This is terrible: a book editor killing his own author. These idiots have either seen to many or are trying to get inspiration from the Stieg Larsson model. An author who dies just before the book is published will sell better than a living author. But we know, or believe, that Larsson died of a weak heart, while, I, on the other hand, possess a Steyr-Manlicher sniper rifle which is waiting for me in Vienna...
As well as being a publisher, Stelian Munteanu is a good shot, one of the best marksmen in his army days. He also runs errands for a mysterious Russian called Misha, and one of those lucrative errands takes him on a deadly mission to the Austrian capital. Quite why, and quite where Stelian's loyalties lie, is hard to pin down.
Kill the General isn't the easiest book to read as, for the first half at least, the chapters jump back and forth through the decades, and Hrib assumes some familiarity with characters who have appeared in previous stories. You have to concentrate.
(And it helps if you like footnotes. If you do, they will be one of the best bits of Kill the General, as there a 141 of them, mostly giving fascinating and necessary explanation of Romanian language and culture).
Then comes a wholly unexpected plot turn and what had been a challenging mosiac of impressions from a very foreign country kicks into thriller mode. It works, but I found the playing out of the plot was rather a let-down.
As series editor Mike Phillips' introductory essay explains, the novel is not a simple record of events.
The important factor is the way that Stelian locates himself in the historical landscape. Stelian sees and understands no more and no less than would any other person in the same circumstances. This fact lends an outstanding credibility to his accounts, and immerses the reader in the matter of fact and routine reactions of the characters
I have been to Bucharest a couple of times and enjoyed the city, but it still feels a lot closer to its past than, say, Berlin. Communism under Nikolai Ceaușescu was part tragedy, part farce and a rich thread of absurdity, suffering and black humour laces Hrib's crisp and entertaining delivery.
- Photographs: Top, monument in Revolution Square (known to locals, for obvious reasons, as Shit on a Stick); middle, the Palace of the Parliament, the second largest building in the world, built while Romanians starved as their food was sold to meet foreign debt, and bottom, the view from the Palace balcony, along Ceaușescu's Champs Elysee.
I long to run away. I think I am longing to run away from myself and my memories. Memories from my past and, most of all, memories from my future. I am very afraid of the memories which are still to come.