This narrative would have made for a lovely little book in its own right ... Throughout Dancing Bears, Szablowski challenges not only the conventions of linear storytelling, but also the linear logic of a simple political progression from unfree to free. But he doesn’t merely replace one imposed narrative with another. Instead, he provokes a far-reaching and unresolved conversation about what freedom might really mean. A reader yearning for an all-explaining style of storytelling will be frustrated. Maybe that, too, is a kind of nostalgia for tyranny.
What seems an impossible longing comes into cogent focus, as Szablowski transcribes their odd position. They mourn their jobs—their purpose—on the collective farms. They find themselves on the losing side of the class disparity. They see no traces of the glory and joy that is meant to accompany their freedom ... The dancing bears are beginning to bellow as they return back to blood. Freed from the cause of their suffering, but not the suffering itself, they revert to ingrained actions. They continue to dance in the face of any pain. Whatever the bears become when the dancing finally ends will determine the new shape of our world.
You jerk the chain to make the bear dance. I learned these depressing details from Dancing Bears, a weirdly fascinating book by Polish journalist Witold Szab?owski (translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones) ... Szab?owski’s analogy is clever but perhaps too clever; what he has in Dancing Bears is two halves of two good books. Each should get its due.