Matt Forney
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From Da to Yes: Understanding the East Europeans by Yale Richmond

from-da-to-yesWhat do you call a book that’s laced with copious amounts of bullshit but is still worth reading?

From Da to Yes, as its name implies, is a guide to the nations of eastern Europe excluding Russia, which is covered in Yale Richmond’s companion book From Nyet to Da. Richmond himself, so far as I can tell, is one of those weedy little neoliberal twerps who went to eastern Europe in the nineties to facilitate in the region’s “democratic” and “capitalist” transitions (read: help Westerners steal everything that wasn’t nailed down). Indeed, the book is dedicated to the Americans “who are giving so generously of their time to assist in the democratic transition in eastern Europe.”

We’re in for some rough sledding, folks.

Still, From Da to Yes is an interesting and informative cultural guidebook, provided you can read between the lines and decipher Richmond’s squid-like prose. He’s clearly an academic, as evidenced by his clinical, dry writing style and unwillingness to make any kind of judgment about the peoples he’s writing about. For example, here’s a section from one of the first chapters, on Poland:

Poles have two codes of behavior, one public and the other private. In public, they can be pushy, demanding, distant, abrupt, and rude. In private, they are warm, generous, hospitable, and loquacious. Conversations are lengthy, and goodbyes never seem to end. As the Poles say, “The English leave without saying goodbye. The Poles say goodbye but do not leave.”

Read: the Poles are a bunch of blabbermouths.

Or check this section from the chapter on the Czechs and Slovaks:

Poles, as we have seen, were always prepared to rise up and fight for their independence and freedom. Czechs have consistently chosen a more cautious course and, they might argue, with similar results.

Read: the Czechs are a bunch of shameless suckups. Mark Ames made the exact same claims in The Exile, only he didn’t pussyfoot around the facts.

Still, From Da to Yes is nothing if not comprehensive. The book is short on practical information for tourists such as cost of living and sights to see, so don’t buy it if you’re looking for a Lonely Planet substitute (though given that the book was published in 1995, it wouldn’t be useful for that purpose anymore anyway). Richmond is squarely focused on describing the cultural and historical attributes of the Poles, Hungarians, Romanians and more. Additionally, if you’re of eastern European descent and interested in tracing your ancestry, the book has an interesting appendix full of resources and advice.

You just need to wade through a lot of pointlessness to get there.

As I mentioned already, Richmond’s academic perspective prevents him from calling bullshit where appropriate. Many of the chapters drag on due to him repeating information that was already pretty well-stated in the introduction. For example, he keeps making a point to delineate each culture’s hospitality to outsiders, oblivious to the fact that it’s virtually identical from country to country. Additionally, Richmond lacks the balls to just admit that a lot of peoples in eastern Europe, such as the Macedonians and Moldovans, simply aren’t that noteworthy.

Contrast to Roosh’s Bang Poland, where he flat-out says in the intro that Polish culture is pretty boring and uninteresting, a product of the country being sandwiched between Germany and Russia, two great powers.

This would be somewhat forgivable if From Da to Yes applied the same level of detail to all of the cultures it discusses, but it doesn’t. The section on Belarus is embarrassingly skimpy, for example, and all the nations of Yugoslavia are cramped into a single chapter. Additionally, Richmond spends an odd amount of time on information that should merit a footnote at best. For example, he spends multiple paragraphs discussing how each nationality treated Jews in World War II.

What saves From Da to Yes is its historical information. Richmond gives you a bird’s eye look at the pasts of Poland, Albania, Bulgaria and more, useful if you’re a history buff or looking to augment your knowledge if you’re planning to make a trip to the country in question. If you keep your BS detector on, From Da to Yes is a solid resource if you’re interested in and/or traveling to eastern Europe and want to know what to expect.

Click here to buy From Da to Yes: Understanding the East Europeans.

Read Next: Bang Poland: How to Make Love to Polish Women in Poland by Roosh V

  • The Czechs were not suck-ups but simply shrewd at Versailles, which was all to the good for them (They also were definitely not without courage, fighting bravely against the Reds in Russia after the war, for example). Unlike the Poles who were impossible, Masayrk and others knew exactly how to get the French (critical) and individuals like Wilson on board, which again is not cowardice but intelligent statesmanship.

  • I like big black cocks in my anus.

    [CensorBot sez: Keep it to yourself.]

  • Matt, when it comes to Eastern European history, a far better book is Savage Continent by Keith Lowe. It has had acclaimed reviews and for good reason. The writing style is excellent and Lowe seems to be able to summarise a lot of the history quite concisely and fairly. I think his book is probably the first one to fully do justice to the scale of the Apocalypse in Eastern Europe. I’m not being hyperbolic here.

    I’ve always enjoyed your book reviews and I think this one deserves the “treatment.”

    Another book that I think you need to read is Diary of a Man in Despair. Why this book isn’t more widely known is beyond me. I think it just pips Orwell’s 1984 by virtue of the fact that it was true.
    Do yourself a favor and give it a read.

  • Shenpen

    I wonder what it says about us Hungarians. Even we don’t understand each other, so I wonder if the author can. For example, the weird part is one half of the country seems to be incredibly un-patriotistic, saying things of their own nation that if they said it about say Africans they would be called huge bigots and racists: that this is a bad smelling backwater full of stupid people who can never do anything right. It’s like those Americans who always talk ironically about ” ‘murika fuck yeah”, except that it should be obvious that it is much more hurtful and wrong to insult your own nation or any other one if it is weak and distressed and lost every war for 500 years, than if it is strong and rich and victorious. You wanna pick a fight, slap the big guy, not the weak guy, right? Just being a member of the insulted group does not make it any braver. So they are not moral people in my opinion. The other half of the country seems to be similarly incredibly patriotistic, using that viewpoint with the exclusion of all other viewpoints for example if the government penalizes some business they only ask is it Hungarian owned or foreign? So these kind of people often lack a universal moral angle.

    Or for example Hungary is a well known exporter of prostitutes to Italy and other places, really there are lot of them, and going to an average club – not romkocsma, not hipster places, but the discotheques where the average pop-techno music dancing, sunbed tanned, gym fit, average people go – the level of sluttiness is over 9000. Yet, there are plenty of truly good girls with the best kinds of habits, perfect homemakers, companions, wives, mothers. I know, I married one.

    Or for example we do not look good on international statistics regarding English skills. Yet, I know half a dozen people who could formulate this comment probably better than I did.

    So it’s a bit weird. Hungary is kind of hard to generalize, as we tend to embody both extremes in everything. Poland is easier – everybody seems to be a robust, fun-loving, hard-drinking, believing Catholic, amateur philosopher and proper patriot there.

  • scorn

    Read: the Czechs are a bunch of shameless suckups. Mark Ames made the exact same claims in The Exile, only he didn’t pussyfoot around the facts.

    Oh hell, any Czech person will tell you that. That’s their national stereotype, a nation of craven opportunists. Many of them are proud of this. Their most famous piece of literature is even 800 pages of picaresque craven opportunism. Well, why not? It’s allowed them to survive as a very small nation for centuries in a pretty rough neighborhood without any epic national disasters. There’s a quarter as many of them as there are Poles, doesn’t leave a lot of margin for error.