There is an anecdote about Haydn’s first encounter with Mozart’s music. Haydn is reputed to have written on the score, “Unfortunately, not by Haydn.” After reading Imre’s scholarly and perceptive book, I felt like repeating Haydn’s lament, with my own name inserted of course.
Imre’s study of the affect and effect of the media explosion on post-communist Eastern Europe is much more than informative. It is the work of a Renaissance person--someone whose depth of knowledge goes far beyond the discipline of communications. After reading the detailed and well-documented opening chapter that discusses the fundamentals of transitioning communications from communism to post-communism, the reader is much more than simply informed. After finishing the chapter, I could not help but create an analogy of what it would be like to be paralyzed for six decades and then suddenly regain the use of your legs, only to find yourself immersed in an Olympic marathon! The subjects of this book are those who lived through this transition from behind the wall to beyond the wall. It must have been a combination of euphoria and extreme terror. Imre is indeed a poet, as well as a scholar, to be able to show us such a world, in ways and words that we, who did not experience it, could never image. Her treatment of “play” and “game” as platforms for life, although not original, is exactly on target as far as exploring the Herculean explosion of media in Eastern Europe is concerned.
The second chapter devotes much time to those in Eastern Europe who experience nostalgia for the past, for the simplicity of a controlled and regulated media. Just as monastic life is sometimes described as a life with “security of the bells,” the lives of those who had lived six decades controlled by a sterile and arithmetic media must have been a mixture of confusion and frustration, due to this newly found freedom of the media.
Chapter 3 is an extension of the discussion of musical play on the identity of much of Eastern Europe. Special emphasis is given to the impact on the Roma minority group. Chapter 4 concentrates on the use of “playful visual activism,” as practiced by gender-sensitive groups, with enthusiasm, yet with the awkwardness of those who have not been allowed to express themselves openly. The final chapter deals with the crisis of nationalism within a world dominated by the explosion of the new media.
This review is but a trickle--a dripping faucet that attempts to describe Niagara Falls--of the wisdom contained in this book. Irrespective of one’s discipline, the book is a must read for anyone who wishes to further their knowledge, comprehension, and awareness of the culture of post-communist Eastern Europe.