Blesok no. 74, September-October, 2010
Reviews


Cosmonauts' Square
(Viliam Klimaček: Námestie kozmonautov – Generácia Ю. Bratislava: Koloman Kertész Bagala – LCA Publishers Group, 2007)

Alexander Halvoník


Viliam Klimáček won the literary competition for Novel 2006 with Cosmonauts´ Square, and his pseudonymous gangster parody English is Easy, Csaba is dead has become one of the most successful revivalists of the postmodern picaresque novel. However, he is also a member of the literary school that was based on the stages of the alternative theatre scene. This long process of destruction of the traditional novelistic mythology is felt in his prose. Action dominates, comedy is stressed, together with the hyperbolezation of language. At the same time there is a relativezing irony that dissolves everything using any available means, so that the form of the novel is only a communication package delivering diverse contents. This is how the postmodern authors deal with the “freezing“ of the genres that used to operate in a larger temporal and space dimensions and worked with relatively closed systems of action, characters, and time, but could not get to the plurality of the human authenticity or prevent the truth from being ideologized. It seems that dashing around the worlds of novelistic openness on the steed of virtuality became boring even for Viliam Klimáček. One cannot suck a novel out of one’s finger, however magic it may be, and in addition to the craft one does need a bit of conceptual ideology, a pinch of closeness, and certainly also the risk of simplification. So here comes the first point: Cosmonauts´ Square is looking for a novelistic statement.
    Above all, Klimáček has invented the Generation Ю. This is a generation born around 1958 that matured during the time of the Soviet occupation and is marked by its admiration for the western lifestyle symbolized by the English homonym “You.“ These are the two relevant circumstances that caused the notorious generational schizophrenia with consequences that are worse than the Divine Wrath: maybe it was not painful, but it pushed everything into the level of absurd humour. In Klimáček’s novel, socialism is no longer the point, what is important are the consequences of socialism surviving in the schizophrenic situation. We find ourselves in a postcommunist period, in a small town called Veľké Roje that “the history passed by,“ but which always kept its hand on the pulse of the time no matter whether it produced weapons, hosted a Soviet military base, built monuments to heroes, celebrated foreign victories, while all the time diligently destroying its own people. After the Velvet Revolution, the Christ’s Calvary, that was renamed the Calvary of the Cosmonauts, again becomes the Christ’s Calvary. The secret employees of the secret weapon factory become the unemployed, the loyal citizens become gangsters, strange businessmen and homeless, so the destruction of one’s own people continues despite all the hypermarkets for all. Everybody wants to live the new life, but the muddy footprints of the past cannot be overcome. The action of the novel takes place during four days when the small town celebrating its three-hundred-years anniversary is visited by the respectable people as well as the rabble in order to perform, among the props built from noble intentions deformed by reality, their own absurd human comedy. The characters have to remember a lot and reevaluate their lives: the novel is filled with memories and outlandish actions of the characters, all this being a continuation of senseless history that moves the characters into the role of actors on the stage with the mission of capturing the interest of the audience. Klimáček’s characters are all tragic and what distinguishes them is the degree of absurdity revealed by their gestures and actions. The author understands them and is compassionate to them, but as far as the philosophical overview of the situation that the novel necessarily demands is concerned, it is lacking and the novel stays on the level of helpless understanding. This is the tax paid for the audacity to elevate postmodern openness for a novelistic statement about a generation at the time when the novel has to search for a new mission, after its tradition has been put in doubt, and when the new ideas are still nowhere to be seen. The author was trying to excise a painful appendix but he hit on a vein of gold of inspiration. It is entertainment, but mostly painful, though the vein may indeed be full of gold. Klimáček is trying to make up for the lack of spiritual dimension by introducing magic with comical or horror elements. At any rate, in his novel he created a generational vision by applying the means of postmodern poetics that he managed to overcome to a certain extent. In this century, this is the first relevant attempt to provide a novelistic statement about the eternal argument between the subjective and the objective.


Translated by Peter Petro




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