Caviar and Ashes

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A Warsaw Generation’s Life and Death in Marxism, 1918-1968

Marci Shore

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"In the elegant capital city of Warsaw, the editor Mieczyslaw Grydzewski would come with his two dachshunds to a café called Ziemianska." Thus begins the history of a generation of Polish literati born at the fin de siècle. They sat in Café Ziemianska and believed that the world moved on what they said there. Caviar and Ashes tells the story of the young avant-gardists of the early 1920s who became the radical Marxists of the late 1920s. They made the choice for Marxism before Stalinism, before socialist realism, before Marxism meant the imposition of Soviet communism in Poland. It ended tragically.
Marci Shore begins with this generation’s coming of age after the First World War and narrates a half-century-long journey through futurist manifestos and proletarian poetry, Stalinist terror and Nazi genocide, a journey from the literary cafés to the cells of prisons and the corridors of power. Using newly available archival materials from Poland and Russia, as well as from Ukraine and Israel, Shore explores what it meant to live Marxism as a European, an East European, and a Jewish intellectual in the twentieth century.

Marci Shore is assistant professor of history at Yale University.

“This book is utterly original, and its scholarship—and I don’t use this word lightly—is breathtaking. Shore has produced a penetrating study of a host of the twentieth century’s most perplexing issues.”—Jan T. Gross, Princeton University

“Shore chronicles the collective journey of a group of brilliant and endlessly dedicated intellectuals through one of the worst hells, both physical and spiritual, of the century just ended. There is scarcely any study I can think of in any language to compare to this one.”—Michael Steinlauf, Gratz College

“A marvelous example of intellectual history at its best, this book captures the moral and political dilemmas of a generation of brilliant writers who experienced communism first as a dream, then as a nightmare. A superb addition to the ever disturbing literature on the ‘God that failed.’”—Vladimir Tismaneanu, author of Stalinism for All Seasons: A Political History of Romanian Communism

"Marci Shore's account of the founding generation of Polish intellectual Communists reaches far beyond its subject. In its deeply engaged narrative of the lives and illusions of the twentieth-century Polish avant-garde, Caviar and Ashes recovers a fascinating, talented community of men, women and ideas now rapidly receding beyond memory. Professor Shore's history of Polish Marxists is not just an impressive work of historical scholarship; it is a moving elegy to a turbulent century and a forgotten world."—Tony Judt, author of Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945

"The book Caviar and Ashes performs quite an extraordinary feat. It tells the history of an entire generation in an engaging way, keeping the reader's interest throughout. . . . Caviar and Ashes provides the vicarious pleasure of following the intertwined lives of writers and poets whose work one remembers from textbooks."—Irena Grudzinksa-Gross, The Polish Review

"Beautifully written, this scholarly study treats a generation of Polish literati who after 1918 moved away from the avant-garde to become radical Marxists. . . . Shore uses memoir material, published sources, and newly available archival material to make her treatment come alive. Readers can feel the way each individual, as the author puts it, lived 'Marxism as a European, an East European, [and as] a Jewish intellectual.' . . . Highly recommended."—Choice

"Shore strikes a beautiful balance between empathy and dispassion. Her thorough research into the lives and papers of the Polish avant garde writers who became Marxists rescues many of them from the margins of receding memory, while explaining the world in which they lived."—Nathaniel D. Wood, The Russian Review

"An elegant portrayal of the lived experience of a group of Poles who came to communism in the 1920s. . . . A page turner. . . . A valuable study for all those interested in collective biography, Polish history, European Marxism, and the twentieth-century experience."—Catherine Epstein, Slavic Review

"One of Marci Shore’s fine accomplishments in Caviar and Ashes is the care she bestows not only on the minute ideological and political differences among the various groups that came into being in the wake of the Russian Revolution, but on their tangled personal interrelations as well."---Abraham Brumberg, Times Literary Supplement

"Shore's stories are so engrossing and so well told that one can easily forget he is reading the work of a historian rather than a novelist. For these reasons—and I do not write these words lightly—the book is a genuine tour de force as intellectual and cultural history."—Robert Blobaum, American Historical Review

"Shore has transformed the (un)known data and chaos that inform human existence along with its multitude of voices and perspectives into a highly organized, coherent and teleologically-driven narrative. . . . The sheer amount of knowledge she has woven into her text is in itself impressive. . . . The texture of her storytelling is quite rich. . . . This engaging book—filigreed with fascinating details—about artists entangled in politics, will attract several categories of readers, not only historians, interested in the truly worthwhile examination of a distant era retrieved from near oblivion."—Bozena Shallcross, Canadian Slavonic Papers

"A fascinating study of interrelationships in an intellectual milieu."—Robin Okey, Journal of Modern History

Winner of the 2007 Oskar Halecki Polish/East Central European History Award given by the Polish Institute of the Arts and Sciences.

Co-winner of the 2007 American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies/Orbis Books Prize for Polish Studies.

The 2004 Fraenkel Prize in Contemporary History

2006 Association for Women in Slavic Studies Heldt Prize

2006 National Jewish Book Award

2007 Oskar Halecki Polish/East Central European History Award

2008 Samuel and Ronnie Heyman Prize for Outstanding Scholarly Publication

2009 Nagroda Historyczna "Polityki" (Polityka Best Historical Book Award)

Finalist, 2009 Nagroda im. Moczarskiego

Short List, 2007 Wayne S. Vucinich Book Prize

Finalist, 2006 Koret International Jewish Book Awards

Finalist, 2006 Lukas Prize Project Award
ISBN: 9780300143287
Publication Date: January 27, 2009
480 pages, 6.125 x 9.25
17 b/w illus.
The Ukrainian Night

An Intimate History of Revolution

Marci Shore

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