A whirlwind tour of Communist Europe during the last year of Communism, narrated with insight and restraint by English journalist and novelist Frankland (Richard Robertovich, 1988; Khrushchev, 1967). ``The tragedy of East Europe,'' according to Frankland, ``was that there were decent men among those who imposed Communism, and that it took so long for them to understand that they had taken a wrong turning to the promised land.'' Such understanding was bought at a high price: According to the author, ruined economies, ravaged landscapes, widespread disease, and chronic despair seem to be the only legacies of the old regimes now that the statues have come down and the streets have been renamed. Frankland moves through the region country by country, but he is intelligent enough to make generalizations in each case and weave these narrative threads into a coherent history whose roots go back much farther than the 50 years it can officially claim. The fact that Communism in Eastern Europe was a foreign imposition is not really Frankland's point- -although that is made abundantly clear. He is more concerned simply to let the characters of this weird drama speak their own lines—such as Alexander Dubcek, who, despite his narrow brush with Brezhnev's gallows, could swear in 1989 that he would never hate the Soviets or forsake Marxism (``because I have experienced the joy aroused by the completion of a hydroelectric power station''); or the Romanian woman imprisoned for inducing an abortion, who could vow with equal passion never to give birth ``as long as he [Ceausescu] is still alive.'' The strength of Frankland's approach is that he forces nothing, idealizes no one, and intrudes hardly at all: instead, he offers a straightforward account of a monumental political upheaval, told from the point of view of everyone he met. A superlative exposition, thorough and honest. Frankland conveys the real tragedy enveloping Eastern Europe without closing his eyes or stumbling over the contradictions.
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