Berend's memoir offers an interesting case study, a subjective addition to the “objective” historical works on Central and Eastern European state socialism. It describes the hard choices of intellectuals in a dictatorial state: 1. remain in isolation, concentrate on scholarly works, and exclude politics in your personal life; 2. be in opposition, criticize and unveil the regime, accept discrimination and exclusion; 3. remain within the establishment and work for reforming the country using legal possibilities to criticize the regime and to achieve changes from within.
The book raises basic historical questions and debates, compares East European and American higher education systems, and presents an eyewitness’ insights on life in the United States.
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