Monday, November 30, 2009

Czechoslovakia and Hungary

The Economist has two interesting book reviews, which are worth glancing at even if you won't buy the books.

The first review is of Mary Heimann's Czechoslovakia: The State That Failed. Accroding to the review, Heimann has documented that just about all the nice things we sort of generally "know" about Czechoslovakia and what a positive place it was, were wrong. It wasn't. Having read the review it occured to me that many of the specific points I'd heard of over the years, but never in a coherent way that might change the overall impression of what the country was about.

Well, maybe that's because Heimann's case is overstated, or so her reviewer thinks. But it still sounds very interesting.

Then there's the story of communist Hungary. It was ghastly - according to Enemies of the People: My Family's Journey to America, by Kati Marton. Even at the time there was no lack of misguided people in the West who refused to accept that for all its blemishes, it was simply superior in almost all things to the communist part of the world; the passage of time isn't making the incredulity any softer. Read the Guardian and you'll see. Anyway, the need to believe the worst about the democratic world as it faces far worse societies which are whitewashed is still one of the main political themes of our day.

This book sounds like a useful reminder that there can be truly evil regimes; if you don't have time for the book at least read the review.

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