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The Fortress: The Siege of Przemysl and the Making of Europe's Bloodlands Hardcover – Illustrated, February 25, 2020
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"Watson's splendid book combines great evocative power (and flashes of sharp humour) with the ethical authority of the best history writing. The story it tells is unsettling, because it resists any attempt to encompass the death and violence of war within a narrative of redemption. It recalls instead a war that never really ended, but rather spilled out into cascades of further violence whose toxic effects are still with us today."―Guardian (UK)
"Watson's account of these men's experience of battle is a brilliant distillation of their letters, diaries and memories. The voices of the siege convey its horror and the terror of men who had to endure it and suppress their fear of death... The vividly written and well-researched The Fortress is a masterpiece. It deserves to become a classic of military history."―The Times (UK)
"[The Fortress] is excellent history, a marvelously readable, though tragic, story of its time and of how the clock can be made to turn backwards under siege conditions; and in its account of the Habsburg commanders' unshakable vanity, philandering and cockiness it has plenty of modern resonances as a parable of arrogant exceptionalism, imperial conceit and perilous isolationism."―The Daily Telegraph (UK)
"The Fortress is based on extraordinarily impressive research, yet is also vivid, imaginative, and humane. It recaptures one of the most terrible episodes in a terrible war, which -- as Watson rightly argues -- presaged even greater horrors to come."―David Stevenson, London School of Economics and Political Science
"Przemysl, Habsburg Austria's easternmost fortress, lay in Galicia, a flat borderland between the turbulent German, Austrian, and Russian empires. Watson reconstructs the Russian siege in engrossing detail, and also proves that the eastern 'bloodlands' later ravaged by the Nazis and Soviets had already been desolated once before -- during World War I and its chaotic aftermath, when the Russians and Austro-Hungarians, desperate to hold Galicia, taught Hitler and Stalin how to weaken and destroy unwanted peoples like the Jews or Ukrainians."―Geoffrey Wawro, author of A Mad Catastrophe: The Outbreak of World War I and the Collapse of the Habsburg Empire
"Przemysl is best known for its challenges to orthography and pronunciation. But Watson contextualizes the history of this remote Habsburg fortress-city from its beginnings as a strategic pivot to its development as a focal point for overlapping imperial and nationalist aspirations. The defining event was the great siege of 1914, whose everyday routines and long term consequences Watson presents with a verve and clarity making this a must read for students of the Great War in the east."―Dennis Showalter, professor emeritus, Colorado College
"There is a great deal more to this book than an account of the longest siege of the Great War, one that stalled the Russian advance and saved the Central Powers from defeat in 1914. It reveals, in microcosm, everything that was mad, bad and dangerous about the Austro-Hungarian Empire in its final stages... This is a hugely enjoyable book that anyone seeking to make sense of the dark side of 20th century Europe would do well to read."―Adam Zamoyski, Literary Review
About the Author
- Publisher : Basic Books; Illustrated edition (February 25, 2020)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 400 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1541697308
- ISBN-13 : 978-1541697300
- Item Weight : 1.4 pounds
- Dimensions : 6.7 x 1.6 x 10 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #113,076 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Lately, there have a number of efforts to rehabilitate the Austro-Hungarian Empire and I think Watson would probably agree with that approach. My impression is that until fairly recently the Empire was seen as a forced agglomeration of peoples whose striving for national identity had been suppressed for centuries. In fact, as Watson discusses, the Empire had done a reasonable job in accommodating those nationalities in a peaceful way. Certainly, in contrast to what happened during the war and in the following decades, the Empire looks like the epitome of toleration and enlightenment. How things would have played out if the Empire had managed to avoid the war, we'll never know, of course. But it could hardly have been worse than what actually happened.
Watson writes well and the book moves at a good pace. At only 270 pages, the book is more readable than many war books that yield to the temptation of belaboring details that the average reader isn't much interested in. In any war book, maps are crucial. The ones in this book are excellent. Literally every town is shown on at least one of the maps and the detailed map of the fortress indicates every place that is mentioned in the account of the siege.