In this new collection of essays, Adam Michnik—one of Europe’s leading dissidents—traces the post-cold-war transformation of Eastern Europe. He writes again in opposition, this time to post-communist elites and European Union bureaucrats. Composed of history, memoir, and political critique, In Search of Lost Meaning shines a spotlight on the changes in Poland and the Eastern Bloc in the post-1989 years. Michnik asks what mistakes were made and what we can learn from climactic events in Poland’s past, in its literature, and the histories of Central and Eastern Europe. He calls attention to pivotal moments in which central figures like Lech Walesa and political movements like Solidarity came into being, how these movements attempted to uproot the past, and how subsequent events have ultimately challenged Poland’s enduring ethical legacy of morality and liberalism. Reflecting on the most recent efforts to grapple with Poland’s Jewish history and residual guilt, this profoundly important book throws light not only on recent events, but also on the thinking of one of their most important protagonists.
Adam Michnik was a leader of the dissident movement in Poland. He is editor in chief of Poland’s largest newspaper, Gazeta Wyborcza, and is the author of Letters from Prison and Letters from Freedom, both from UC Press.
“In this series of vibrant, far-reaching essays, the inimitable and indispensable Adam Michnik, leading activist and intellectual progenitor of the Solidarity movement, turns his attention to the post-Communist era. Combining personal reminiscence, deep historical learning and polemics in a style that is all his own, he widens his scope to examine issues that have afflicted not only Eastern Europe but the world since the fall of Communism: the rise of right-wing gutter politics, the impact of neo-liberal economics, the new temptations of authoritarianism even as freedom has won an historic victory.”
Jonathan Schell, author of The Seventh Decade: The New Shape of Nuclear Danger
“Yet another collection of brilliant essays by Adam Michnik, which shows again how an intellectual deeply engaged in politics can at the same time be a profound thinker.”
Jan T. Gross, author of Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland
“Lionized and celebrated by many, attacked and besmirched by some, Adam Michnik is a major public intellectual, a passionately lucid interpreter of post-communist ideological and political debates, a moral (not moralistic) thinker, and a courageous polemicist. As a dissident, he did not waver in defying the totalitarian system. After 1989, he has remained loyal to his values: trust, truth, tolerance. In this book he responds to his opponents, adamantly defending his choices and ideals. One may agree or disagree with Michnik, but one cannot but recognize his frankness, honesty and unswerving commitment to liberal values.”
Vladimir Tismaneanu, author of Stalinism for All Seasons: A Political
History of Romanian Communism
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