- Hardcover: 336 pages
- Publisher: Random House (February 9, 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 081299681X
- ISBN-13: 978-0812996814
- Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.2 x 9.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 77 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #330,845 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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In Europe's Shadow: Two Cold Wars and a Thirty-Year Journey Through Romania and Beyond Hardcover – February 9, 2016
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“[A] haunting yet ultimately optimistic examination of the human condition as found in Romania . . . The author delves into the ancient roots of Romania’s culture and religion. . . . [Robert D.] Kaplan’s account of the centuries leading up to the most turbulent of all—the twentieth—is both sweeping and replete with alluring detail. . . . The rich characters who wander through these pages . . . dispense wisdom from book-lined homes, cafes, or chapels old and new. . . . Kaplan’s Romania offers lessons on the value of malleability, and what endures.”—Alison Smale, The New York Times Book Review
“This book reveals the confident, poetical Kaplan . . . but also a reflective, political Kaplan, seeking at times to submerge his gift for romantic generalization in respectful attention to the ideas of others. That tension—between an aesthetic sense of wholeness and the intellectual acceptance of complexity—is the real subject of the book, both as autobiography and as geopolitics.”—Timothy Snyder, The Washington Post
“A serious yet impassioned survey of Romania . . . [Kaplan’s] method is that of a foreign correspondent, firing off dispatches from the South China Sea to North Yemen to the darkest corners of Eastern Europe when it was still Iron Curtain country, and his approach has a Thucydidean texture: a gimlet-eyed realism as gathered by evidence, and guided by an understanding that the knee-jerk of history is self-interest. . . . Kaplan is a regional geographer par excellence—undeniably, whatever you think of his conclusions—a big-picture man.”—The Christian Science Monitor
“Kaplan is one of America’s foremost writers on the region. . . . In a series of deep dives into the region’s past—Byzantine, Ottoman, Habsburg and Soviet—he finds parallels and echoes that help us understand the present.”—The Wall Street Journal
“Kaplan moves seamlessly from sights, sounds, and conversations to the resonance of history. . . . In Kaplan’s hands, Romania emerges as no mere footnote, but as a historical and political pivot.”—Foreign Affairs
“Kaplan’s work exemplifies rare intellectual, moral and political engagement with the political order—and disorder—of our world. . . . Kaplan’s writing is like the places he visits. It’s a terrain, a concentrated expression of a particular part of the world as he sees it. . . . In Europe’s Shadow amounts to a kind of historical anthropology plus geopolitics, a deep study of a particular country and people. . . . It shows how, at one and the same time, Romania is distinctive and a key to a broader and deeper understanding of contemporary Europe.”—The Huffington Post
“Kaplan’s is travel writing at its contemporary finest, weaving in the sights and sounds of a faraway land alongside interviews with its philosophers and politicians. . . . [In Europe’s Shadow] provides an incisive, tactile introduction to the politics and potential prospects of Central and Southeastern Europe—a region that finds itself once again caught in the headwinds of history.”—RealClearWorld
“A masterly work of important history, analysis, and prophecy about the ancient and modern rise of Romania as a roundabout between Russia and Europe . . . I learned something new on every page. Robert D. Kaplan is a master.”—Tom Brokaw
“A tour de force of cultural and political travel writing in which Romania’s complex past and uncertain present become vivid and newly urgent.”—Colin Thubron, author of Shadow of the Silk Road and co-editor of Patrick Leigh Fermor’s The Broken Road
“Robert D. Kaplan has the remarkable ability to see over the geopolitical horizon, and he now turns his attention to Europe’s marchlands—the former ‘Greater Romania’ lying between the Balkans and a resurgent Russia. In a triple journey through books, landscapes, and histories, he tackles the meaning of geography, the influence of intellectuals, and the daffiness—and power—of nationalism. . . . Timely, insightful, and deeply honest.”—Charles King, professor of international affairs, Georgetown University, and author of Midnight at the Pera Palace: The Birth of Modern Istanbul
“For an appreciation of contemporary Romanian attitudes, Robert Kaplan’s book has no equal. As an outsider, yet within, the author offers an analysis of Romania that combines erudition and authority. His sparkling, suggestive reflections, drawing upon history and landscape, capture the DNA of the country and its inhabitants.”—Dennis Deletant, Ion Rațiu Visiting Professor of Romanian Studies, Georgetown University, and emeritus professor, University College London
“A moving book—an illuminating and compassionate guide through the labyrinth of Romania’s immensely convoluted and often traumatic past . . . In spite of the many dark, distressing moments that no one should ignore, In Europe’s Shadow conveys a sense of hope, promise, and continuous renewal.”—Vladimir Tismăneanu, professor of politics, University of Maryland, and author of The Devil in History: Communism, Fascism, and Some Lessons of the Twentieth Century
“Kaplan illuminates the extraordinary journey of the people of Romania, as well as millions of other East Europeans, from the tragic Soviet despotism of the decades after the Second World War to their more hopeful and democratic future as members of NATO and the European Union. Kaplan’s ability to weave together complex histories, religion, memory, and political thought is nearly unmatched.”—Nicholas Burns, professor, Harvard Kennedy School, and former undersecretary of state for political affairs
“A favorite of mine for years, Robert D. Kaplan is a thoughtful and insight-driven historian who writes clear and compelling prose, but what I like most about him is his political sophistication. In Europe’s Shadow makes you look up and think about what’s on the page—a true pleasure for the reader.”—Alan Furst
About the Author
Robert D. Kaplan is the bestselling author of sixteen books on foreign affairs and travel that have been translated into many languages, including Asia’s Cauldron, The Revenge of Geography, Monsoon, The Coming Anarchy, and Balkan Ghosts. He is a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security and a contributing editor at The Atlantic, where his work has appeared for three decades. He was chief geopolitical analyst at Stratfor, a visiting professor at the United States Naval Academy, and a member of the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board. Foreign Policy magazine twice named him one of the world’s Top 100 Global Thinkers.
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"Do you know this guy?", she asked.
"Yes, I've read his stuff. He's good. He's also written books about the Indian Ocean and India, and about China, Vietnam, and the South China Sea."
"Is he following us?"
"I don't know!"
In checking the publication dates of Monsoon (2010)) and Asia's Cauldron (March 2014), I determined that we were following him. Anyone acquainted with Kaplan won't be surprised at this. He must need a new 50-page passport every couple of years just based on the published accounts of his travels. (I wonder where he vacations?) No, we're just very lucky, especially with this book.
We're especially fortunate to have this book because Kaplan hasn't just passed through Romania or considered as just another piece on the geopolitical chessboard. He's been traveling to Romania since the 1970's, and he's seen it transformed from a gray, Stalinist backwater, racked by poverty and fear, into a what is now a vibrant society that holds membership in the EU and NATO. Romania seems to have found a good place for itself. As Kaplan describes it: "History surely had not ended here, but it had for the moment become more benign." Kindle Locations 3916-3917. Kaplan displays a genuine affection for this nation, and this spurs his interest in its history and its present, as well as prompting him multiple visits to contemplate its unique place in the busy world of Eastern Europe.
Kaplan first traveled to eastern Europe as a student in the early 1970s, and then he came a bit later to Romania as a young reporter. Trips back included a stint just after the Christmas Revolution in 1989 that toppled the hated Ceausescu regime and led to the summary trial and execution of Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife, Elena. His most recent trip back was in 2014, when he observed the changes that have occurred in Romania after it has mostly-completed the transition to democracy and a market economy. This long history of personal involvement allows Kaplan to include not only his trademark travel writing, history, and geopolitical analysis, but it also serves as a bit of a memoir. For instance, his observations and assessment of the brutality and waste of the Ceaucescu regime prompted him to support the Iraq War, a judgment that he reports that he has come to regret. (A pointed reminder of the limits of historical analogy for decision-making.) As he notes, he didn't foresee the subsequent Sunni-Shia civil war that would break out after Saddam's demise.
Romania is a fascinating country, and Kaplan's draws on the distant past, the recent past, and the present to create his portrait of this country. Romania is a Westen outpost in eastern Europe. Romanian is a Romance language, closely related to Italian and Spanish (and, I'm thrilled to report, not very difficult to learn). Romania identifies with the West, yet the thread of culture passes via the Romanian Orthodox Church, anchored in the tradition of Byzantium and the cultural heritage of Orthodoxy. Also, the Ottoman, Russian, and Hapsburg empires have exerted influences on this land through which the Danube flows to reach the Black Sea. Kaplan explains that the intellectual class, including prominent figures that reached maturity in the 1930s, such as Mircea Eliade and E.M. Cioran, were attracted to the political Right, not the Left, unlike most western European intellectuals. Romania suffered the influence of the Iron Guard, a fascist movement that helped prompt Romania to ally with Hitler in the early period of war. Its authoritarian (but not truly fascist) leader, General Antonescu, both protected some Jews (Romanians) and helped ship others to the death camps. Romania committed over a half-million troops to Hitler's war against the Soviet Union. But before the end of the war, Antonescu led Romania to switch sides and aid the Soviets against the Nazi regime. All of this intrigue didn't do Antonescu much good. He was executed immediately after the war.
Through Kaplan's efforts in ancient, medieval, and modern history, we obtain a sense of the complexities of this culture and its political fortunes. His tour of the country, as well as neighboring Moldova (also Romanian speaking) and a foray into Hungary (now under a regime administering a "diet of low-calorie Putinism") gives us a further historical perspective. But also, in the tradition of great travel writing, Kaplan provides an intense sense of the present. (Among the several travel writers he mentions, Patrick Leigh Fermor gets a special mention, "that craftsman of irreducible godlike essences whose every sentence belongs in a time capsule". Kindle Locations 732-734). I've now begun Fermor's Between the Woods and the Water--just the prompt that I needed to uncork this champaign of travel writing.) From churches and monasteries to castles and homes, we get an engrossing sense of these places and the people who inhabit them. When my wife and I travel in Romania, we'll consult my Kaplan as much as our Lonely Planet.
In all, the publication date of this work (February 9, 2016) could not have been better timed or more welcome. Kaplan's complex layering of history, personal observation, and geopolitical analysis creates the perfect primer for anyone wanting to explore this fascinating nation and its environs. Or it's a treat for anyone who simply wants to enjoy the work of a master of observation and analysis. As Kaplan writes of Fermor, so I would of Kaplan: "to call him a mere travel writer is to diminish him." Id.
What Robert D. Kaplan brings out is the incredible diversity packed into a small country that is still working to discover itself and its place in the mega-globalized world of today. For Romania to find itself, having fresh eyed perspective from the outside is essential, and Mr. Kaplan provides that.
His book, in other words, may help outsiders understand Romania, and also helps Romanians understand Romania... But the best part, I think, and what stitches it all together is the very personal touch present throughout the book. The narrator describes not only what he sees but how he is touched and changed by what he's seeing, all painted onto a canvass of other past things he experienced or read - in short, a true intellectual journey, at once personal as it is universal in its reach and in its message.
In Europe’s Shadow: Two Cold Wars and a Thirty-Year Journey Through Romania and Beyond marks Kaplan’s return to Europe after an extended run of primarily focusing on Asia. In many ways this is a bookend to his breakout Balkan Ghosts, as he explains how he came to travel through the region in the first place. I have Romanian in my ancestry, but admit to knowing less about the country than I would like. I greatly enjoyed filling in some of the blanks with Kaplan as my guide.
Other reviewers have noted Kaplan’s strong, vocal support of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 and expressed the opinion that his stance effectively disqualifies him from serving as any kind of expert on foreign affairs. I’d counter that he has repeatedly acknowledged he was wrong about Iraq and his recent writing, especially this book, demonstrates a determination to identify and inform on emerging trends and locations of potential interest without drawing too many conclusions. In my (obviously biased) opinion, he is too valuable a source to ignore; whether I agree with his views or not, I always learn a lot from him.