‘The Good Life Elsewhere’ by Vladimir Lorchenkov (2008) – 197 pages Translated by Ross Ufberg
According to ‘The Good Life Elsewhere’, everyone living in the Republic of Moldova wants to get out of the country. Even the president of Moldova dreams of escape to Italy; he wants to open a pizza stand there. Moldovans will even sell a kidney in order to get out of the country; some of them make the mistake of selling both kidneys.
A woman convinces her husband to sell his tractor to get the four thousand Euros to get to Italy. When the deal turns out to be a fraud, she hangs herself in a tree. The husband leaves her body swaying there for several weeks to help dry the garlic. He misses his tractor.
“When things in this country are in the pits, start a war with somebody.”
Sadly there is no country weaker than Moldova that they could beat in a war, so they will start a civil war against themselves.
For the Moldovans, Moldova is hell and Italy is heaven. Some Moldovans question whether or not Italy really exists.
“Fate is fate. What I want to know is does it exist? Italy, I mean?”
The Republic of Moldova is an actual country, a landlocked country in Eastern Europe stuck between the Ukraine and Romania. It is the poorest country in Europe. Moldova also has the highest per capita pure alcohol consumption rate of any country in the world according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Life in Moldova was bad when it was part of the Soviet Union. Since then things in Moldova have progressed to terrible.
‘The Good Life Elsewhere’ by Vladimir Lorchenkov is a riotous black comedy. This novel manages to be bleak, sad, and outrageously funny at the same time. Lorchenkov has taken an idea about Moldova that probably is based on some truth and gone with it to absurd levels. I found ‘The Good Life Elsewhere’ wicked fun to read. Unlike some of these comic novels, it sustains its dark energy and imagination even to the end.
Lorchenkov, a Moldovan, has taken sharp ridicule of one’s own country to a new outlandish level. I wish some writer in the United States had the guts to write a novel making fun of the Tea Party and their Koch Brothers paid stooge politicians who are doing so much damage to our neighborhoods with their hatreds and willful stupidity, but so far no writer has dared approach that subject.
There is a grand tradition of absurdist black humor in eastern European fiction from Nikolai Gogol in ‘The Nose’ and other stories to Jaroslav Hasek in ‘The Good Soldier Schweik’ to Vladimir Voinovich in ‘The Life and Extraordinary Adventures of Private Ivan Chonkin’ to several others, and ‘The Good Life Elsewhere’ is perhaps the most absurd and black of them all.
If you are always on the lookout like I am for really humorous novels, you don’t want to miss ‘The Good Life Elsewhere’.