Reading this collection of reportage, reflections, and commentaries of someone who had lived in a communist country which, after 1990, opted for democracy --- and war ---- put me on the road to Memory Lane.
The euphoria of 1989 which culminated in the fall of the Berlin Wall and celebrations from Prague, to Warsaw, and (belatedly) to Bucharest, Sofia, and Tirana as the Eastern Bloc collapsed. Yugoslavia (the author's former country) was a slightly different case. In 1990 and 1991, it more or less imploded like a deflated blimp which once stood solidly in the firmanent. (My memories of those times remain ever so vivid. The almost bloodless birth of Slovenia in June 1991, Germany's recognition of Croatia as an independent state, the protracted war of 1991-92 between Serbia and Croatia, and the Bosnian War of 1992-95.)
Throughout the book, Drakulić points out the odd and confusing ways democracy has been practiced both in her native Balkans and in Eastern Europe in the first post-Communist decade. She also provides some interesting insights into her own consumer habits and those like her who had grown up and lived under Communism. (Yugoslavia was a unique Communist country in that it, under Tito, had broken away from the Soviet yoke in 1948, and by the 1960s and 1970s, had a standard of living that was the envy of the Soviet bloc. What's more: Yugoslavs were free to travel abroad.)
Drakulić also is unafraid to look into the fear and reluctance of many people in the Balkans and Eastern Europe to reflect upon and re-examine their respective histories. For even today, many of the post-Communist nations in those areas, as a way of bolstering their legitmacy, use portions of their historical record and memory to reinforce their sovereignty. The best value in reading this book is that it showed me how people like Drakulić (herself married to a Swede) and others like her see themselves in relation to their respective countries and to Europe.