SEESAW: Cultural Life in Eastern Europe by Yorick Blumenfeld

SEESAW: Cultural Life in Eastern Europe

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The Eastern European illuminati--particularly in Bulgaria, Albania, Romania and East Germany--still have to buckle to ""party guidance"" but ""the sugary skies of socialist realism have a much more natural coloration now."" Blumenfeld, who wrote this book while serving as Newsweek's Eastern European Bureau Chief, stresses the positive factor of diversity. In Poland and Czechoslovakia there is a virtual renaissance in films and music; however Polish television audiences are addicted to ""Bonanza"" and ""Dr. Kildare."" The Hungarians have sharpened political satire to a ""cunning scalpel"" while East Germany's new ""pseudo-baroque"" opera house which is located (in a welter of rubble) opposite The Wall attracts Berliners nightly. The Yugoslav intelligentsia welcomes Western contributors (such as David Riesman and Herbert Marcuse) to its humanistic publication Praxis. But even reactionary Bulgaria has failed to escape the Western influence--the season's big novel was Avakoum Zahov Contra 07, an anti-James Bond mystery. Still, abstraction in art is discouraged as is fantasy in literature, and one Polish critic said sadly (and accurately): ""Banality seems to be immortal."" What Blumenfeld feels is important, however, is that throughout the Soviet satellite countries--as opposed to the Soviet Union itself--the idea of ""artistic polycentrism"" has gained an entree. Writers are still nervous and they are rarely entirely ""honest""--but at least the manuscripts have come out of the drawer. This book, the first informed, in-depth analysis of the Eastern European cultural spectrum, should find an audience among American culture-seekers.

Pub Date: Nov. 13th, 1968
Publisher: Harcourt, Brace & World