The Taste of Ashes by Marci Shore
The Afterlife of Totalitarianism in Eastern Europe

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...while first-­person writing at its best can be a marvelous literary tool, undisciplined, as it too often is in Shore’s hands, it can run off the rails.
-NY Times

Synopsis

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.
 

About Marci Shore

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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.
 
Published January 15, 2013 by Crown. 386 pages
Genres: History, Political & Social Sciences, Travel. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for The Taste of Ashes
All: 3 | Positive: 2 | Negative: 1

NY Times

Below average
Reviewed by ADAM HOCHSCHILD on Apr 26 2013

...while first-­person writing at its best can be a marvelous literary tool, undisciplined, as it too often is in Shore’s hands, it can run off the rails.

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WSJ online

Good
Reviewed by Matthew Kaminski on Apr 25 2013

Ms. Shore is a confident guide through this "desperately complicated" terrain. One of the many fruits of freedom is the genuine revival of interest in Poland's Jewish history and culture.

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The Economist

Good
on Feb 23 2013

Her kaleidoscopic book of reminiscences and encounters gives an authentic feel to the difficulties that outsiders often have in making sense of this intricate history.

Read Full Review of The Taste of Ashes: The After... | See more reviews from The Economist

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