24.11.2016 15:03

Michael Viewegh: The Wonderful Years of Lousy Living (1992)

Autor: Jaroslava Pivcová | Kurz: English section | Kategorie: Features and other

After the Velvet revolution there were middle-aged authors who brought new points of view about what happened. Viewegh wrote about normalization with light humor. There were differences between him and other authors.


Book was published in 1992 after the Velvet revolution in Czech Republic. I suppose only  reason why author wrote this book was that he simply finally could do that. His text used to be censored. By writing this book he could enjoy a freedom of expression. It was a try to preserve the memories of difficult time he had experienced. Story is strikingly similar to the author's childhood and life. It’s also way how to deal with difficulties from past. We can guess that Kvido’s life was the same as author’s life.


Story starts with birth of main character, Kvido. It was in 1962, the same year when Viewegh was born. Kvido remembered to childhood with grandparents. His grandfather used to be in a rush. From home to football match, at football match to get a hot dog, from football match to pub, from pub to home. ,,He still rushed because he wants this miserable life finally behind,” says later Kvido. It’s a clear allusion to the fact that many people were at that time really unhappy.

The first major turning point in the story occurs in 1968, when Soviet army stormed in Czech. This morning a rush from army planes was in the air. Kvido’s grandma had parrots. They escaped that morning. Same as many people, who tried to get across the border. Many families were divided forever. Viewegh remembers how it was unfair. Kvido’s parents had to leave their job and moved out from the city. It was a sad reality of that time. When you wanted a good flat you had to be a part of the communist party. Kvido’s dad refused this solution. In winter they lived in a cold porch. Kvido was still excited from winter and snow. He was a child and his mind was clear. Nothing bothered him. It’s exactly one of the parts where author try to explain that not everybody was hurt by this unfree regime. Kvido’s childhood was happy as same as childhood other children in free countries. Author describes the uncomfortable situation in a humorous way.

In this book Viewegh sometimes writes unflatteringly about someone. ,,It’s problem, you want to publish when they are still alive,” said his editor. ,,Grandma has cancer and father makes a coffin,” said Kvido. This part is one of those slightly ironic and full of black humor. Some parts of book are written in a form of theatrical game. It’s an allusion to the Kvido’s mum job, because she was an actor. This way of writing also refers to the the absurdity of the situation in real life. It’s interesting how Viewegh describes Kvido’s happy days. He focuses on details and atributes them good qualities.

 The Wonderful Years of Lousy Living are a blend of truth and fiction but autobiographical processing lurks in the background of the whole story. The book was published just after the fall of communism and the values that​​ people hold at the end of the story are identical to those of people at the time of its publishing. In this story the importance of family is highlighted. According Viewegh family should stick together and members should support each other. Other important values which we can find in the story are love, friendship, faith and feeling of safety.


The Wonderful Years of Lousy Living has become a bestseller. Michael Viewegh belongs to most-read Czech writers. Knowledge of this book includes a general cultural survey, because the book belongs to the compulsory reading. For Viewegh’s generation it’s commemorative book on their childhood and youth. It’s nice story written with lightness and grace. Even in people who lived in these difficult times it does not awaken negative emotions. Therein lies the greatness of his creation.


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