cover image Year Zero: A History of 1945

Year Zero: A History of 1945

Ian Buruma. Penguin, $29.95 (384p) ISBN 978-1-59420-436-4

An account of the decisive first moment of the modern world, Buruma's (The China Lover, Occidentalism) history explores the nascent social and political forces that later influenced the Cold War and post%E2%80%93colonial movements and ultimately defined the latter half of the 20th century. Starting with a world ruined by war, Buruma moves adeptly from describing the elation of victory and the desire for revenge to the Allies' attempts to reform societies by eliminating all traces of militarism or fascism and establishing a European welfare state, as destroyed cities are rebuilt and fallen nations reimagined. Despite the growing sense of optimism and confidence of the time, men and women still starved, justice was delayed and soldiers and refugees returned home to find themselves unwanted. Equally critical of the victors and the vanquished, Buruma takes great pains to document the brutality and cruelty committed around the world. Rooted in first-person accounts%E2%80%94most notably, the author's own father, a Dutch student forced into labor by the Nazis%E2%80%94Buruma's compelling book manages to be simultaneously global in its scope and utterly human in its concerns. (Sept.)