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Anglomania: A European Love Affair Paperback – April 11, 2000


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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Voltaire, says Ian Buruma, was the ultimate Anglophile: liberal, humorous, enlightened, and ultimately humane. In that respect, he's not unlike Buruma himself, whose delightful Anglomania weaves a compelling story, from Voltaire onward, of the ways in which European exiles and émigrés have fallen under the spell of the intangible mix of snobbery, liberalism, xenophobia, and tolerance which make up the English character.

Buruma's roll call of Anglophiles is impressive. Wonderful sections on Voltaire are followed by chapters on Goethe's Bardolatry, a marvelously vivid account of frustrated revolutionary exiles in Victorian London (including Marx and Mazzini), and Theodor Herzl's vision of a Jewish state based on his admiration of the English aristocracy. The book concludes with sketches of two of the most influential Anglophiles of 20th-century English culture: Nikolaus Pevsner and Isaiah Berlin. But Buruma never loses sight of the darker side of national belonging, interweaving his own complex family history into the narrative, as well as some subtle and perceptive accounts of the state of the nation as Buruma views it from the office of The Spectator and the Conservative Party Conference in post-Thatcherite Britain. A marvelous book about belonging and Englishness: witty, erudite, subtle, and above all humane. --Jerry Brotton, Amazon.co.uk --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

As the notion of European unity moves closer to becoming a reality, Britain still remains an intriguing question mark in the unification equation. Geographically isolated from the rest of the continent, it also remains a cultural and psychological island unto itself. In order to demonstrate Britain's unique position in modern European political, social, and economic thought and affairs, Buruma reaches back into history, examining the fixations and motivations of some of Europe's most devoted and unabashed Anglophiles. By reviewing "what Europeans particularly admired (or loathed) about Britain and how much, if anything, of these virtues (or vices) have survived," the author analyzes the feasibility of full English participation in the proposed European Union. A historically significant scrutiny of Anglophilia rife with compelling contemporary implications. Margaret Flanagan --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (April 11, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375705368
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375705366
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,178,010 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By William J. Rigby on May 11, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Through the thoughts and perceptions of England from the 17th C. to today by a variety of Europeans who considered themselves Anglophiles, the author measures and comments on the realism or otherwise of their observations. A bookful of interesting visitors to England, some of whom remained to live out their lives there, makes the book a fascinating read. Ranging from Voltaire through Theodore Herzl to Isiaih Berlin and including a Prince "Pickle", we learn how the non-English sought to imitate the natives and pass for them, often enough based on mistaken ideas of their ideal. The original title of the book when published in Britain was "Voltaire's Coconuts". Interesting that the title had to be changed for the US edition. "Anglomania" is a much poorer title, since the subject is not so much anglomania as the view of England by foreigners, remaining surprisingly consistent over time even though the England of the beginning of the book has changed considerably over the past century. The admiration of the Anglophile seems always focussed upon the "English gentleman", aristocratic and not very democratic, existing in a country where freedom and liberal thought provide the counterbalance to despotism and sinister state control, so frequently the lot of Britain's neighbors. In the final two chapters of the book, Buruma observes a country with less liberal, even paranoid voices, when the topic is Europe. Not a pretty sight. And for these so-called defenders of British democracy and sovereignty from European 'demons', sounding like Hitler and his ilk appears to be no contradiction! This is by far the most readably interesting book I have read since Hugo Young's "This Blessed Plot". Come to think of it, the two books should be read as companion volumes!
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By bibliomane01 on December 25, 2000
Format: Paperback
Why can't the world be more like England? asked Voltaire in his "Philosophical Dictionary" of 1756. To him, Britain was the land of liberty, of the rule of law and of moderation in religion and politics. Kaiser Wilhelm II would have disagreed vehemently. Despite his pride in the Order of the Garter and his position as colonel-in-chief of a Highland regiment, the ruler of the Second Reich saw Britain in similar terms as Napoleon had done, as a nation of crass materialism, lacking elan and vitality, cynically manipulating world events to keep Europe and Germany divided and weak. In this wonderful book, Ian Buruma examines the wide range of responses to Britain among Europeans through the stories of his Anglomanes - both 'phobes and 'philes - as well as from the perspective of his own family. The result is a fascinating mixture of memoir, biography and history, filled with unforgettable characters including Alexander Herzen, Karl Marx, Garibaldi, Isaiah Berlin, and Buruma's own grandparents. Towards the end, the author raises uncomfortable questions about the current state of affairs in Britain. Was Isaiah Berlin indeed the "Last Englishman," and is the "fabled land of common sense, fairness and good manners" a thing of the past?
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Toby Joyce on June 20, 2001
Format: Paperback
Like coconuts, Voltaire believed that English free institutions could and should be transplanted everywhere. This has special appeal to Americans who also hold strongly to this belief about their political institutions. Bunuma's book ranges to other Anglophiles up to Isaiah Berlin, taking in other figures like the soured -philes who turned into -phobes like Kaiser Wilhelm and Karl Marx.
The book sparks like an intellectual firecracker - varied characters like Voltaire, Alexander Herzen, Nicklaus Pevsner, inhabit the pages. Overall the book will fascinate anybody who might even have just a minor interest in the history of ideas.
The book is at his best when covering Bunuma's own experiences and those of his own family - his greandparents were German Jews who moved to England early in the 20th century. These were remarkable people - in the 1930s, they took in 12 Jewish refugee children, yet in 1945 at the first family Christmas after the war, they shared their Christmas meal with two German prisoners-of-war from the local camp.
Sadly, examples of forebearance and humanity like this are all too scarce now in a world where violence and brutality seems to be daily celebrated in the mass media. Bunuma's anglophile love of English commonsense and pragmatism leads to fear for the future of English liberalism. In an acute observation, he recalls how the liberal Kingdom of Bavaria became the breeding ground of Nazism.
His account of a Tory party conference and the perversion of old English values that went on, is scary. However, personally I feel his fears may not come to pass, since I write after the wipeout of the Tory party in the recent English election (2001).
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By VA Book Lover on September 3, 2001
Format: Paperback
This has to be one of the most delightful books I have read in recent years. When I picked it up, I thought it was going to be about the American obsession with all things British in popular culture. You know, the glut of Jane Austen movies, Masterpiece Theatre, BBC productions, etc. But that's not what this book is about at all. It is a highly refinded examination of European attitudes toward England as found in the writings of politicians, political philosophers, and artists and as reflected in the experiences of Buruma himself.
I was thoroughly impressed by Buruma's ease in discussing the political ideologies of the 18th and 19th centuries. I was also particularly delighted to read the chapter that discusses the lives and work of Nikolaus Pevsner and F. A. Hayek, two favorite authors from my college days. Buruma is a lively and engaging writer who is sure to please anyone with the least bit of curiosity about the past and with a love of England and what it represents in its deepest and most profound senses.
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