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Cafe Europa: Life After Communism 1.2.1999 Edition

30 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0140277722
ISBN-10: 0140277722
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Drakulic (How We Survived Communism and Even Laughed) notes that Eastern Europeans are so anxious to become like their Western counterparts that every city and town has a Cafe Europa that is a pale imitation of similar establishments in Paris and Rome. She presents here a collection of essays that explore life in various Eastern European countries since the fall of communism. As a citizen of Croatia (formerly a part of Yugoslavia) living now in Vienna with her Swedish husband, she writes knowingly as a survivor of a communist regime, as one who realizes that pitfalls still lie ahead for nations emerging from the Soviet yoke. In Albania, she observes rage everywhere in people who seem to want to smash all vestiges of the Hoxha regime. In Romania, she comments on the execrable state in which public toilets are maintained: "[T]he standard of Romanian toilets reflects the nature of the communist system of which it is a legacy"; "the absence of any improvement is... a warning for the future of democracy" there. Drakulic's pungent and insightful ruminations not only describe life in her part of the world?she makes us feel it as well. Author tour.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Drakuli'c '(How We Survived Communism and Even Laughed, LJ 3/15/93) has a rare reporting talent. She observes country soil rising from beneath urban asphalt, and she knows how to explain to urbane reader the passions and desires of a marginalized Eastern culture. The specter of an international European community may be a mundane sidebar in Western newspapers, but for Drakuli'c it represents far more. Diapers, royalty, Bucharest toilets, and presumptuous cafes serve as apocryphal symbols in her collection of political essays. To the daughter of an antifascist hero, the West represents the realization that money can transcend the future and that there is more to life than the "living in the present" that communism offered. Rather than using the language of traditional economic and political analysis, Drakuli'c offers the language of everyday life to describe a momentous cultural evolution. This important book from a very talented European writer is highly recommended.
-?Mary Hemmings, Univ. of Calgary Lib., Alberta
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; 1.2.1999 edition (February 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140277722
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140277722
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #417,521 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Richard R on May 13, 1999
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Drakulic delivers another series of short essays, in the style of her earlier "How We Survived Communism". In "Café Europa", the reader is carried from Croatia across western Europe during the few short years since Croatia emerged from war as an independent state, caught somewhere between its Balkan history and its European ambitions. She ruminates on subjects as far afield as her distaste for the word "we" because of its communist overtones, which leads to the verdict that the western concept of "I", of self-reliance and modernity in a civil state, is a notion still to be embraced in eastern Europe. It is for precisely the same reason that she admires Americans their fetish for perfect teeth, because they represent self-respect and independence from shoddy state-sponsored dental care.
Many of the essays in the book deal with the peculiar talent in eastern Europe for hiding and forgetting the past, thereby evading responsibility and missing the opportunity to learn from it. This flair for forgetfulness causes Drakulic's mother to fear for the sanctity of her husband's grave, marked by a communist star vulnerable to those who would destroy symbols of forty years of communism. It is this same talent that allows fascist "Ustasha" symbols from the 1940s to be revived in the 1990s under the guise of nationalism. The same phenomenon that impels each generation of politicians to rename streets and plazas in order to avoid any public recognition of historical figures whose views place them, at least temporarily, on the wrong side of today's political fences. It is this same failure of history that forces a Croatian journalist to mince words and ask facile questions during an exclusive interview with Dinko Sakic, the notorious concentration camp commander.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Linda Linguvic HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on October 19, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Subtitled "Life After Communism", this is a collection of articles by Slavenka Drakulic, a Croatian journalist who has become a spokesperson to the West about life in Eastern Europe. Raised in the 1950s, she grew up in a tightly controlled world under communism. She's a product of that system as well as a witness to all the changes that have occurred in her world. Privileged because of her many trips to Western Europe, and married to a Swedish journalist, she has a unique perspective which she shares on the pages of this short but very eye-opening book. I was so intrigued that I read it all at one sitting and rushed to my computer to print out a map of the Balkans so that I could see for myself where the places were.
Her native land of Croatia has gone through many changes recently and yearns to be considered part of Western Europe. Several cafes have opened called "Café Europa" which try to imitate those in Vienna. But the coffee is served in heavy utilitarian cups and the pastries lack the taste and delicacy of what can be found just a few miles, but yet a world away in Austria. Ms. Drakulic writes with humor and as well as irony and passion as she discusses this and other aspects of life in her part of the world. Such as that it is impossible it is to find a clean toilet, equipped with soap, toilet paper and running water anywhere in Bucharest, the capital of Romania.
There are the constant humiliations of having to cross borders and have to show her Croatian passport. And the way she and other Eastern Europeans are distrusted reach farther than just the border crossings. She talks about consumer goods and how she and others constantly have to smuggle them across the border.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 20, 1999
Format: Paperback
Slavenka Drakulic is unquestionably a perceptive and keen observer of what is happening in Easter Europe today. However, in my opinion, she is an even better observer of the human condition in general. In fact, for me, this book went beyond the scope of the topic of Easter Europe and its people and, in a way, felt like a more general philosophical analysis of people and history.
With her detailed examination of the discourteous behavior of an Easter European hotel receptionist towards Westerners, or the ingratiation with which a Croatian journalist interviews an alleged concentration camp commander or even the true meaning behind an American "hello, how are you," Drakulic exhibits an uncanny ability to read people and cultures and to understand human nature thereby enabling us to better understand ourselves.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By on April 15, 1999
Format: Paperback
Slavenka does a magnificent job in briefing the Western public on what exhisted in Yugo. before the 1990 Balkan wars. Not the physical, but the mentality of the townspeople as well as the leaders. She sheds light on what a typical Eastern European feels and thinks while living in the West. She also correctly remarks on the difficulties of being an easterner in the west and how for the rest of her generation, that "easterner" stygmatism will not change. In conclusion, some of Slavenka's comments may seem absolutly unbelievable to the typical Western European, but for a native Eastern European, they are sadly realistic.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Adam Daniel Mezei on May 11, 2006
Format: Paperback
...which still applicable today, several years since the original publishing of Drakulic's amazing book.

For someone such as myself who's spent a great deal of time in the post-Communist former Bloc, I indentified very strongly with the views put forth by this author. I hasten to add that such identification was instantaneous.

I also learned a heck of a lot; a great deal more, in fact than I thought I knew at the outset, and especially about Croatia and its storied past (the author is Croatian -- Istrian, in fact -- and quite impressively knows the history of her nation and of the former Yugoslavia more generally, like the back of her hand). I wish I had that kind of accessible knowledge. I'm humbled...

Were I able to speak to the author today, I'd probe her for her latest reflections on several of the ideas she put forth almost a decade ago. I'd even attempt to cajole her to pen a much has changed, and the instability (sometimes constructive, though more often explosive) has continued to pummel and plague and thereby radically alter the identities of many of these newly democratic states. I'm sure what was the case in 1995 is no longer extant in many of these nations...

Drakulic is deliciously bold in this compact non-fictional winner. She refuses to accept Croatia's latter day nationalistic dogmas and the 'superiority slogans' bandied about by her patriotic peers. Within Cafe Europa's pages, she refuses to accept anything glibly declared by her compatriots 'for granted,' and there remain no sacred cows, and no stones unturned: everything is up for discussion, every so-called truth is up for grabs. For that reason alone, I'd personally have to say her credibility is unassailable.
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