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In Europe: Travels Through the Twentieth Century Paperback – June 10, 2008


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 896 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (June 10, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307280578
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307280572
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 1.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #125,538 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Geert Mak's book is a masterpiece.
Helen Hancox
In Europe is one of the best books I've read in quite awhile, and I've been recommending it to everybody I know.
Margaret A. Mcglinch
He can make the Vienna of Hitler's youth come alive.
Michelle L. Tetreault

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By moviegoer on May 10, 2008
Format: Hardcover
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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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful By R. J MOSS on November 23, 2007
Format: Hardcover
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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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Helen Hancox on July 11, 2008
Format: Paperback
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 By Michelle L. Tetreault on November 10, 2009
Format: Paperback
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 By M. Gillespie on May 13, 2008
Format: Hardcover
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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