Comparison Between The Taste Of Ashes And Post Communist Nostalgia

2040 words - 8 pages

This essay will discuss two books, Marci Shore’s The Taste of Ashes and Maria Todorova and Zsuzsa Gille Post-Communist Nostalgia. Both books deal with post-communist Europe and use memory as a tool for their research. While Shore writes in a more personal narrative she gives us the realization that even when we rid countries of tyranny and coercion this does not in any way make these places better. In fact, things get far more complicated. It becomes evident that research has shown how you cannot throw people from a former communist regime into something democratic and expect it to automatically gain smooth running or for these people to know how to carry on as normal, while having the burden of being expected to block out their communist past and start afresh. We cannot assume that nothing could have been worse than dictatorship, so believing that whatever follows is evidently going to be something far better. This is the point Shore makes in her ‘Taste of Ashes’. This is different to post-communist nostalgia as it delivers a more personal tale from the author herself, writing about her own encounters with these countries. Shore explains that her book is a deeply subjective one, writing in the first person, owning the perspective of a young American women who wanders into a completely different world. Attempting to untangle the dark mysteries of Polish-Jewish relations, speaking primarily to those who experienced it all first hand, these people have been named and not named. Shore separates this book into a lengthily 27 chapters, which may immediately strike the reader as daunting. However, each chapter is arguably the perfect length, giving the book a great layout. This book moves forward in time from the early 1990’s through to the second post communist decade while also moving back in time, from the 1980’s to the years immediately following the first world war. The pivot of the revolutions in 1989, which ended communism with the fall of the Berlin Wall and brought Shore to Europe.

This book tells the story of the darker side of the fall of communism, about the lingering presence of the past through the memories of Eastern Europeans who still hold onto the guilt and those who served in communism with loyalty and no regrets. However, we are not here to judge, only to read and as Shore pointed out in her preface, hopefully understand. As her landlord explained in chapter 13 ‘The Locomotive of History’ how were any of us to know which side of communism we would have been on had we lived through the experience. ‘It’s easy for me to talk, how can I know how I would have behaved in such circumstances? I, too, have no confidence that I would have behaved well. On the contrary, I suspect I would have been a coward’. Out of all the chapters written in this book, the chapter on ‘The Locomotive of History’ (mentioned above) stands out the most. Arguably, this is due to its explanation of how Warsaw was, even after the collapse of communism. On a...

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