Requiem for Communism

In This Review

Requiem for Communism

By Charity Scribner
MIT Press, 2003
320 pp. $34.95
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In this unusual book, Scribner weighs the residual meaning of East European communism for those who lived under it. In film, novels, photography, and even everyday consumer items now on display in contemporary eastern German museums, she searches for the collective emotions they contain -- nostalgia, mourning, melancholia, and ultimately disavowal -- and devotes a chapter to each. They are a requiem for both the security of the familiar and, still more, the ideals of a common labor enterprise that is not and never was. They are also the grounds for her lament on the alienating effect of postindustrial Western material culture, particularly on women. One might question whether her argument can be carried based only on a handful of films, photographs, and books, but the strategy is interesting, and it does challenge the outsider's easy, often semi-arrogant judgment of real-life socialism.