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Undoubtedly, "The Revolution WILL be televised" was the main players' motto. Most Romanians only saw their revolution on their small black and white televisions while others were the actors, willing and uninformed. Young draftees, sacrificed to put on a show to fool a deceived population into believing terrorists were responsible. The "Pigs' Slaughter" is the story of how the events during the run-up to Christmas Day 1989 changed a family and nation forever. It skillfully reveals how beneath the drunken joy of the Romanian Revolution lies the true story of the deception of a nation and the world. The story is told from the point of view of a 14 year old boy in a small Transylvanian town, destined to become a journalist and learn the inside stories, whose hindsight and flash-forwards reveal to the reader the truth, of which most of the story's protagonists are painfully unaware. The Revolution ruthlessly took more than it gave - beautiful bodies, healthy food, cultivated culture, tested tradition. In the end, communism's empty materialism was simply traded for western society's empty materialism, which happily did away with what the Eastern Block years had inefficiently leftover.
One could sense English is not Florin Grancea’s native language as his well written first person autobiographical narrative takes the reader deep into the historical Communist mindset in The Pigs’ Slaughter. Grancea uses many short sentences, mostly factual statements without embellished adjectives; nothing more - nothing less than necessary, analogous to the subsistence of the Romanian population back in the latter part of the 1900’s. This gives The Pigs’ Slaughter a “foreign” written voice into a form with credibility enabling the reader to understand the author’s feelings, the historical significance and his emotions; all “foreign” to people not exposed to this culture and way of life growing up in the United States.
To slaughter a pig for a family’s Christmas feast and to provide food throughout the months to come, you need a rope, a bucket to collect the blood and a sharp knife. The pig is a smart animal, smarter than a family dog, and knows very well what is about to happen when being approached for the kill. Florin Grancea uses a raw description, journalistic in style, of how the pig is killed, drained of blood and dismembered. The articulation of a pig’s death is compared to young Romanian soldiers massacred by their ruler Nicolae Ceausescu, in a far less humane fashion. The levels of lies and propaganda presented to the people behind the Iron Curtain peeled like the onion sliced to be eaten with pig lard. The many TV images shown on old black and white TVs to the population in between newsreel footage of the Russian dictator’s photo ops and travel exploits were stuffed with lies like the smoked sausages stuffed with spices. The death of the pig, as well as the revolutionary soldiers, had a grotesque reality, a stench and a raw uncensored truth, yet needed to be told.
This is the basis of Florin Grancea’s historically accurate and compelling story written from the viewpoint of a young boy observing the culture, actions and consequences of what was going on within his family and his surroundings during the staged terrorist uprising leading to the trial and execution of Nicolae Ceausescu and his controlling wife Elena during Christmas of 1989. Grancea builds over the first 100 pages of the book much detail of the political environment, then barely took half a page to detail the demise of the tyrants. The lives of those ancillary to this event are masterfully woven into perspective bringing both the past of Romania and its future into the then current situation. Poverty and scarcity were the norm. “When the shops were empty, and stomachs empty, too, the country’s economy changed into a barter economy,” Florin Grancea wrote. He said how people would steal this or that, than barter it and barter what they got even more until food was finally received. “Even the words used to describe it changed. Nobody used the word stealanymore. Steal was negative. So they used complete instead. They were completing their needs…” he explained.
The Pig‘s Slaughter reveals history in a truly unique way. Unforgettable in its realism and humanism, this book will be etched indelibly into your memory and pondered often when some of the circumstances of history are brought to mind. Florin Grancea gives us all a gift with his fine work, as his book is destined to seek critical acclaim and many reader accolades. I strongly recommend this book to young adults so they can benefit from his view of history they fortunately were not a part of, yet which shaped the world we now all coexist peaceably. Also, I highly recommend this to mature readers seeking historical accuracy to past epic events from the World Wars to the rise and fall of Communism. While reading this book one learns the lesson that the slaughter of a pig for sustenance is much more humane than killing people for power.