These ‘essays on the fate of Central Europe’ could not have been published at a better moment. They place in context what is happening today and give the reader the background to judge all that is likely to happen over the next months and years.
Timothy Garton Ash’s The Uses of Adversity is a collection of the pieces he has written over the past decade, mostly for the New York Review of Books, the Spectator and Granta. He has all the credentials, having at one time and another been black-listed by the interior ministries of East Germany, Poland and Czechoslovakia. Many correspondents are expelled for a single piece of reporting (more often than not something that appears down-column on page 18 and need never really have been filed.) But Garton Ash was (and is) unpopular because, as far as the regimes are concerned, he knows all the wrong people, mixes with them, speaks the languages and, worst of all, understands what is going on. On top of that his writings are read and discussed in Middle Europe.
He went to East Berlin in 1981 as an Oxford postgraduate student and travelled throughout the country. The street in which he lived was solidly communist in the 1930s but now votes against them. ‘Fifty years ago they lived in dreadful insecurity; today, in dreadful security.’ He obviously decided that