taste of ashes


“When thinking about the fall of any dictatorship, one should have no illusions that the whole system comes to an end like a bad dream,” Ryszard Kapuscinski wrote 30 years ago. A Polish journalist, Kapuscinski was ostensibly reporting on the fall of the shah of Iran, but his devoted Polish readers knew that everything he said applied to their part of the world as well. “A dictatorship . . . leaves behind itself an empty, sour field on which the tree of thought won’t grow quickly. It is not always the best people who emerge from hiding.” Far more than peoples who’ve weathered revolutions and counterrevolutions, Americans too often assume that once a tyranny has collapsed and elections follow — whether in the Soviet Union, Iraq or Egypt — whatever comes next will be far better. Things are more complicated, of course, and this is the timely theme of Marci Shore’s “Taste of Ashes,” a book by turns insightful and exasperating.

more from Adam Hochschild at the NY Times here.