It’s safe to say, Madeleine Albright is a woman who needs no introduction. And after swiftly landing on the New York Times bestseller list, Prague Winter: A Personal Story of Remembrance and War, 1937-1948 probably doesn’t need one either. Unfortunately, I can’t help but write a little something about what has become one of the most inspiring pieces of nonfiction I’ve ever encountered.
Prague Winter unfurls, first, through the history of Czechoslovakia—its leaders, myth-makers, diplomats, and citizenry. By the time we get to 1937 and the genesis of the Second World War, we’ve fallen in love with democratic renaissance man T.G. Masaryk and are anxiously waiting to see what his successor, Edvard Beneş, will do. The subsequent German occupation of Prague is crushingly vivid, as are the bloodshed and desperate acts of resistance against the Reich. Though there is a brief respite in the Allied victory of 1945, we soon contend with the despair of a descending Iron Curtain. And really, it does feel like despair. Reading Prague Winter was such an immersive, visceral experience, I had to periodically remind myself that the book was not fiction but history, with its own tragic and true outcomes. Heads of state feel as familiar as Secretary Albright’s own family, which is a testament both to her abilities as a storyteller and the benefits of her diplomatic background. Who better to show us the intricate maneuverings of several governments with vested, competing interests than someone who has mapped that terrain firsthand?
Simply put, Prague Winter is unforgettable. Albright makes the political machine personal and has—as a result—created something like the antidote to apathy. Something truly transcendent.
Secretary Albright appeared at the Enoch Pratt Free Library last week, signing hundreds of books and speaking for a crowd that nearly hit 900. Here we are before the event!