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 is associate professor of intellectual history at Yale and 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. Her new book The Taste of Ashes was also published in Polish (Smak popiołów, o dziedzictwie totalitaryzmu w Europie Wschodniej) as well as Modernity and its Discontents (Nowoczesność jako źródło cierpień).
Smak popiołów, o dziedzictwie totalitaryzmu w Europie Wschodniej
Warsaw: Krytyka Polityczna, 2013