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

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Crown Publishers, 2013 - History - 370 pages
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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.

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - VGAHarris - LibraryThing

Although some insights can be gleaned about the " Afterlife of Totalitarianism in Eastern Europe" ( the sub-title), there is no coherent narrative. Some anecdotes are interesting but the morass of ... Read full review

THE TASTE OF ASHES: The Afterlife of Totalitarianism in Eastern Europe

User Review  - Jane Doe - Kirkus

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 ... Read full review


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About the author (2013)

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 Michal Glowinski's Holocaust memoir The Black Seasons.

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