“Utterly original.” —The New York Times Book Review
“Mixing bold journalism with bolder allegories, Mr. Szabłowski 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 and The Road to Unfreedom
An incisive, humorous, and heartbreaking account of people in formerly Communist countries holding fast to their former lives, by the acclaimed author of How to Feed a Dictator
For hundreds of years, Bulgarian Gypsies trained bears to dance, welcoming them into their families and taking them on the road to perform. In the early 2000s, with the fall of Communism, they were forced to release the bears into a wildlife refuge. But even today, whenever the bears see a human, they still get up on their hind legs to dance.
In the tradition of Ryszard Kapuściński, award-winning Polish journalist Witold Szabłowski uncovers remarkable stories of people throughout Eastern Europe and in Cuba who, like Bulgaria’s dancing bears, are now free but who seem nostalgic for the time when they were not. His on-the-ground reporting—of smuggling a car into Ukraine, hitchhiking through Kosovo as it declares independence, arguing with Stalin-adoring tour guides at the Stalin Museum, sleeping in London’s Victoria Station alongside a homeless woman from Poland, and giving taxi rides to Cubans fearing for the life of Fidel Castro—provides a fascinating portrait of social and economic upheaval and a lesson in the challenges of freedom and the seductions of authoritarian rule.
From the Introduction:
“Guys with wacky hair who promise a great deal have been springing up in our part of the world like mushrooms after rain. And people go running after them, like bears after their keepers. . . . Fear of a changing world, and longing for someone . . . who will promise that life will be the same as it was in the past, are not confined to Regime-Change Land. In half the West, empty promises are made, wrapped in shiny paper like candy. And for this candy, people are happy to get up on their hind legs and dance.”
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|Publisher:||Penguin Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.10(w) x 7.70(h) x 0.90(d)|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Excerpted from "Dancing Bears"
Copyright © 2018 Witold Szablowski.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
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Table of Contents
I Love 3
II Freedom 19
III Negotiations 31
IV History 45
V Instincts 61
VI Hibernation 69
VII Lions to Africa 73
VIII Castration 79
IX Dancing Bears 88
X The End 93
I Love 103
Cuba: The McRevolution Is Coming
II Freedom 117
Poland / United Kingdom: Lady Peron
III Negotiations 128
Ukraine: Nothing Bleeps for the Smugglers
IV History 141
Albania: The End of the Concrete Toadstools
V Instincts 151
Estonia: Tea with the Invader
VI Hibernation 166
Poland: Hobbits at the State Farm
VII Lions to Africa 179
Serbia: Pop Art Radovan
Serbia: Chickens for the Serbs
VIII Castration 207
Georgia: Stalin's Vestal Virgins
IX Dancing Bears 220
Greece: We'll Sweep Capitalism Away