How We Survived Communism and Even Laughed

How We Survived Communism and Even Laughed

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by Slavenka Drakulic
     
 

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This essay collection from renowned journalist and novelist Slavenka Drakulic, which quickly became a modern (and feminist) classic, draws back the Iron Curtain for a glimpse at the lives of Eastern European women under Communist regimes. Provocative, often witty, and always intensely personal, How We Survived Communism and Even Laughed cracks open a

Overview

This essay collection from renowned journalist and novelist Slavenka Drakulic, which quickly became a modern (and feminist) classic, draws back the Iron Curtain for a glimpse at the lives of Eastern European women under Communist regimes. Provocative, often witty, and always intensely personal, How We Survived Communism and Even Laughed cracks open a paradoxical world that through its rejection of capitalism and commoditization ends up fetishizing both.

Examining the relationship between material goods and expressions of happiness and individuality in a society where even bananas were an alien luxury, Drakulic homes in on the eradication of female identity, drawing on her own experiences as well as broader cultural observations. Enforced communal housing that allowed for little privacy, the banishment of many time-saving devices, and a focus on manual labor left no room for such bourgeois affectations as cosmetics or clothes, but Drakulic’s remarkable exploration of the reality behind the rhetoric reveals that women still went to desperate lengths to feel “feminine.”

How We Survived Communism and Even Laughed also chronicles the lingering consequences of such regimes. The Berlin Wall may have fallen, but Drakulic’s power pieces testify that ideology cannot be dismantled so quickly; a lifetime lived in fear cannot be so easily forgotten.

Editorial Reviews

New York Times Book Review
“A thoughtful, beautifully written collection of essays...blending provocative analysis with the texture of everyday life.”
Vivian Gornick
“An invaluable account of the cumulative weariness of the soul brought on by daily life in an Eastern European country.”
Christopher Hitchens
“Seldom has such a narrative been so spirited and immediate.”
New York Times-bestselling author Barbara Ehrenreich
“Not only the first ever grassroots feminist critique of communism, it’s one of our first glimpses into real peoples’ lives in pre–revolutionary Eastern Europe. My world is twice as large as it was before I read this book.… [Drakulic] is a brave, funny, wise and wonderfully gifted writer.”
Gloria Steinem
“She is a writer and journalist whose voice belongs to the world.”
Library Journal
Drakulic's fine collection of essays draws strength from her keen powers of observation and sensitivity to her readers' interests. Her achievement is to depict the starkly common identity of everyday life in socialist Eastern Europe before its unlamented loss becomes irretrievable. It is a world in which party authority can create the ``sudden invisibility'' for an offending journalist, where public buildings share a ``shabbiness and color of sepia,'' and one that makes the post office an impenetrable ``institution of power.'' The essays are also about people, about the obsessive `` communist eye '' (italics original) disturbed by the injustice of New York's homeless yet neurotically envious of those wearing fur coats at home. The tragic irony lies in the book's title. Hoarding material objects enabled people ``to survive communism,'' but hoarding wartime memories and the inability to ``let the dead be dead'' may destroy the author's native Yugoslavia. Recommended for all public and academic libraries.-- Zachary T. Irwin, Pennsylvania State Univ.-Erie

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780060975401
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
05/28/1993
Series:
Harper Perennial
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
224
Sales rank:
257,779
Product dimensions:
5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.50(d)

What People are saying about this

Vivian Gornick
"An invaluable account of the cumulative weariness of the soul brought on by daily life in an Eastern European country."

Meet the Author

Slavenka Drakulic, born in Croatia (former Yugoslavia) in 1949, is the author of five novels and five nonfiction books. She is a contributing editor to The Nation and her essays have appeared in The New Republic, the New York Times Magazine, and the New York Review of Books.

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How We Survived Communism and Even Laughed 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very good book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Basically, this book forms a sort of trilogy (with 'Balkan Express' and 'Cafe Europa') of life before, during, and after the demise of Jugoslavia. All three books are fascinating and enjoyable to read. As proof of her writing skills, the author possesses an ability to express the positive and the distasteful in the subjects she covers. Such ideas as why a refugee needs high-heeled shoes or a discussion of how easily a consummate politician like Tudjman escapes a confrontation are fascinating writing, and the author covers the subject, in depth, in very short, articulate essays. Anyone intersted in Jugoslavia or the formerly-communist world should read all three books.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The majesty of this collection of Drakulic's essays lies in the author's ability to turn ordinary events into philosophical forums on government, society, and feminism. Many western authors have attempted to narrate the history of East Europeans under communism, and of those scholars many have succeeded. Yet personal experience underlies narratives with a stronger fiber; and Drakulic's birth and life in Croatia make her an eyewitness to circumstances of which many Westerners have no conception. Drakulic does not forget to include the smaller, rarely mentioned details of female life in the former Yugoslavia -- such as the type of stockings worn, the process of making soup, gossip around the kitchen table. She humanizes Eastern Europe, and in doing so documents a country that begins to break apart a year after the publishing date. Yet this is not 'dead' history -- former communist countries still struggle with the same issues they did a decade ago. This is so much more than a scholarly work -- it is lively, captivating, and thoroughly ravishing. I couldn't put it down.