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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Facade

Libuše Moníková

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To purchase The Facade

Title: The Facade
Author: Libuše Moníková
Genre: Novel
Written: 1987 (Eng. 1991)
Length: 440 pages
Original in: German
Availability: The Facade - US
The Facade - UK
The Facade - Canada
La Facade - France
Die Fassade - Deutschland
  • M.N.O.P.Q.
  • German title: Die Fassade
  • Translated by John E. Woods
  • Awarded the Alfred Döblin Prize

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Our Assessment:

A- : clever, enjoyable satire of culture and life in the former Eastern bloc

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Atlantic Monthly . 12/1991 Phoebe-Lou Adams
The LA Times . 21/11/1991 Richard Eder
The NY Times Book Rev. B 5/1/1992 Peter Filkins

  From the Reviews:
  • "The book is unusual and intriguing." - Phoebe-Lou Adams, Atlantic Monthly

  • "In the end, The Facade shows that Libuse Monikova is a writer of more than mere promise, but also one who still needs to break through the facade of her own wit and intelligence if she is to render her vision with greater clarity and in richer tones." - Peter Filkins, The New York Times Book Review

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       In Libuše Moníková's broad, ambitious satire a small group of artists cum artisans in Czechoslovakia (then still under the Soviet shadow) work at the restoration of an historical monument, a castle in Bohemia. It is an enormous, extended undertaking, and the artists get little help from anyone, toiling under difficult conditions. Various authorities -- from the overseer at the castle to governmental agencies -- seem to stand in their way at every turn, inflexibly interested only in preserving their small hold on power.
       The artists are a resourceful lot, used to the tricks and techniques necessary to accomplish anything in the socialist state -- though occasionally going a bit too far. They are also an ambitious lot, and while the first half of the novel centers around the castle the action then shifts abroad when they plan and set out on a trip to Japan. They manage to get deep into Siberia before, naturally, getting bogged down there. The novel follows their travails, first in Czechoslovakia and then in the USSR.
       Moníková's book is an often obvious political satire -- about the creation of appearances and facades, the refurbishing of the old (especially when it is irreconcilable with the new), and the overwhelming shadow the Soviet Union casts on all aspects of these people's lives (especially, but not solely, regarding cultural policies), crushing hope, ambition, and dreams.
       It is also a lively, action-filled book. There are plaster fights. There is an ice-hockey game against a Soviet group. There is lots of drinking, considerable carousing, and the contrast of generations (some of the artists are young, some are old -- just as some are talented and some merely capable). There is a sense of (occasionally resigned) camaraderie.
       The spirit of the artists is not entirely indefatigable, but they are surprisingly resilient and adaptable, trying (often creatively) to make the best of their situations, and Moníková presents them sympathetically.
       Moníková writes very well, and the book is an enjoyable romp. It is clever and often very funny, an unusual and often unlikely adventure in the bizarre world that was Eastern Europe under the Soviets.

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Reviews: Other books by Libuše Moníková under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Czech author Libuše Moníková was born in 1945. She moved to West Germany in 1971, and taught at the universities of Kassel and Bremen. She wrote in German, and won the Alfred Döblin Prize for The Facade. Moníková died in 1998.

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