Scheduled to appear after the Charles Baker series, A Nasty Combination is Igor Bergler’s most personal novel, and it abounds in autobiographical elements, which makes it quite different from the Baker series. The traits that have made Bergler a beloved author are still here, though: encyclopedic culture, bland humor surprisingly entwined with biting irony, complicity with the reader and bloody murders. The permanent recourse to all kinds of mind games, the writing on many levels that addresses itself to a vast and varied audience, they’re all back in this complicated chronical of the last seven years of communism in Romania. What’s new here is the grotesque nature of the situations in which the characters find themselves. These are people whose humanity is put seriously to the test by a sinister totalitarian system that obliges them to make unimaginable compromises to survive. “The nasty combination” is an immense metaphor about a world that (though we wish it vanished) goes on living in us (in the highest degree) and about the way the regime marked the lives of millions of people for many years after the communist government seemed to have gone the way of all flesh. Like the preceding novels, this one is dominantly parodic, and it’s full of smart references to the most important texts, not just literary ones but to those belonging to the history of culture. This is a lively novel, full of characters in whom we can recognize ourselves and characters we have bumped into, one way or another, along the course of our lives. The tale clicks along at a dizzying rate, recounted from a child’s innocent perspective and then from the same child’s perspective in adolescence. With wonder, the narrator discovers a world that is, as the author would say, rather nasty.