced him that this is the way to implement socialism in Albania.
I remember reading the headline of an article about Hoxha in an Italian newspaper in 1983, it was titled "La Picolo Stalin de Balkanie".

Of course by the '80's Enver Hoxha was already, albeit slowly, dying from complications of diabetes. And his madness also was peaking, culminating in the assassination (oh excuse me, "suicide"...) of his designated succesor/#2, Mehmet Shehu. I recommend reading Ismail Kadare's "The Succesor" for a view of this whole affair.

However Kadare should not be regarded as the Vaclav Havel of Albania either. Yes, his works were excellently written and contained a lot of nuances in the direction of the regime, etc. But for me there hangs a little cloud over Kadare. For one, he was given a passport and allowed to travel during the years of the People's Republic. That was not a small privilege.

And there is the fact that he 'defected' from Albania in 1990. By 1990 the entire state appratus had collapsed and society was already opening up per order of Hoxha's succesor Ramiz Alia. So what was there to defect from by then? Perhaps Kadare may have felt that the succeeding non-communist government would include him on their list of collaborators, and so he flees to Paris. Or maybe Kadare had insight into ensuing chaos and did not want to be in Albania? We can't judge this, but it might be good to research it.