EXIT INTO HISTORY by Eva Hoffman

EXIT INTO HISTORY

A Journey Through the New Eastern Europe
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 In a superb successor to her impressive personal memoir, Lost in Translation (1988), Hoffman chronicles two trips taken a year apart to de-Sovietized East Europe--touring her native Poland, as well as Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria. In each place, Hoffman talks to people (with the weight perhaps shifted inescapably to literati, political sophisticates, high achievers) and takes a remarkably humane measure of the confusions, hopes, and lavish soulfulness born of unsentimental realism that's Mitteleuropa's greatest resource. She reliably detects nuance because, in a sense, she expects to find it (``History is a process of double-ledger accounting''). Sociology never overtly jogs her focus, yet she avails herself of large, thoughtful revelations: ``It may be that just as tonality recurs in music and realism in painting, so the idea of liberalism recurs in politics--though each time in a different vein. Eastern European liberalism seems not so much born again as refined in the crucible of successive skepticisms. It has seen the dangers of fanaticism, dogmatism, and cynicism; the dangers of too much belief and none at all.'' The people she talks to seem to be master self-modulators: victims but not eternal victims, needy but never without humor, aware of nationhood the way no Western patriot quite manages to be. And the book's easily as good just as sheer travel-writing. Hoffman stays open to the physical gorgeousness of Prague, the high civilization of Budapest hotel baths, the odd survival of the Transylvanian Gypsy nonculture--and she falls in love with Bulgaria (for the Bulgarians' innate poise and lack of spiritual turmoil), just as poor Romania, plaything of a madman, seems the most cursed nation of all after the spasms of 1989. From each land Hoffman is able to generalize only when it seems called for, and to refrain from generalizing when the broad view might only obscure: a rare thing. A remarkable book. (One map)

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-670-83649-4
Page count: 432pp
Publisher: Viking
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1993




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