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Elizabeth Amrien

New Eastern Europe - The Lingering of the Past - 12 views

  • The idea that Eastern Europe was, or is, a passive recipient of influences coming from the West is not the way life works; there is always an encounter, often an uncomfortable one. In one of Father Józef Tischner’s essays there's a beautiful passage in which he says that the encounter is a moment that initiates a particular drama, the course of which cannot be foreseen. I think that what happened in 1989 was not the filling of an empty space but rather that kind of encounter.
  • Krytyka Polityczna.
  • notion of a socially engagé intelligentsia who believes that ideas are to be lived.
  • ...9 more annotations...
  • One of the things that made Solidarność so remarkable was that "Solidarity" was not just a slogan or a philosophy: the movement involved an empirical overcoming of long-standing divides between right and left, Catholics and Marxists; workers and intellectuals.
  • What the various totalitarian experiments tell us quite clearly is that most people most of the time are formed by the circumstances in which they find themselves. That does not mean that individual personality variables do not exist, or that there will not always be exceptions. There will always be extraordinary people like Władysław Bartoszewski, who seems to have emerged from childhood with an uncanny moral lucidity. But as a general rule: if you put people in bad circumstances, you will not, on a large scale, get good outcomes.
  • I wanted to write about historical periods prior to1989. But I was, of course, personally experiencing the post-Communist period: as I was sitting in the archives reading about the 1930s, I was also living in the 1990s. So I had this dual experience of discovering the past along with the present.
  • The Taste of Ashes is about how the past lingers and about what the afterlife of totalitarianism has been.
  • One of the first, most naïve questions I wanted to understand was: Why was there no “happily ever after”?
  • I thought that coming to Eastern Europe would be like arriving at a non-stop party, that everybody would be celebrating his or her liberation. Of course, it was nothing like that. The 1990s were in some ways not very happy times at all. There was a sense that now people were suffering and being exploited in entirely different ways from the ways in which they had suffered and been exploited under communism. And there was a sense of the past as tormenting.  
  • In some ways this book is my attempt to explain why the fall of communism in Eastern Europe was not a fairy tale's happy ending.
  • I think this kind of attempt to find a safe place for ourselves in the world will always fail. There is something rootless about the human condition.
  • The idea that Eastern Europe after communism was an empty space to be filled with things borrowed from the West is not convincing.
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