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  • Published: 7 February 2013
  • ISBN: 9781448150182
  • Imprint: Cornerstone Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 384

The Taste of Ashes

Shore … writes first rate reportage in these cool-eyed but warm-hearted dispatches from the former Soviet bloc. Independent

A superb account of 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 'spectre 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 and sometimes heartbreaking portrayal of how history moves and what history means.

  • Published: 7 February 2013
  • ISBN: 9781448150182
  • Imprint: Cornerstone Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 384

About the author

Marci Shore

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, and the critically acclaimed The Taste of Ashes. She is also the translator of Michal Glowinski's Holocaust memoir The Black Seasons.

Praise for The Taste of Ashes

[A] brilliant and perceptive book about a part of the world, as [Shore] explains, ‘where the past is palpable and heavy’ ... part memoir, part reportage, a treatise on the philosophy of history, and part romance written with lyrical beauty in placesthere’s an interesting and original idea on almost every page.


Part-memoir, part-intellectual history, Shore’s book follows her journey into the heart of the Polish and Czech intelligentsia, exploring their reactions to and involvement in the Holocaust, the purges and the revolutions that dominate 20th century Eastern European history….poignant and thought-provoking.

Sunday Times

Her fine book is a very personal account of the people that she came to know in eastern Europe after the end of Soviet domination in 1989… The novelty of Shore’s approach lies in her focus on the families of Poland’s Stalinists.

Financial Times

[Shore’s] kaleidoscope book of reminiscences and encounters gives an authentic feel to the difficulties that outsiders often have in making sense of this intricate history…Ms Shore…does an excellent job of bringing to life the still rancorous relations between Jews of rival persuasions.

The Economist

Beautifully written, brilliantly perceptive and often moving… With the opening of the archives, many excellent histories of communist eastern Europe have appeared in recent years… but I cannot think of any that succeed so well as this. In combining subtle historical judgements with literary flair, Shore has produced a masterpiece.

BBC History Magazine

The Taste of Ashes is about more than the floodwaters of history; it's the story of those who learned to swim, those who didn't, and those still adapting to an era of accelerated change. This is a brilliant, lyrical and gripping book, one woven from stories that will linger in the minds of readers for years to come.

Ian Bremmer, author of The End of the Free Market

With deep respect for what the historian can and cannot know and what the witness can and cannot share, Marci Shore has achieved something rare: a narrative history that is also a philosophy of history. Her subject is Eastern Europe in the aftermath of the Holocaust and Stalinism, but her stories of people and places - tragic, ironic, carnavalesque - have a universal appeal.

Alice Kaplan, author of Dreaming in French

Marci Shore has written a one-of-a-kind book - a personal, intellectual, literary and historical tour of contemporary Central Europe - with something in it for everyone who wants to understand this fascinating part of the world.

Anne Applebaum, author of Iron Curtain and Gulag

Shore … writes first rate reportage in these cool-eyed but warm-hearted dispatches from the former Soviet bloc.


Shore is attentive to the ethnic strife unleashed by the ‘Pandora’s Box’ of one-party dictatorship as well as to the sinister propaganda of fundamentalist Christians.


Gripping…[Shore] describes her travels and expresses her feelings so openly and engagingly.


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