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Stalin's Nose: Across the Face of Europe
 
 

Stalin's Nose: Across the Face of Europe [Kindle Edition]

Rory Maclean
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Review

'Crazy, charming, a delight' --John le Carré

'The most extraordinary debut in travel writing since "In Patagonia". A dark, sardonic and brilliant book which grows in stature with every page.' --William Dalrymple

'As an allegory it is powerful and frequently moving. As a tale it is tremendous fun. It is also a thing of beauty' --Jan Morris

Product Description

In Rory MacLean’s ground breaking debut, Winston the pig drops onto uncle Peter’s head and kills him dead. It is a distressing end to a distinguished Soviet spy. After the funeral aunt Zita, a faded Austrian aristocrat and a vivacious eccentric, refuses to remain at home in East Germany. Instead she hijacks her nephew and, with Winston in tow, sets out on one last ride. The Berlin Wall fell only weeks before and Zita is determined to reach across the reopened borders and rediscover her remarkable east European family.

In a rattling Trabant the unlikely trio puff and wheeze across the changing continent, following the threads of memory. Zita’s relations — the angel of Prague, the Hungarian grave digger who buried Stalin’s nose, a dying Romanian propagandist — help tie together the loose ends of her life. The travellers picnic at Auschwitz. They meet Lenin’s embalmer. They carry a long-lost corpse over the Carpathian mountains. Everywhere they learn what life had truly been like under totalitarian rule. They hear a torrent of life tales, some heartbreaking, some hilarious, all enriched with the joy of telling after decades of enforced silence.

Humorous and black, touched with the surreal and the farcical, Stalin’s Nose is an exhilarating ride from the Baltic to the Black Sea, between Berlin and Moscow, and a portrait of Europe like no other.

About the Author


Rory MacLean is one of Britain’s most expressive and adventurous travel writers. His ten books, including UK best-sellers ‘Stalin’s Nose’ and ‘Under the Dragon’, have challenged and invigorated creative non-fiction writing, and – according to the late John Fowles – are among works that ‘marvellously explain why literature still lives’. He has won awards from the Canada Council and the Arts Council of England as well as a Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship, and was nominated for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary prize. He has worked on movies with Marlene Dietrich and David Bowie, and written and presented over 50 BBC radio programmes. A Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, Rory divides his time between London and Berlin.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 2021 KB
  • Print Length: 236 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: B005HKV2KA
  • Publisher: wander2wonder press (15 July 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00E1HZDEG
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #27,008 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Rory MacLean is one of Britain's most expressive and adventurous travel writers. His ten books, including UK best-sellers 'Stalin's Nose' and 'Under the Dragon', have challenged and invigorated creative non-fiction writing, and - according to the late John Fowles - are among works that 'marvellously explain why literature still lives'. He has won awards from the Canada Council and the Arts Council of England as well as a Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship, and was nominated for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary prize. He has written and presented over 50 BBC radio programmes and worked on movies with Marlene Dietrich and David Bowie. A Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, Rory divides his time between Berlin, London and Dorset.

http://www.rorymaclean.com

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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
4.0 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great fun! 16 Dec 2008
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, especially the author's unique insights and personal involvement in the journey. Highly recommended. If you haven't read Rory Maclean's books before, this is a good place to start. His writing is very funny, but it is balanced with serious observations.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb! 7 Mar 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I am informed that this is "travel writing" and in his preface Colin Thubron tells me that this an innovative piece of travel literature breaking new ground by being a blend of fiction and fact.... Excuse me.... am I missing something here? This is a work of fiction in which the hero, his aunt and her pig travel through Eastern Europe at the time of the great changes that took place when the Berlin Wall came down. So it's fiction set in a real time and real places... Doesn't a lot of literature fall into this category?
So it's a story and once you realise that this isn't really a piece of travel writing, since there are very few bits where we get a description of the place, then what you find you have is a very amusing story with a fascinating cast of dysfunctional and woe-begotten characters. Our hero (we never learn his name but it sure as hell ISN'T Rory) gets a call from his rather domineering Aunt Zita to inform him that his Uncle Peter (a former key player in the Soviet takeover of the Eastern Block) has been killed by his pet pig, Winston, who fell on him. Apparently this wouldn't have happened if they hadn't taken the wall down in the first place. Winston has run off with Zita's dentures and mislaid them but you can, apparently get good replacements in Budapest! Zita then railroads her nephew into a road trip visiting friends and relatives on the way. Many of these friends and relatives turn out to be former Communists or collaborators - or just plain dysfunctional individuals, beginning to adjust to a post-Communist world itself adjusting to new, as yet undetermined, circumstances.
The whole is a genuinely amusing but also thought-provoking story.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By AK TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This - one of Rory Maclean's early travel writings - is perhaps less of a travel piece than one may expect, having more to do with a family history, stretched across countries and times. It is nevertheless an excellent portrait of a region and of issues it faced in the early 1990s - much less optimistic and much less resolved than the mood in the West at the time had one believe.

Starting the journey from the Baltic to the Black Sea, it is derailed in Berlin already, where the author's uncle suffers a rather fantastic end to his life. Fearing for his aunt Zita's sanity (as well as looking for replacement dentures for her), she gets taken along for the journey, together with Winston the Tamworth pig, in the trusty East German steed - the aunt's Trabant.

As they wheeze their way through Czechoslovakia, Poland, Romania, and Russia, Zita has to resolve many issues that arose in her complicated past - including a Soviet spy husband, SS officer brother, Austrian aristocrat predecessors, etc. Through this we get an abridged look at some issues plaguing the countries in Central and Eastern Europe, as well as how far from democracy and prosperity the countries were at this early point in their post Communist journey.

It is often incredibly funny, at times quite tragical, shows the mental constructs many were forced to erect around themselves to be able to deal with their situation, the pretty fantastical but nevertheless real stories many a family went through in the time since WW2, as well as the bleak outlook.

Many aspects described in the book have definitely changed since Maclean wrote it, so it has more of a historical significance now.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Rare but a travel book that I did not enjoy 3 April 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
...hard going...I did discover many unsettling things from history that I had not been aware of.It was informative but I couldn't get lost in it and could easily put it down and not pick it up for days....the test as far as I am concerned. Liked the pig but wished I could take a crash course in Easter European languages to be able to pronounce the place names!
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Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb! 7 Mar 2013
By Mieczyslaw Kasprzyk - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I am informed that this is "travel writing" and in his preface Colin Thubron tells me that this an innovative piece of travel literature breaking new ground by being a blend of fiction and fact.... Excuse me.... am I missing something here? This is a work of fiction in which the hero, his aunt and her pig travel through Eastern Europe at the time of the great changes that took place when the Berlin Wall came down. So it's fiction set in a real time and real places... Doesn't a lot of literature fall into this category?
So it's a story and once you realise that this isn't really a piece of travel writing, since there are very few bits where we get a description of the place, then what you find you have is a very amusing story with a fascinating cast of dysfunctional and woe-begotten characters. Our hero (we never learn his name but it sure as hell ISN'T Rory) gets a call from his rather domineering Aunt Zita to inform him that his Uncle Peter (a former key player in the Soviet takeover of the Eastern Block) has been killed by his pet pig, Winston, who fell on him. Apparently this wouldn't have happened if they hadn't taken the wall down in the first place. Winston has run off with Zita's dentures and mislaid them but you can, apparently get good replacements in Budapest! Zita then railroads her nephew into a road trip visiting friends and relatives on the way. Many of these friends and relatives turn out to be former Communists or collaborators - or just plain dysfunctional individuals, beginning to adjust to a post-Communist world itself adjusting to new, as yet undetermined, circumstances.
The whole is a genuinely amusing but also thought-provoking story. Whist MacLean doesn't spend a great deal of time describing places he does give us a sort of superficial snapshot of the great changes taking place by concentrating on his characters. In Czechoslovakia the remains of dead heroes, secretly buried, are being disinterred, as is the real history of the Communist era. In Hungary adjustments are also taking place in an atmosphere of revelation. Poland is seen as heavy with history and the spirit of resistance, whilst Romania is just the same old story but with different labels. Russia is entering the era of the great disillusion. Poverty abounds, alcohol flows. Somewhere in there one can hear the greasing of palms.
MacLean does a super job of helping us see that process of change, coming to terms with the truth, expressing resentment or relief and, of course, survival. Reading this is like entering the dark ages of Modern History and there are very few books that I know of that bring this brief period to life (I'm thinking here of that other great bit of writing, Anne Applebaum's "Between East and West: Across the Borderlands of Europe").
...And it's amusing as well as serious. My hero is Winston, the pig. He sleeps his way across this era of change sleeping in the back of the Trabant, drinking beer and occasionally causing mayhem - I bet he's a Polish pig! Good old Winston.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stalin's Nose 10 Oct 2012
By G. Robinson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Hilarious satire and travelogue about post iron curtain eastern Europe as seen by the author, his east European aunt, and her pig. I lent it to so many people that eventually it didn't come back. Being out of print and unavailable on kindle I recently replaced it with a used copy. One of those books that you look forward to reading several times. Thoroughly enjoyable, and educational too: I had no idea how flexible pre war European borders were and how much people moved across them.
3.0 out of 5 stars different 23 Mar 2014
By E. R. M. Tarleton - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A bit confusing at times but generally an interesting read. No your typical travel book, Personally I preferred under the dragon
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