The Little Communist who never smiled by Lola Lafon euro 2016 book 1

 

The Little Communist Who Never SmiledThe little Communist who never smiled by Lola Lafon

Original title – La petite communiste qui ne souriait jamais

Translator – Nick Caistor

Source – review copy

Well today sees the Euro 2016 championship kick off and there is a strange symmetry to this book and the first game which is a novel by a French writer about a famous Romanian which mirrors the opening game of the Euro 2o16 championship which sees France take on Romania. Lola Lafon has written three novels this is her third novel, she is also a well-known feminist in France and also a singer. This book won a number of book prize in France ten in all.

They are waiting for her. This first press conference is packed out, all five hundred seats and more on the ground, there is no room anywhere. The walls are covered in embrodieries of flowers. When she finally arrives, dressed in the romanian team’s tracksuit with blue , yellow and red bands and the hammer and sickle on her chest, her coach lifts her and carries her at arms length to her place; the doll she is clutching is wearing the same tracksuit and their hair is done the same way, with two bunches tied up with red ribbons. Above her head, a portrait of President Ceauseacu.

I love the doll in her hands and the way she is carried like a doll into this first conference after the perfect ten.

Now the book is a imagine work on the life before during and after the Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci, shock the world when in the 1976 olympics , when she got a perfect ten for her routine on the uneven bars the first time this had even happen. What we see is how she is discovered trained then wins the gold medal . This point is where her life really changes she becomes firstly a figurehead for woman around the world but also a pawn in the cold war . Used by the Romanian regime of Ceauusecu as a figure-head for the country ,  but this weighs heavy on this fidgety young girl that is yes a great gymnast but propelled into a world of craziness that was the propaganda of the cold war. Thing like Romanian eat better than West German the bountiful land displayed by fake food in photos she is involved with.

In 1984 or 1985, I can’t remember which, a woman died after an abortion. The securitate forced her family to organize the funeral outside the factory, her body was exhibited as an example. An example.. they exhibited living womans bodies as well, like Nadia with those postcards of her everywhere, and her triumphs; dead or alive, we could be used.

The dark side of the regime no abrotions and woman either held up or put down .

I enjoyed this book I knew Very little of Her life other than the grainy footage of her 1976 win and that perfect ten moment that she got . Which has been part of an advert here in the Uk in recent years. Her life is an example of what was so wrong with the cold war the myths lies and untruths that both sides made. But in particular regimes like the one in Romanian where the face of the nation on the press wasn’t the actual face of the world and we see this through Nadia’s eye a young girl growing and seeing the world from both sides the huge palace of Ceausecu to the home she lived in and her training. Lafon has captured the cold war through one womans story and also captured the sad life of a heroine and a true great in her field .A great book about sport to read on opening day of euro 2016 and France and romania which is just about to kick off….

Have you a favourite Novel  about a famous person ?

8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Anca Szilagyi
    Jun 10, 2016 @ 20:40:12

    Nice review. I was a bit turned off by the title of the novel, but your review piqued my interest.

    Reply

  2. BookerTalk
    Jun 11, 2016 @ 05:07:29

    I’m old enough to remember the moment she won the medal with the perfect score. But I never knew anything about her life. Fascinating to get a glimpse behind the public persona we were allowed to see. I wouldn’t have picked this up on the strength of the cover though.

    Reply

  3. kimbofo
    Jun 11, 2016 @ 18:09:01

    Intriguing. I remember seeing her get that score on TV. As a little girl myself it made me want to be a gymnast, alas I have the grace of an elephant and hate heights or anything to do with spinning around, so it was only ever going to be a dream. The book sounds good. I think many of those athletes from behind the Iron Curtain were unwitting pawns in Cold War propaganda. Sadly, it seems to still go on in places like Russia.

    Reply

  4. MarinaSofia
    Jun 12, 2016 @ 06:02:24

    I’ve finally succumbed and bought the book in French to read. I was a bit afraid of reading it: either that it would get that period in Romania wrong, or that it would get it too right and bring back bad memories, if you understand what I mean.

    Reply

  5. 1streading
    Jun 12, 2016 @ 09:38:29

    This sounds really interesting – it reminds of Jean Echenoz’s novel about Emil Zatopek, Running.

    Reply

  6. Trackback: Woman in translation reviews from Sept 15 to July 16 | Winstonsdad's Blog

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