- Use promo code PRIMEBOOKS18 to save $5.00 when you spend $20.00 or more on Books offered by Amazon.com. Enter code PRIMEBOOKS18 at checkout. Here's how (restrictions apply)
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ $3.99 shipping
+ $3.99 shipping
History of the Present: Essays, Sketches, and Dispatches from Europe in the 1990s Paperback – September 11, 2001
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Frequently bought together
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
Special offers and product promotions
"This is a kind of writing—it could be called the history of the present—for which it is not easy to find examples in earlier literature. . . . Garton Ash is, in the most literal sense of the term,
a contemporary historian. He writes primarily as a witness to the events he is treating, and not just as an outside witness but often as an inside one as well; for his own involvement in these events, emotional and intellectual, is of such intensity that he can speak, in a sense, from the inside as well as the outside.
Yet the sense of the historic dimension of the events in question is never lost. And the quality of the writing places it clearly in the category of good literature."
—George F. Kennan, on The Uses of Adversity
From the Hardcover edition.
From the Inside Flap
The 1990s. An extraordinary decade in Europe. At its beginning, the old order collapsed along with the Berlin Wall. Everything seemed possible. Everyone hailed a brave new Europe. But no one knew what this new Europe would look like. Now we know. Most of Western Europe has launched into the unprecedented gamble of monetary union, though Britain stands aside. Germany, peacefully united, with its capital in Berlin, is again the most powerful country in Europe. The Central Europeans--Poles, Czechs, Hungarians--have made successful transitions from communism to capitalism and have joined NATO. But farther east and south, in the territories of the former Soviet Union and the former Yugoslavia, the continent has descended into a bloody swamp of poverty, corruption, criminality, war, and bestial atrocities such as we never thought would be seen again in Europe.
Timothy Garton Ash chronicles this formative decade through a glittering collection of essays, sketches, and dispatches written as history was being made. He joins the East Germans for their decisive vote for unification and visits their former leader in prison. He accompanies the Poles on their roller-coaster ride from dictatorship to democracy. He uncovers the motives for monetary union in Paris and Bonn. He walks in mass demonstrations in Belgrade and travels through the killing fields of Kosovo. Occasionally, he even becomes an actor in a drama he describes: debating Germany with Margaret Thatcher or the role of the intellectual with Vaclav Havel in Prague. Ranging from Vienna to Saint Petersburg, from Britain to Ruthenia, Garton Ash reflects on how "the single great conflict" of the cold war has been replaced by many smallerones. And he asks what part the United States still has to play. Sometimes he takes an eagle's-eye view, considering the present attempt to unite Europe against the background of a thousand years of such efforts. But often he swoops to seize one telling human story: that of a wiry old farmer in Croatia, a newspaper editor in Warsaw, or a bitter, beautiful survivor from Sarajevo.
His eye is sharp and ironic but always compassionate. History of the Present continues the work that Garton Ash began with his trilogy of books about Central Europe in the 1980s, combining the crafts of journalism and history. In his Introduction, he argues that we should not wait until the archives are opened before starting to write the history of our own times. Then he shows how it can be done.
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
Less so because of its content and more due to its style, TGA lords us over with several compelling viewpoints in this thick tome, miraculously still valid more than six (6) years after it went through its first editorial review.
Alright, let's take you through some of the good points, kids:
** timeless on the ground Central and Eastern European snapshots from the perspective of a non-native caught up in the heady times of pre- and post-revolutionary Poland and the former Czechoslovakia. In reading about these events told through the contact-lensed eyes of a foreigner, I found it beneficial to my own expatriate experience here in the Golden Captial of the Former Czechoslovakia. Ash's take on the region's history was another side of the coin not typically accounted for in the historical recollections of this period. Let me just admit to all of you unsuspecting types, that if one was looking for an overview of the period from here in Praha, for instance, chances are you'd get the event through the eyes of a "Czech" person. I appreciated Ash's chronicling of the time for this reason and many, many, many more.
** heaps of details about German unification, which I'd never known about, and which -- thanks to said intrepid Englishness for going where no bobby nor copper nor rock star (any other cliches I missed out on?) has gone before -- Ash supplies a radically-different angle than the traditional so-called primary source material. Czechs, Poles, Hungarians, or former Yugoslavs talking about it themselves. Like in the case of the rest of the world's dilemmas, especially in "Israel," it's best to have the world's media or others not directly involved with the issue to render their opinions. Of course, these are usually the more "objective" opinions. Don't you agree?
** a nice chronological interlude between Ash's long-winded smarter-by-half essays, giving dates and times of relevant and specific events that helped to situate the particular reader in the moment. Good on ya! Between 1989-2000, t'was. That's eleven strong years of some of the most contentious stuff of the latter half of the 20th century. I'm sure Ash collected more than his fair share of frequent flier miles. What an amazing person. I wish I could be him.
** a nice font, crisp and lovely-smelling pages, a nice colour-coordinated theme, so that people in the cafes where I'd been frequenting with the book didn't think I was reading some propagandist piece of written slop re-issued by the reconstituted Czech Commie Party. Way to go to the publisher for that bit of prophetic printed genius. Vintage, you're publishing my next book. Hands down.
Alright, now for some of the bad stuff:
** Ease up on the holier-than-thou refrences there, bad boy! Ash seems to be another one of those sharp analytical minds who fears that if he doesn't use the most intellectually-advanced lingo for even the most elementary of concepts that we're passive-aggressively going to accuse him of being dim-witted and obtuse. Ease up Ash-ster! Don't worry, we'll still get you even if you speak to us like a bunch of drunken sailors. Stop alienating us and, rather, invite us into your argument, instead of causing us to rise off our chairs to seek out the Funk and Wagnalls. Alright? Cool down, Mr. Smarty-Pants.
** Too much love of Germany. What's the angle there, Deiter? Is Ash a closet Germanophile? I, for one, don't get it. There were many more important chapters which could have been written about the era, yet Ash waxed poetic again and again in epistolic love for the former German chancellor Fatso Kohl, and for the wonders of German "unification." Ash essentially gives the farm away, so to speak, on where he stands for Continental affairs. Subtlety wasn't his objective in certain parts of the book. Shame, pity, and condemnation.
** Not enough British pride. Ash seems to fall into the common category amongst British intellectuals who demonstrate a fair degree of self-hatred and self-destructive animosity for their own heritage. I realize it's not his fault, necessarily, that his is a nation of former virulent colonials who imposed their bad-teethed, foul-breathed, slim-pickings-fooded British stodginess on millions of former Commonwealth subjects, and stealing their once-beautiful former cultures. Only it doesn't excuse the likes of even Bad Boy Ash from opting out of the British collective. Here's my take on it: he's not allowed to stop being British, and can only stop being "British" when we tell him so. I'd like to introduce a new discrimination, and poor Ash is going to take the brunt of my displeasure. It's time for him to sample a little bit of the persona non grata-like prejudice which he sagely attempts to deconstruct in his little red-white-and-black (whose colours are those, postscript?) chinwag there. Ash isn't permitted to be a free-thinking peacenik, IMHO. Why, you ask needlessly? Well, we know where his true allegiances lie. He's a German-lover.
Bollocks! I'm recommending the book anyways, because it's got lots of fresh details in it. Historical discussion points which you can regale your spectacle-toting teetotalling thinking friends with, making yourself into the life of any shindig which describes itself as being "above the rabble's fray." Elitist bunch of mother-...
If you really, really, really want to get smart, read Ash's book, m'kay?
I'm even going to move onto more of his published works, because I'd really like to sink into the heart of a self-hating Brit.
Interesting, don't you think?
-- ADM in the Golden City, very very frustrated about the situation in the Levant. Watch what I do next.