From Publishers Weekly
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)
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*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 relevancespecifically, 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