Living in Freedom: The New Prague

Mark Sommer, Author
Mark Sommer, Author Mercury House $29.5 (288p) ISBN 978-1-56279-025-7
Reviewed on: 01/31/2000
Release date: 02/01/2000
``Some of us . . . have been searching vainly for an alternative to both totalitarian communism and corporate capitalism,'' bemoans Sommer, who has journeyed three times to Czechoslovakia--1983, 1990, 1991--and briefly to Russia during his second trip to Eastern Europe. ``You wanted us to be wonderful,'' observes an astute Czech to the obviously disappointed author and his wife Sandi, self-described dropouts and organic farmers in Northern California. On the couple's initial trip to Prague all was sullen and oppressive; in 1990 the Czechs were in a mood of euphoria; spring of 1991 found them again oppressed, this time by the shadow side of democracy: unemployment, crime, self-responsibility and loss of security. Winning ``freedom from'' also inflicted ``freedom to'' on a populace once assured jobs and housing by the State but now about to be ruled by market forces. ``It was a kind of sweet life,'' reminisces a one-time dissident about the pre-velvet revolution days; ``If we could just remove the disagreeable parts and keep the old way of living,'' this from another Czech. By turns naive and telling, this book will be informative mainly to those who haven't closely followed events in Eastern Europe; Sommer despairs that the Czechs, who never achieved socialism with a human face, will not accomplish capitalism with compassion, either. (May)