The Taste of Ashes: The Afterlife of Totalitarianism in Eastern Europe

By Marci Shore

An creative, thoroughly unique examine the advanced psyche of jap Europe within the wake of the revolutions of 1989 and the hole of the communist archives.
 
   In the culture of Timothy Garton Ash’s The dossier, Yale historian and prize-winning writer Marci Shore attracts upon intimate figuring out to light up the afterlife of totalitarianism.  The flavor of Ashes spans from Berlin to Moscow, relocating from Vienna in Europe’s west via Prague, Bratislava, Warsaw and Bucharest to Vilnius and Kiev within the post-communist east. the result's a shimmering literary exam of the ghost of communism – now not Marx’s “specter to come back” yet a haunting presence of the past.
 
   Marci Shore builds her background round humans she got here to grasp over the process the 2 many years on account that communism got here to an result in japanese Europe: her colleagues and associates, once-communists and once-dissidents, the accusers and the accused, the interrogators and the interrogated, Zionists, Bundists, Stalinists and their teenagers and grandchildren.  For them, the post-communist second has now not closed yet quite has summoned up the prior: revolution in 1968, Stalinism, the second one international battle, the Holocaust.  the tip of communism had a depressing side.  As Shore pulls the reader into her trip of discovery, examining the archival documents of people that are themselves confronting the traumas of former lives, she unearths the intertwining of the non-public and the political, of affection and cruelty, of intimacy and betrayal. the result's a lyrical, touching, and occasionally heartbreaking, portrayal of the way historical past strikes and what heritage capacity.

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What do you resemble on your greatness? / a bit of shit …” Paul Wilson and the opposite Plastic humans weren't nice musicians. that they had, even though, a band supervisor who used to be a superb character. Ivan Jirous possessed the ordinary skill to cajole humans to do issues. In 1976, he met the playwright Václav Havel at an house in Prague. Havel, who used to be on his technique to a celebration, by no means made it there: in its place he spent the evening at a pub, mesmerized by means of the long-haired Ivan Jirous and the rock tune coming from his squeaking cassette participant. The sound caliber was once negative, the musicians of mediocre expertise. That mattered little: to Havel, right here used to be authenticity, existential fact. For Havel that evening with Ivan Jirous and his outdated cassette participant was once an epiphany. “Suddenly I realized,” Václav Havel later wrote, “that, despite what number vulgar phrases those humans used or how lengthy their hair used to be, fact used to be on their aspect. ” Václav Havel’s alliance with Ivan Jirous was once a fateful one: not anything often is the related back. Serendipitously, the come across had occurred simply in time: quickly later on the police got here and arrested Ivan Jirous and his band. Paul Wilson used to be deported to Canada. The prosecutor steered criminal officers to not lower the hair or shave the beards of the accused: the regime sought after the musicians to seem on tv as long-haired hooligans. Now it used to be via Václav Havel that the older, “respectable” dissident intellectuals got here to provide their aid to the younger rock musicians who known as themselves the Plastic humans. On 28 August 1976 the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung released an open letter on behalf of a handful of irreverent long-haired adolescence, signed by means of Czechoslovakia’s highbrow elite, between them Václav Havel, Pavel Kohout, Karel Kosík, Jan Patočka, and Jaroslav Seifert. The signatories integrated playwrights and novelists, a destiny Nobel Prize winner, the best philosophers. the wedding was once, from the outset, a seeming mésalliance, among the protégés of the thinker Edmund Husserl and people of the guitarist Lou Reed. Havel couldn't store his new neighbors. Ivan Jirous and 3 different band contributors have been convicted; Jirous acquired the longest criminal sentence. but whatever had occurred, a undeniable magic conjured up through this not going alliance. It used to be 1976, the yr whilst in communist Poland Adam Michnik and different intellectuals shaped the staff’ safeguard Committee. It was once the yr after the Helsinki Accords, whilst communist bloc leaders had traded their signatures to the common statement of Human Rights for Western attractiveness of the inviolability of borders. The communist governments had by no means meant to honor that contract. still, the textual content used to be there. Now, possibly without warning, this détente-inspired rfile supplied a brand new language, one who might be able to fill the void left after Marxism’s dying. Ivan Jirous went to legal. but outdoor the court the place the Velvet Underground–inspired Plastic humans have been being attempted, Havel felt a presentiment of whatever strong.

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