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The Taste of Ashes: The Afterlife of Totalitarianism in Eastern Europeby Marci Shore
Synopses & Reviews
An inventive, wholly original look at the complex psyche of Eastern Europe in the wake of the revolutions of 1989 and the opening of the communist archives.
In the tradition of Timothy Garton Ash’s The File, Yale historian and prize-winning author Marci Shore draws upon intimate understanding to illuminate the afterlife of totalitarianism. The Taste of Ashes spans from Berlin to Moscow, moving from Vienna in Europe’s west through Prague, Bratislava, Warsaw and Bucharest to Vilnius and Kiev in the post-communist east. The result is a shimmering literary examination of the ghost of communism – no longer Marx’s “specter to come” but a haunting presence of the past.
Marci Shore builds her history around people she came to know over the course of the two decades since communism came to an end in Eastern Europe: her colleagues and friends, once-communists and once-dissidents, the accusers and the accused, the interrogators and the interrogated, Zionists, Bundists, Stalinists and their children and grandchildren. For them, the post-communist moment has not closed but rather has summoned up the past: revolution in 1968, Stalinism, the Second World War, the Holocaust. The end of communism had a dark side. As Shore pulls the reader into her journey of discovery, reading the archival records of people who are themselves confronting the traumas of former lives, she reveals the intertwining of the personal and the political, of love and cruelty, of intimacy and betrayal. The result is a lyrical, touching, and sometimes heartbreaking, portrayal of how history moves and what history means.
MARCI SHORE, an associate professor of intellectual history at Yale, has spent much of her adult life in central and eastern Europe. She is the author of Caviar and Ashes: A Warsaw Generation's Life and Death in Marxism, which won eight prizes, including a National Jewish Book Award. She is also the translator of Michał Głowiński's Holocaust memoir The Black Seasons.
About the Author
A shimmering literary examination of the ghost of communism, a haunting presence of Europe's past
Oskar has just killed himself. After waiting a quarter century, he returned to Prague only to find it was no longer his home. With his memorial service, Yale historian and prize-winning author Marci Shore leads us gently into the post-totalitarian world. We meet a professor of literature who as a child played chess with the extortionist who had come to deliver him to the Gestapo and an elderly Trotskyite whose deformed finger is a memento of seventeen years in the Soviet gulag. Parents who had denounced their teenage dissident daughter to the communist secret police plead for understanding. For all of these people, the fall of Communism has not ended history but rather summoned the past: rebellion in 1968, Stalinism, the Second World War, the Holocaust. The revolutions of 1989 opened the archives, illuminating the tragedy of twentieth-century Eastern Europe: there were moments in which no decisions were innocent, in which all possible choices caused suffering.
As the author reads pages in the lives of others, she reveals the intertwining of the personal and the political, of love and cruelty, of intimacy and betrayal. The result is a lyrical, touching, and sometimes heartbreaking portrayal of how history moves and what history means.
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History and Social Science » Europe » Eastern Europe » General