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This makes the book impressionistic and not very cohesive, but lively and interesting. She visits the Czech Republic to improve her knowledge of the language she was studying at college and to see the country. English teachers are in great demand, and she applies for a position.

There are no openings in Prague, but she is offered a job as a high school teacher in Domazlice, a town nearby. There she interacts with the local population and makes lasting friendships with other visiting teachers, but an odd incident occurs that affects her entire stay. The furnace in the school building failed in the middle of winter.

It had been the rule for students entering the classroom to remove their snow boots, but teachers did not have to. Since the temperature was very low that day, the author felt it better for the students to leave their boots on, regardless of the rule she did not think of canceling the class. The cosmopolitan city of Prague was more amenable to visiting Americans. Because the dollar went so far in the mids, a number of Americans lived there, and the author found like-minded company in a community of resident poets and writers. As a result, he expected a reasonable retirement when the time came.

After a time as a graduate student, the author visited Poland.

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There she became involved in the Jewish community with its complexity of competing factions and searches for recovery. Cut to Shane Warne, sitting in the Aussie minibus having a celebratory fag as he contemplates a life of heroic retirement and wonders idly how he's got so far with so little fluid in his system the blip of his ban for taking a diuretic notwithstanding.


Probably the same kind of true grit, he reflects, that helped James Brown and Charlie Drake barrel their way through life without eating 18 portions of fruit and vegetables an hour, seven of which had to be blue, or without throwing away every item of clothing that they hadn't worn for six months, or without getting off the bus a stop earlier. Not that I'm against New Year's Resolutions per se, you understand, but perhaps, before we get into the nitty-gritty of life laundry and superfoods, we might start with, 'Practise bowling a bit more before embarking on major tournament against in-form team', and, 'Stop staring at fixed point over interviewer's shoulder when asked how rubbish we were as if that will make him forget the question'.

Half a continent was waking from a long sleep and finally looking at its bloody past.

Just a thought, Freddie. Sorry to be negative. Topics Books The Observer.

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  • Reuse this content. David Priestland commends an impressive journey through the aftermath of communism in eastern Europe. The fall of eastern European communism is now often seen as a straightforwardly positive story, in which good triumphed over evil and the mass of the population was on the side of the angels. Yet, as Shore shows in her beautifully written, brilliantly perceptive, and often moving book, things were, and are, much more complicated.

    The Taste of Ashes | YIVO Institute for Jewish Research

    Shore, a historian at Yale University, is the author of Caviar and Ashes Yale UP, , an acclaimed study of the early generation of Polish communists, and has spent a great deal of time in eastern Europe since the early s teaching English and doing research, mainly in the Czech Republic and Poland. Her latest book is a personal account of those years. She also found that Czech history was not the simple story of struggles between good dissidents and bad communists.