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In Europe: Travels Through the Twentieth Century [Kindle Edition]

Geert Mak
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $21.00
Kindle Price: $13.00
You Save: $8.00 (38%)
Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

From the First World War to the waning days of the Cold War, a poignant exploration on what it means to be European at the end of the twentieth-century. Geert Mak crisscrosses Europe from Verdun to Berlin, Saint Petersburg to Srebrenica in search of evidence and witnesses of the last hundred years of Europe. Using his skills as an acclaimed journalist, Mak locates the smaller, personal stories within the epic arc of history-talking to a former ticket-taker at the gates of the Birkenau concentration camp or noting the neat rows of tiny shoes in the abandoned nursery school in the shadow of Chernobyl. His unique approach makes the reader an eyewitness to a half-forgotten past, full of unknown peculiarities, sudden insights and touching encounters. Sweeping in scale, but intimate in detail In Europe is a masterpiece.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. 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)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Sweeping in scope, brimmming with luxurious and telling detail, electric in prose style, and deeply comprehending in its understanding of the subject, this Dutch writer's magnum opus is the result of a commission he accepted from the newpaper he worked for: a record of his year-long travels throughout Europe at the end of the millennium. His charge was to see if a workable definition of Europe still had relevance—specifically, if there exists sufficient commonality among the European nations to make a definition feasible. The second layer of his writings takes the form of his simultaneous consciousness of the history of each place he visited; it came home to him during his jaunts that "all the different stages of the twentieth century are being lived, or relived, somewhere." The history of the twentieth century, he discovered, was indelibly etched into how almost all Europeans have led their lives at any point in the century. Mak moves thoroughly but nimbly through both time and location, correlating now to then in particularly dramatic episodes, resulting in a beautiful way to learn about both European history and current events. Hooper, Brad

Product Details

  • File Size: 1875 KB
  • Print Length: 896 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (April 22, 2009)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0026LTNB8
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #527,745 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book is unique. May 10, 2008
I did not choose this book. It was presssed upon me by a very intelligent friend. "Well," I thought, "I'm not
sure that even an intelligent friend is worth trusting for an 800 page history of Europe in the twentieth century."

Oh, was I wrong. The book is a stupendous achievement. Truly, can one think of another book (in only 800
short pages) that is able to contain a complete century, and all the countries, of Europe? And he does it with
an artist's eye. Lord, how well this man can write. I reach out to you, to whoever has happened upon this
review, and urge you to buy this book. i read it through just as I would have a novel, and plan on re-reading
it straight through again. Take the plunge. You won't be sorry.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fluent Broad Brush Treatment November 23, 2007
This is almost in the unputdownable category, with the additional pleasure of its capacity to be dived into at any chapter, or to be savoured chapter at a time. Mak's personal travels through the countries that now comprise Europe throughout 1999 bring to his research a somewhat mordant contemporary tone to his impressions. I can, from travels this year, certainly confirm the mood he paints of Istanbul, Chatting there with expat Poles, Hungarians, Bulgarians and Romanians only spread the paint wider, not thinner. The book's historical aspect, much of it new to this reader, whatever arguments might be fussed over with the details, are unlikely to be challenged. Much of the regions have received their specific historical treatment by other authors, and Mak acknowledges his readings. But few writers have presented the broad picture with such verve.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Poetry in history July 11, 2008
Geert Mak's book is a masterpiece. It's not a complete and exhaustive account of the 20th Century in Europe, instead it reads in the form of a travelogue as Mak visits some of the significant places upon which events took place, for example Sarajevo and Berlin. It's not a dry and dusty recounting of facts, instead it's a warm and readable insight into some of the people and events which were so pivotal for the history of Europe. Somehow he is able to find vignettes of events which illustrate the whole, interviewing people who, although unnoticed players in history, have their own insight into the events and their own experiences of how things affected them.

What's outstanding about this book is the quality of the writing (and the translation too). Mak is able to distil complex events into fascinating pieces of writing and he regularly personalises situations that otherwise could seem too vague. I was particularly moved by the chapters on the First World War where he quoted various young men who were part of the fighting on both sides and showed that, for the individuals involved in the war, events were seen very differently from those in overall charge.

In this book Mak often quotes short phrases in German which aren't translated and could cause some trouble for those who don't speak German; however most other languages have some kind of translation where they occur.

This is a very big book and it's not something that you want to read through continuously. However I found myself dipping into it on a regular basis, 3-4 chapters at a time, and I always enjoyed it.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An organic look at the 20th century November 10, 2009
I am currently taking a course in European 20th Century History and was assigned this text. We were also assigned a textbook by Bonnie Smith. The latter is truly a textbook whilst Mak's is an enjoyable book. Many of my classmates have commented on how much they enjoy reading Mak and some have ceased reading Bonnie smith altogether.

I have found his rich narration and happy departure from the stale literature one has come to expect in history. There are instances where he illustrates what it means to feel diminished such as being in front of the European Parliament building. He can make the Vienna of Hitler's youth come alive. He can breath life into people who are usually treated as nothing more than stand-ins for the real thing. In the chapter dealing with the assassination that started the mess that nearly consumed all of the 20th Century, he somehow gives a whole new dimension not just to Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie but also their assassin, Gavrilo Princip.

This Temporal Travelogue is truly unique. I have never read anything like it. It has inspired me to look at time, space, people and ideas in whole new organic light. It is fascinating beyond all description.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Parade of Miseries May 13, 2008
Good lord, how awful to have been a European in the 20th century! That, at least, is the impression I have come away with having just finished Geert Mak's "In Europe: Travels Through the Twentieth Century." Just before the turn of the century, Mak set out across Europe, sending home reports from dozens of towns and cities across the continent. The result is part history, part travelogue (at a ratio of about 2:1 I'd say).

But what a slog it is! Mak's Europe is a never-ending succession of war, massacre, pogram, repression, rebellion, alienation and revolution. Fair enough, you think: the 20th century was the world's bloodiest, and the slaughter must be addressed. But it all becomes a bit repetitive and navel-gazing. Even after the bloody first half of the century is covered (which takes up nearly two-thirds of the book) and Europe's fortunes dramatically improved, Mak decides to focus on the darkest corners of the continent: there are reports from Franco's Spain, Belfast during the troubles, Chernobyl, Srebrenica. This is an unceasingly bleak picture: none of the light and life of Europe comes through here. We get no hint of the outpourings of culture, the scientific advances, the happy times -- Mak's Europe is all tragedy, no triumph.

Mak's writing is fine, though I think he's a better history writer than travel writer: his travel writing falls into the category of being a little too introspective and symbol-heavy for its own good. Mak constantly seems to be meeting people and seeing things that are just a little too poetic for them to be completely credible.

All in all a decent book, but one that I will not be reading again, and a little too monochromatic in its outlook for me to full-heartedly recommend to other people.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A must for tourists
One of the best books for tourists or anyone interested in 20th century Europe. I found this book in Prague but got the Kindle edition because of the physical size. Read more
Published 17 days ago by A. Wertheim
5.0 out of 5 stars European history and "the European project" in the 20th Century
During the calendar year 1999, Geert Mak, a distinguished Dutch journalist, traveled throughout Europe reporting on Europe in the twentieth century. Read more
Published 3 months ago by R. M. Peterson
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great book.
Published 4 months ago by Global Traveller
4.0 out of 5 stars Unusual and excellent
A friend told me about this book, but it was still a pleasant surprise. It is about travels, as the subtitle suggests; but it's about the sociology of the various cities, as well. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Jack Rafuse
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book!
I greatly enjoyed this book. My In-Laws live in Europe and this travel narrative was great about providing history and context for the events of the 20th century. Read more
Published 7 months ago by David M. Chartrey
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding
A well researched and brilliantly written history of Europe that takes both an intimate, eyewitness view, and also a sweeping overview at the same time, while maintaining a... Read more
Published 10 months ago by Talia
4.0 out of 5 stars A very interesting and well researched volume that look back at...
An account/overview of European history in the late 19th and early 20th century .Rather than going into great detail Mak covered key moments/events and visited many important... Read more
Published 15 months ago by jelle zeilinga de Boer
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating look at what has happened in Europe since 1900 and what it...
In Europe is one of the best books I've read in quite awhile, and I've been recommending it to everybody I know. Read more
Published on August 27, 2012 by Margaret A. Mcglinch
4.0 out of 5 stars The ultimate European road trip
Call it millennial fever or itchy feet, whatever it was, it sent Dutch writer Geert Mak traipsing across Europe in 1999, in search of understanding. The result? Read more
Published on November 6, 2011 by keetmom
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazingly Informative and Interesting
I'm just an ordinary person who loves history and this book did not disappoint. I learned more from Geert Mak than in all my courses through grad school. Read more
Published on July 30, 2011 by Michelle, a mom
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