Editor’s note: “The long, shining table: writers in Eastern Europe” by Hortense Calisher appeared in the January issue of The New Criterion. What follows is one of four observations on some of the issues raised in Miss Calisher’s essay.

Though it’s more than twenty years since I visited Eastern Europe under a cultural-exchange program, I recognize what Hortense Calisher so well describes: the long tables, the wary faces, the long toasts or introductions, the survivor with his tired subtlety, the government man with his top-sergeant heartiness. I remember the same boasts of large editions sold out in a day, the head-shaking over the trashiness of American culture, the prudent and incredible statements—as when a distinguished novelist told me that he had been grateful to have his work red-penciled by a head of state. At the same time, and at some distance from the long tables, I recall...


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