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Publisher's Summary

For hundreds of years, Bulgarian Gypsies trained bears to dance, welcoming them into their families and taking them on the road to perform. In the early 2000s, with the fall of Communism, they were forced to release the bears into a wildlife refuge. But even today, whenever the bears see a human, they still get up on their hind legs to dance.

In the tradition of Ryszard Kapuściński, award-winning Polish journalist, Witold Szabłowski uncovers remarkable stories of people throughout Eastern Europe and in Cuba who, like Bulgaria’s dancing bears, are now free but who seem nostalgic for the time when they were not. His on-the-ground accounts provide a fascinating portrait of social and economic upheaval and a lesson in the challenges of freedom and the seductions of authoritarian rule.

©2018 Witold Szabłowski, Antonia Lloyd-Jones (P)2018 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

What listeners say about Dancing Bears

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  • Overall
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    4 out of 5 stars

Intelligent, entertaining, & insightful

This collection of stories made me realize how little I know about the Soviet era. The narrator was a perfect fit for this incredibly well-written book. Highly recommend.

3 people found this helpful

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Very interesting book, great narrator.

This book was recommended by NPR and I am so glad I listened to it. Great narrator, interesting facts, easy listening. This book makes you think about the state of world politics and how we are manipulated.

3 people found this helpful

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Excellent

This is a gem. The writing style and stories are unforgettable. The author really brings his subjects to life. I was sad to have it end.

2 people found this helpful

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Unique

The first part of the book was about the relocation of dancing bears, what happened to the bears and their owners. This part of the book was unique and very very interesting. After that the book fell off a bit. Not enough real depth, although I loved hearing about the bunkers in Albania. Greek names of places and people were badly mispronounced by the reader.

1 person found this helpful

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Mind blowing

you can read the story of the bears and apply this to any area of your life and create a deep analogy of what freedom means to you.

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How the past effects our future

Relevant to today and helpful to understanding how and why people believe what they do. The bureaucracy that bogs down the lives of real people.

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Great book, but misleading summary.

This is not a book about "people nostalgic for life under tyranny". Rather, it is a series of anecdotes written about ordinary people making do in a post-communist world, with stories from Bulgaria, Cuba, Poland, Ukraine and Albania. The dancing bears are the longest bit at the start, and a weak attempt is made to make them a wrapper for the overall theme, but in the end, this is simply a travelogue. The author does a great job in getting people to open up to him, and never makes himself part of the story as would, say, Theroux. Well worth a read.