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Where the West Ends: Stories from the Middle East, the Balkans, the Black Sea, and the Caucasus Paperback – July 23, 2012
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About the Author
He has taken road trips to war zones, sneaked into police states under false pretenses, dodged incoming rocket and mortar fire, stayed in some of the worst hotels ever built anywhere, slipped past the hostile side of a front line, been accused of being a spy, received death threats from terrorists, and been mugged by Egyptian police officers. When he's not doing or writing about these things, he writes novels.
His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and The New Republic among numerous other publications, and he's a contributing editor at World Affairs and City Journal. He has reported widely from the Middle East, the former Soviet Union, Latin America, and the Balkans. A former resident of Beirut, he lives in Oregon with his wife and two cats.
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Top Customer Reviews
I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Probably most of us are guilty of throwing around terms like "the West" and "the Middle East" without really thinking too hard about what they mean, or where those places begin or end. If you want to understand what "the West" is, read this book to learn where it is, and where it is not.
There is a persistent feeling of loneliness in this book. It is the loneliness of communities cut off from one another and from themselves; but it's also the loneliness of certain individuals who refuse to be confined within the communal walls that are assigned to them.
There are harrowing stories of violence and cruelty, such as Berisha's tale of the expulsion of the Albanians from Prishtina and the ravaging of Krusha e Vogel. There is Ukraine's memory of the Stalinist "hunger plague" of 1932-1933. But there are also stories of courage and kindness, and of hope.
Three themes emerged for me as I read "Where the West Ends". There is the image of the lonely liberal, surrounded by a sea of increasingly hostile and violent factions. There is the conflict between old traditionalism and new fundamentalism. And there is the improbable eruption of pro-Americanism in the strangest places.Read more ›
Totten and an occasional travel partner ultimately visit thirteen countries in all with each country roughly receiving one chapter. Each chapter can stand alone as a vignette but chapters are further organized by region which helps provide greater context to understanding life there. Where the West Ends adheres to some of the basic structures of travel writing, and Totten offers up some vivid descriptions of the sheer beauty and abject desolation that he finds within these countries. He is a gifted writer and he is also very familiar with his subject matter. Totten is a journalist whose work has appeared in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal and he has reported from Iraq, the Balkans, and the former Soviet Union.
I came into the book with very limited knowledge about the region.Read more ›
It does so while pulling back the curtain on his own life and background more revealingly than in his other books, though it is never self-indulgent. These essays at times become madcap travelogues, in which Totten (and his comrade-in-arms Sean) are like a Hunter S. Thompson and Dr. Gonzo, high not on illicit drugs but rather on a supremely American decency and curiosity regarding the world beyond Totten's native Oregon. We are treated to accounts, alternately harrowing and funny, surprising and heartbreaking, of Totten's travels through cities and places as diverse as Dubrovnik, Iraqi Kurdistan, the Ukraine, and Azerbaijan, yet which all, through conversations with intellectuals and activists, random street encounters, and Totten's detail-hungry eye, reveal volumes about the fault lines between east and west.
These lines run in often unexpected directions--anyone who is confident that he can establish fixed borders in the clash of civilizations should read this book and think again. Totten's politics are refreshingly eclectic, not doctrinaire.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I just returned from a trip to Croatia and Bosnia. Reading this expanded my awareness of the cultural differences I experienced in traveling just a few hundred miles. Read morePublished 9 days ago by Richard William Ray
I'm a big fan of travel writing, but this book never really grabbed me. I don't think the author got into enough trouble, met enough interesting/weird people or generated enough... Read morePublished 2 months ago by TPorter
Yhis book started out very interesting, but as I get deeper into it, I am finding it more and more boring.Published 2 months ago by B. Bischoff
Very insightful book.I really liked it. I did however find myself saying...for goodness sake give yourself a few more days here and there so you don't have to pass through major... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Ms barbara