At a time when Britain appears more amenable to--if not exactly thrilled by--the notion of integrating itself into the European Union, Buruma (The Wages of Guilt, etc.) addresses the issue of England's place in Europe by examining the long-standing European fascination with England. Cleverly integrating discussions of diverse figures such as Voltaire and Theodor Herzl, the founder of Zionism, Buruma shows how various continental Anglophiles projected onto England whatever they wished--and what they wished for, mostly, was enlightened, liberal rationalism. But at the same time, he shows how continentals became disillusioned when English reality didn't match up to their ideals. The book is a fluid hybrid of history and reportage as Buruma relates his travels through continental Europe and England. This is no mere intellectual treatise. For Buruma, the issue is also personal: although he grew up in Holland, his great-grandfather emigrated to England from Germany. Buruma, who ferried across the channel to visit his grandparents, obviously has a fascination with things English. As he weaves together his personal experiences with his insightful intellectual profiles, he argues that integration will solidify England's contributions to Europe (rationalism, free trade, representative government, a traditional counterweight to continental technocracy) while expediting the due disintegration of England's hoary anachronisms (an archaic aristocracy and its stodgy accoutrements). A fine writer with a sense of how the personal is not just political but also historical, Buruma makes a strong, literate case that integration need not mean a loss of English sovereignty: it can also mean that England's cultural DNA, as it were, will survive and thrive in a larger Europe. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 03/29/1999 Release date: 04/01/1999 Genre: Nonfiction
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