NRC Handelsblad,
 

In Europe: Travels Through the Twentieth Century

Geert Mak, Author, Sam Garrett, Translator
Geert Mak, Author, Sam Garrett, Translator . Pantheon $35 (876p) ISBN 978-0-375-42495-3
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On January 4, 1999, Mak, a journalist and one of the Netherlands' most popular authors, set out from Amsterdam on assignment for his newspaper, the NRC Handelsblad, to crisscross Europe in the final year before the millennium to discover “what shape the continent was in.” And crisscross he did: Vienna, London; Stalingrad (now Volgograd), Chernobyl, Lourdes, Budapest; Srebrenica and dozens more. For his columns, collected here, Mak used his reporter's eye to describe the vividness of the countryside and cityscapes through which he traveled, his writer's ear to interview individuals who had experienced Europe's most terrible and terrific times, and his historian's pen to narrate the passing of that most extraordinary of centuries. What Mak discovered was that while “Europe” is turning itself into an ostensible “union,” there is unexpectedly “little in the way of a shared historical experience.” There is no European people, for instance, and every nation has conceived its own version of the catastrophic First and Second World Wars. Mak's brilliant compendium is difficult to define—is it a history book, a travelogue, a memoir?—but stands out as a remarkable, insightful, exhilarating exposition on that peculiar continent across the Atlantic. Map. (Aug. 7)

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