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Cafe Europa: Life After Communism

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  1,709 ratings  ·  198 reviews
Croatian journalist, novelist, and essayist Slavenka Drakulić notes that Eastern Europeans are so anxious to become like their Western counterparts that every city and town has a Cafe Europa that is a pale imitation of similar establishments in cities like Paris and Rome. She presents here a collection of essays that explore life in various Eastern European countries since ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published February 1st 1999 by Penguin Books (first published 1996)
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Steven Godin
Jul 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
"So, what does Europe mean in the Eastern European imagination? It is certainly not a question of geography, for in those terms we are already in it and need make no effort to reach it. It is something distant, something to be attained, to be deserved. It is also something expensive and fine: good clothes, the certain look and smell of its people. Europe is plenitude: food, cars, light, everything - a kind of festival of colours, diversity, opulence, beauty. It offers choice: from shampoo to pol ...more
Aug 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: balkans, 2015, non-fiction
Because for us, the people from the Balkans, the biggest fear is to be left alone with each other. We have learned better than others what you do to your own brother.
John David
This is a collection of political reportage written in the years immediately following the fall of communism in Eastern Europe. According to the inside cover of the book, Drakulic “contributes regularly” The Nation and the New Republic, which would fit with the quasi-journalistic, descriptive approach that she takes in these pieces. I use with the word “journalistic” as a slight pejorative here, as a way of denoting a style that is more inclined to be demonstrative and flat, as opposed to couchi ...more
This was an absolutely fascinating look into what life was like in communist Eastern Europe and how the transition to capitalism worked (or didn't work) in the 1990s. This book was written in 1996, so it is a snapshot of a certain period in time - certainly Eastern Europe has changed a lot since then.

The author has a great voice, and I enjoyed her insights into history, memory, democracy, communist life, capitalism and more.

What was particularly interesting to me, a Brazilian reader, was how mu
Steve Kettmann
Apr 13, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This was the book that alerted me to Drakulic's exquisite gifts as a writer, and in that I think I was not alone: It enjoyed a brief boomlet of attention in the U.S. And well it should have. These essays are gems. I plan to read it again on another trip to the former ex-Yugoslavia at some point this year. She was writing presciently back when others were just standing there, dazed, trying to make sense of what had changed and why. For example, in the essay "Invisible Walls Between Us," she write ...more
May 31, 2009 rated it really liked it
As an Eastern European myself (Hungarian/Slovak), I found Ms Drakulic an intuitive and penetrating commentator on the difference between East and West. Europe as a concept has always acted like a mirage for those who have spent decades under the mind-warping effects of Communism. Imagine the disappointment when the Golden West turned out to be a number of disunited countries who essentially didn't care about Eastern Europe in general or the Balkans in particular.

This book is required reading fo
Sep 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
A wonderful collection of articles revolving around what it means to have an ideology that was life disappear beneath your feet and how the traces of that linger for both those that lived the ideology and those that witnessed it from afar.
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
Jan 12, 2017 rated it liked it
Drakulić 's work, which she herself describes a number of short, journalistic pieces, are presented as a means of providing insight into the mindset of Eastern Europeans following the fall of Communism. Her thesis is poignant within each piece, of which there are 25 in just over 200 pages, in which the Communist/Socialist mentality is still prevalent in the people and society of Eastern Europe - that it has not simply vanished with the introduction of Western values and capitalist values. Furthe ...more
Kind of feeling like starting to write down my thoughts again from time to time. So hi, I’m back throwing mini reviews out there, mostly because I enjoy going back and revisiting my reactions and sentiments. Maybe you’re interested in hearing me talk, too :)

I came across Drakulić by chance and didn’t expect all that much, but the subject matter intrigued me immensely (the history of Eastern Europe is so underrepresented in “Western” textbooks, it’s ridiculous). I found the essays to be original,
I previously read Drakulić's memoir of living under communism, How We Survived Communism and Even Laughed About It and I enjoyed it greatly. It was a glimpse into a world I never lived in, that existed just prior my birth and that, irretrievably, had marked the previous 50 years and was set to mark the following 50 of its aftermath.

I am currently reading Café Europa whilst living with a Pole who escaped communist Poland to make a life in the UK. My boyfriend, the result of that Pole's life in t
The author, Slavenka Drakulic, is a Croatian writer who takes great pains to protest that she must be seen not just as a Communist writer, a post-Communist writer, an ex-Communist writer, a writer speaking for the Communist-ruled people, but an individual on her own right, who speaks of the things she wishes to, and we should absolutely respect that. At the same time, she recognizes that whereever she goes and whatever she sees, she is draped over and dragged down by the heavy ghost of the Commu ...more
Nicholas Whyte[return][return]Collection of short pieces (presumably newspaper columns) by this Croatian writer, who I have not previously read. To be honest, after the first third of it, I was ready to put the book down: too much whining about the state of the world, very much reminding me of why I didn't much like living in Zagreb in 1998: Croatia then seemed both smug and fragile, a curious combination. Things have improved, however, and every time I return to the coun ...more
Sepideh Tafazzoli
Nov 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Slavenka Drakulic never ceases to amaze me. Her flow of words and intimate story-teller tone lifts you up from the comforts of your couch and transcends you to a post-communist east Europe to see people's struggles as if you've lived that life yourself. She is truly inspiring and with every book I find myself closer to what she represents, as I -unfortunately- am seeing the same crises happening in my own country decades after it has turned to dust in east Europe. I think one can say she has ful ...more
Jul 21, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2010
A collection of essays.

I read this book while on holiday in modern day Croatia, chosen because the author is Croatian (although she now lives in Vienna with her Swedish husband).
It is basically a collection of essays which appear to be strangely frozen in time between the fall of Communism and the modern Croatia which I visited. It was this photograph of a country in turmoil that was its appeal.

Writing this review six months later, several things have stuck with me about the book.
Firstly, the fa
This book is still relevant today. I read the book twice. The last passage was particularly poignant for me. I don't think we (Europeans) have adequately answered the concluding sentence of the book - the question of "What is Europe after Bosnia?"
This is an issue that is particularly complex for Greece and the Greek people. Rather than being informed by the relatively recent events in our own national history (population exchanges, loss of homelands, loss of human life), we assummed a morally q
Feb 19, 2010 rated it it was ok
I was dissapointed with this book, I'm not sure if it's becuase I had high expectations or because it just wasn't that good.

I was originally recommended this author before our trip last year to Eastern Europe and the Balkans. While I did like identifying the places mentioned by the author as place we have been, I didn't like the authors whining tone, or her "Western European" husband - I can understand why she might not have experienced some things, but he just seemed like a prat, try getting in
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Oct 21, 2012 marked it as did-not-finish
This ended up being too personal and too broad to be as insightful as I was hoping. Also the pub date of 1996 captures a moment in time but isn't probably as indicative of the current experience 16 years later. ...more
Erik Graff
Sep 09, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fall of Communism fans
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Socio-political essays written by a Croatian journalist after the fall of communist regimes throughout Europe regarding the attitudes and prospects of the new polities and their citizens.
Moreno Giovannoni
Nov 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I love reading about exotic places and people and this book is about both. I was transported.
Jun 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really interesting insights on the political situation and socio-cultural environment in most of the Blakans. The only thing was that I had to constantly remind myself that it was written in the mid 90s, so obviously some things are not the same anymore. Certainly not a dry read, also thanks to Drakulić ´s personal life experiences!
Apr 05, 2010 rated it really liked it
Slavenka Drakulic continues her look at life after communism in "Café Europa", her sequel to “How We Survived Communism and Even Laughed.” If you think regular consumers in the West sometimes have trouble recognizing that TV ads and media showcase a fantasy, unobtainable lifestyle, imagine how hard it is for people exiting 40 years of communism to know what’s real and what isn’t.

One of the most powerful parts of the book discusses the complicity that citizens of fascist/communist countries feel
Mar 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
"Individuality, the first-person singular, always existed under communism, it was just exiled from public and political life and exercised in private... it is very difficult to connect the private and public 'I'; to start believing that an individual opinion, initiative, or vote really could make a difference. There is still too big a danger that the citizen will withdraw into an anonymous, safe 'us'... So in Eastern European countries, the difference between 'we' and 'I' is to me far more impor ...more
Sam Seitz
Apr 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
As a native of Yugoslavia, Drakulić presents a unique and insightful view into the Balkan countries’ transition out of communism in Cafe Europa. A constant theme throughout the book is Drakulić’s dual identity as an Eastern European – she is from Croatia – and a Western European – her husband is a Swede. She highlights a number of the structural and cultural problems that impeded integration with the West as well as Balkan citizens’ struggle to adjust to their brave new world. It’s important to ...more
Apr 09, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
Although dated now, this collection of personal experiences and stories, frozen in the early 90s gives an honest and interesting insight into the transition stage of Eastern Europe. It highlights the problems of new found democracy and consumerism, whose ideology are in sharp contrast to communism and as a result the citizens don't quite know how to react, stuck between hope for the future and nostalgia for the security of the past.
The struggle to reconcile the past and the present, the desire
Aug 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
I love reading Drakulic's essays. She's not particularly removed from her writing in these passages, which are unabashedly opinionated and personal. These are, after all, her personal experiences from her part of the world. She provides an outstanding yet very general overview of Eastern Europe immediately after the fall of communism, largely based on her travels to these places and her own Yugoslavian background. I have a pretty solid grasp on the region's history because I read this after taki ...more
Drakulić was born in Yugoslavia, and currently lives in Croatia. She is a keen observer of the people, norms, and politicians around her. Each chapter focuses on a different observation or moment, ranging from the sad state of her neighbors' teeth to a quote from a Communist ex-official. Drakulić masterfully describes the frustration and complacency she observes (and feels) in the 1990's in the Balkans. She describes promises and failures of both communism and capitalism, and seems tugged betwee ...more
Sep 25, 2007 rated it really liked it
Cafe Europa is more than 10 years old but Drakulic's reflections on the division between Eastern and Western Europe do not feel out of date. She is a deft hand at drawing the borders of her own essays so that they encompass individual history (often Drakulic's personal history) as well as international history. What she sees between Eastern and Western Europe is a history of misunderstanding, characterized largely by yearning in the East, indifference in the West, and misunderstandings on both s ...more
Jan 02, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Written over 10 years ago, this book gives a look into life in the countries that had been under communist rule. The two or three chapters were hard for me to follow. Drakulic uses only city names, without following them with the name of their country which was hard for me as I free admit both my history and geography for that part of the world is sorely lacking. The book is a series of relatively unrelated observations, there's no real flow from chapter to chapter, but nonetheless gives readers ...more
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Slavenka Drakulić (1949) is a noted Croatian writer and publicist, whose books have been translated into many languages.

In her fiction Drakulić has touched on a variety of topics, such as dealing with illness and fear of death in Holograms of fear; the destructive power of sexual desire in Marble skin; an unconventional relationship in The taste of a man; cruelty of war and rape victims in S. A N

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