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Exit into History: A Journey Through the New Eastern Europe Paperback – October 1, 1994

3.8 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Hoffman (Lost in Translation) recounts her travels across Eastern Europe following the fall of communism.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Hoffman, who emigrated from Poland to Canada when she was 13--an experience she recounted in her memoir, Lost in Translation ( LJ 1/89)--returned to her homeland in 1989 to witness "history in the making" in Poland, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, and the splintering Czechoslovakia. She talks with citizens from all walks of life (from intellectuals to workers to dissidents-cum-leaders), and her observations are fresh and thoughtful. Like Andrew Nagorski's Birth of Freedom ( LJ 9/1/93), Hoffman's book will most likely whet the appetites of readers new to Eastern Europe, while her observations on historical events will also satisfy readers familiar with the region. Unlike Nagorski, Hoffman is more introspective and tentative, making this much more an intellectually stimulating personal journey than a journalistic account. Recommended.
- Joseph Parsons, Columbia Coll., Chicago
Copyright 1993 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: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (October 1, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140145494
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140145496
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 1.1 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.5 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,062,740 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
After studying the politics and history of Eastern Europe extensively as an undergraduate in college, I read this book and found it simply marvelous, for in all the history and political science books yo are given fact upon fact, but until I read this book I didn't know what it was like to actually be there. She vividly portrays the countries of the region from an ordinary person's perspective, the sights, the sounds, the feeling in the air of these countries. It can be read as an introduction to Eastern Europe, the avid student, or even the educated expert. It can also be enjoyable as simply leisure reading.
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Format: Paperback
Eva Hoffman, back among her Polish homeland and other former Iron Curtained nations, offers a thoughtful look at the years just after the breakdown of the wall. Not a travelogue so much as an extended series of conversations with usually well-spoken people much like Hoffman herself. Not a book for those seeking Romany flavor, hotel mishaps, and quaint lore. She largely conveys her impressions and ideas in a style reminding me of essays for the New Yorker or the Sunday magazine of her own employer The New York Times.
Her reflections on Havel's Czech Republic, the still lurking oppressiveness of Romania post-Ceausescu, the Bulgarian-Soviet aura, and the Hungarian cynicism mesh nicely with her own Polish rather aristocratic attitudes (not by birth but by predilection?).
While the report's well-written, it does lapse into an over-reliance on the chat in the salon, so to speak, rather than on the street. You feel as if she, naturally attracted to educated dissidents for the most part, wished to relate their stories to us at the expense of a conventional tour of the countries she visits. For instance, little of Slovakia appears, and the sights she describes stick less in the mind than the ideas she ponders.
Fine, but fair warning for anyone expecting another Patrick Leigh Fermor (pre-WWII) or Brian Hall (Stealing from a Deep Place, 1988--Romania/Hungary/Bulgaria cycled through from an American's p-o-v). A useful introduction to how politics inevitably must give way to the ordinary, the human, the lived experience. Although she may differ from Havel, Hoffman provides a beneficial Western counterpart to his own thinking. 3 1/2 stars.
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Format: Hardcover
I'm preparing to move to Romania, and read this book to give me an idea of the way things were over there a few years ago. I greatly enjoyed this book. It was well written, and thought-provoking. Every now and then the author would lapse into excessive use of "textbook speech", but for the most part I appreciated the way she wrote. I also appreciated the way she used various stories to get her information across. For someone with little to no interest in this area, this would not be a good book to start with. However, I found it very readable, and highly recommend it.
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Format: Paperback
Very well written stories of traveling through Thr newly liberated countries of the old Soviet Bloc are a pleasure to read. Eva Hoffman was a Polish Jew who left Poland around Kraków back as a young teen. Now she returns in the early 2000's as an established american author. She relays well her yearning to feel once again the intensity of the inner life and the intellectual life, such as staying up all hours in cafes with endless smoking, to solve the world's problems. Or at least poor Poland😣's problems of massive unemployment and inflation!

I myself had visited Poland and Czechoslovakia and Hungary in the mid 1980's so I was very curious to hear her stories. It is true that her Jewisb identity gives her a valuable detachment to the people. But it is sometimes an obstacle to come from such a despised and oppressed group in the history of these nations because she cannot help but be different from Catholic Poles

Nonetheless I can recommend this great time with one further caveat: it is out of date for 2016 if you are reading it in preparation for a trip over there. Poland in particular has been racing forward to western thinking and living very successfully. Communism and all its shackles were rapidly shed there. You have to laugh when authors used to get paid by how many words they wrote and that it should be the same rate of pay per word for all writers. Now that is a great example of the lunacy of Communism! What is lost is the very isolation and oppression that produced in Poles a strong identity. When they opened up with such vigor they embraced materialism with the thirst of a man in the desert. Now the next generation is becoming simply international through computers and Internet and films all so accessible.
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Format: Hardcover
I plucked this off the shelf in a bookstore that was going out of business and was baffled that it had not come to my attention before. It proved to be a fascinating read. So often such a book will have dead patches which the reader will skim or skip, but Ms. Hoffman's command of style and pace is excellent. Ms. Hoffman is Jewish, and often dealing with ethnocentric topics can kill art as surely as socialist realism does, but Ms. Hoffman explicates the ancient and pervasive antisemitism in Eastern Europe with a deft touch, and the theme does not dominate the book. The roles of Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy are given their say.

The subtle or not so subtle differences between the countries were conveyed masterfully and succinctly. Other reviewers have written that things have moved on in that region, and surely in some ways they have, but Ms. Hoffman is more often talking about concepts having more to do not with economic success but with the damage to human psyches caused by decades of bad government. The scariest passages (the only ones that made me cringe) took place in Romania, a poster child like Albania and North Korea for what a truly diabolical despot can do to human beings. If one were to do targeted reading on current affairs in this region this reviewer, at any rate, would be interested in 1) the recovery of traditional values and individual self-image and 2) the power of organized crime, i.e. does it constitute a significant shadow government.
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