The most entertaining novel I read last year was Peter Pišt’anek’s Rivers of Babylon, a foul black comedy set in a hotel in Bratislava in 1989. Excellently translated from the Slovak and audaciously published, it describes the crooked but irresistible rise of Rácz, an uneducated youth from the country. Starting in the lowly position of stoker, he soon realises that control over the heating gives him power over the whole hotel. The novel closes with corruption triumphant: the vicious Rácz is able and ready to be a force in the new, post-Soviet country. It is a delight now to have the second and third volumes of the trilogy.
The Wooden Village leaves Rácz as he was and develops the story through fat Freddy Piggybank, who, at thirty, has ‘never had a woman in his life’ but remains convinced that one day ‘he’s sure to get a free roll in the hay’. Squeezed out of his relatively comfortable position