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

Marci Shore. Crown, $27 (384p) ISBN 978-0-307-88881-5
Shore’s Europe is populated with prostitutes and pimps, street urchins and skinheads; the landscape is “cold and gray... burnt to ashes and rebuilt in Stalinist architecture.” The National Jewish Book Award winner’s newest (after Caviar and Ashes: A Warsaw Generation’s Life and Death in Marxism, 1918–1968) begins and ends with the suicide of a friend, an émigré who returned to Prague only to find that the city he remembered no longer exists, and many of the characters who fill its pages are ghosts—refugees of time and ideology, unable to make peace with the capitalist theme park that replaced their homelands. A historian of the Holocaust and of communism, Shore journeys through Eastern Europe probing the wounds left by the twin disasters of the 20th century. A mix of memoir, travelogue, and philosophical treatise, her book is above all an anthropological study of a people living in a world obscured by cobwebs, more mindful of yesterday than today, where the future cannot be realized until the deaths of all those who witnessed the abyss. The one who makes such observations can only be an outsider, or—in the words of one of Shore’s interlocutors—one who knows “too much and not enough, and nothing.” Challenging and sometimes maddening, but also warm and compassionate, the resulting work is an examination of what it means to live in a society where “the realm of the not possible [is] expansive” and where history, “proceeding inexorably and inevitably,” shapes identity. Agent: Gillian MacKenzie, Gillian MacKenzie Agency. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 12/10/2012
Release date: 01/15/2013
Hardcover - 370 pages - 978-0-09-955898-9
Open Ebook - 384 pages - 978-1-4481-5018-2
Open Ebook - 238 pages - 978-0-307-88883-9
Paperback - 370 pages - 978-0-307-88882-2
Show other formats
Discover what to read next