Dancing Bears: True Stories about Longing for the Old Days

 
9781911231189: Dancing Bears: True Stories about Longing for the Old Days
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With a keen eye for the unusual and the ironic, Szablowski takes us from eastern Europe to London, Greece, and Cuba, uncovering the stories of people whose lives haven't quite caught up with their countries' political turns: the women who take care of Stalin's childhood home in Georgia; the man who feigned being a healer to escape war crime accusations in Serbia; the villagers who turned their homes into hobbit holes for tourism in Poland.

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Review:

"Witold Szablowski is a born storyteller. His reports from the post-Communist world read like fairy-tales with the stench of reality. Absurd, darkly funny, compassionate, his book is a literary jewel." -- Ian Buruma, author of Year Zero and Murder in Amsterdam

"Mixing bold journalism with bolder allegories, Mr. Szablowski teaches us with witty persistence that we must desire freedom rather than simply expect it." --Timothy Snyder, New York Times bestselling author of On Tyranny, Black Earth, and Bloodlands

"Should be required reading for anyone hoping to understand the growing appeal of authoritarian leaders in Eastern Europe today . . . Combining black humor with lyrical prose, Szablowski brilliantly captures the tragic disorientation of men and women whose lives were bifurcated by the sudden collapse of Communism and ruthless onslaught of neoliberal capitalism. . . . A poignant allegory about the human costs of regime change." -- Kristen Ghodsee, author of Red Hangover: Legacies of Twentieth-Century Communism

"A fascinating and wide-ranging book that shows how, across different and diverse species, old habits die slowly, if at all. Humans, like other animals, often don't know when they've gained freedom because conditions of oppression have become the norm and they're unable to adjust to a newfound lack of restraint. Szablowski's clever and metaphorical use of dancing bears to make this point is beautifully done." --Marc Bekoff, University of Colorado; co-author of The Animals' Agenda: Freedom, Compassion, and Coexistence in the Age of Humans

"What a gem of a book. . . . So eloquent and original about the psychological transition from regimes." --Ruth Ben-Ghiat, New York University

"A brisk narrative [and] a surprising look at societies grappling with profound change." --Kirkus Reviews

"Heartrending . . . A sharply drawn account." -- Publishers Weekly

'Utterly original...Provokes a far-reaching and unresolved conversation about what freedom might really mean.' New York Times Book Review

'Fascinating.' --Otago Daily Times

'Szablowski has a keen eye for the absurd.' -- Literary Flits

'Elegantly pulling together the varied threads, Szab owski combines personal histories, letting his interviewee do the talking, with a unique storytelling device. As a result, Dancing Bears is both a compelling social history and a stunning example of literary journalism.' AU Review

'Dancing Bears has the immediate power of observation typical of some of the best literary traditions of Polish reportage and just like its predecessors it relishes in an allegorical understanding of things.' Culture.pl

'Polish journalist Witold Szablowski uncovers life after communism with a curious, humorous and, at times, tender account of regular folk struggling to come to terms with the new world.' Adelaide Review 

"A fascinating portrait of social and economic upheaval and a lesson in the challenges of freedom and the seductions of authoritarian rule. So, you know, maybe not a great distraction from what's going on right now, but something that will at least help you understand it a little better." -- Awl

"Riveting."

"One of the truest and most beautiful things I've read." --Tim Flannery

About the Author:

Witold Szablowski is an award-winning Polish journalist. At age twenty-five he became the youngest reporter at one of Poland's largest daily newspapers, where he covered international stories in countries including Cuba, South Africa, and Iceland, and won awards for his features on the problem of illegal immigrants flocking to the EU and the 1943 massacre of Poles in Ukraine. His book about Turkey, The Assassin from Apricot City, won two awards and was nominated for Poland's most prestigious literary prize. Szablowski lives in Warsaw.

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9780143129745: Dancing Bears: True Stories of People Nostalgic for Life Under Tyranny

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