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The Elephant (Penguin Translated Texts) [Paperback]

Slawomir Mrozek , Konrad Syrop
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
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Book Description

6 May 2010 Penguin Translated Texts
The Elephant (1957) is Slawomir Mrozek's award-winning collection of hilarious and unnerving short stories, satirising life in Poland under a totalitarian regime. The family of a wealthy lawyer keep a 'tamed progressive' as a pet; a zoo saves money for the workers by fashioning their elephant from rubber; a swan is dismissed from the municipal park for public drunkenness; and under the Writers' Association, literary critics are banished to the salt mines. In these tales of bureaucrats, officials and artists, Mrozek conjures perfectly a life of imagined crimes and absurd authority.

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The Elephant (Penguin Translated Texts) + A Short History of Decay (Penguin Translated Texts) + War with the Newts (Penguin Translated Texts)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (6 May 2010)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 0141193042
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141193045
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 14.4 x 23.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 150,994 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description


Extraordinary . . . Mrozek's brief fables are something like Kafka's stories, but they're funnier (Spectator)

The satiric intent is unambiguous, and offers hope to the oppressed deft and so piercing (Nicholas Lezard Guardian)

[The series] sheds remarkable light on the literature, culture and politics of the region...anyone coming fresh to the field will be captivated by the richness, variety, humour and pathos of a classic literature that, through a shared historical experience, transcends national and linguistic boundaries. (CJ Schüler Independent on Sunday)

This [series] is a wonderful idea ... They are absurdist parables, by turns hilarious, unsettling and enigmatic. (Nicholas Lezard Guardian)

I urge you to go and read them. (Adam Thirlwell New Statesman)

This new series of Central European Classics is important well beyond simply providing 'good reads'. (Stephen Vizinczey Daily Telegraph)

About the Author

Slawomir Mrozek (born in 1930) is now principally known as Poland's master of Absurd Theatre, in plays such as Striptease, Repeat Performance and Vatzlav. He began his career though with the timeless story collection The Elephant with its extraordinary illustrations by Daniel Mroz.

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Customer Reviews

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4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic. 30 Nov 2011
By Victor
This satire on life in a totalitarian Poland in the middle of the last century is written by an author whose wry humour has an adge like a razor. There is more than a little of Kafka here. Buy this classic -- you will not be disappointed. And look out for 'The Ugupu Bird' -- harder to find and just as rewarding.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Comic Insight into a Dark World 2 Jun 2010
By Melmoth
Released in a handsome new cover as part of Penguin's new Central European Classics series, Slawomir Mrozek's 'The Elephant' is an almost paradigmatic example of what we in the West have thought of as Central/Eastern European literature in the 20th Century. The 40 or so, generally very short, short stories contained in this slim volume are filled with surreal events and angry satires of Eastern-bloc bureaucracy and social attitudes: a wealthy couple keeps a "progressive" as a pet, bureaucrats find themselves unable to resist the urge to take to the skies and fly, a zoo schemes to save the state the cost of a new elephant using a gas-filled rubber stand-in.

These are satires, one most almost say satirical cartoons, in very pure form: sans characterisation, often virtually plotless. They arrive swiftly, present their odd, refreshing, funny images and then depart. This is a book filled not with brilliantly quotable prose but with brilliantly quotable, deeply memorable ideas. Refreshing, funny and granting a real insight into the mindset of mid-20th century totalitarianism, this is an excellent and entertaining book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Happy Nostalgia 28 Jun 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
So pleased to find this. About fifteen years ago I read a load of his tales in the Guardian or Telegraph or somesuch newspaper and I suspect this may have affected my own writing - like a political Borges perhaps (with the whimsy of Chesterton)!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic Fantastic 9 Jun 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a great book for anyone intersted in getting insight into the cultral makeup of Poles. A collection of short stories that really make you use your brain. I loved it!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Mrozek satire 13 Nov 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A collection of satirical writings which give an insight into aspects of life in the Eastern block countries seldom seen elsewhere. Humorous and sad too.
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