THE TASTE OF ASHES by Marci Shore

THE TASTE OF ASHES

The Afterlife of Totalitarianism in Eastern Europe

KIRKUS REVIEW

Shore (Intellectual History/Yale Univ.; Caviar and Ashes: A Warsaw Generation’s Life and Death in Marxism, 1918-1968, 2006, etc.) gathers reflections of her intellectual journeys through the deeply scarred, still-grieving lands of Eastern Europe from the mid-1990s to the present.

The author’s various academic studies and research projects brought her to Eastern Europe to study the tensions and contradictions among the intelligentsia of post-totalitarianism. Vaclav Havel called the years after 1968 a time of living “as if,” when no one really believed in communism any more, but it was enough to go through the motions “like a dog chained to his house who doesn’t want to upset his master.” Shore began in Prague, where she traced some of the signatories of the influential Charter 77, a collectively authored text defending human rights as put forth in the Helsinki Accords and which prompted numerous intellectuals in then-Czechoslovakia to be blacklisted for the next decade. She found, rather surprisingly, that many of the former signatories of the charter that had helped bring down the regime in 1989 were former Communist Party members who had hoped a new revolution would bring “socialism with a human face.” From Prague, where she took Czech language courses while teaching English, Shore visited Bucharest, where former dissidents of the Ceausescu regime made her aware of unsettling problems with the current democracy and ethnic discrimination. In Warsaw, the author scoured archives of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising and remnants of postwar Jewry as it splintered into communist and Zionist sympathies before being snuffed out by Stalinism. Shore also explored records in Vilnius and Moscow and interviewed survivors and their descendants, offering numerous stories of heartbreak, betrayal and “the impossibility of closure.”

A fascinating grab bag of the author’s dogged research and personal interviews.

Pub Date: Jan. 15th, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-307-88881-5
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Crown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 2012




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