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Odessa: Genius and Death in a City of Dreams
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Odessa: Genius and Death in a City of Dreams

3.65 of 5 stars 3.65  ·  rating details  ·  142 ratings  ·  26 reviews
Italian merchants, Greek freedom fighters, and Turkish seamen; a Russian empress and her favorite soldier-bureaucrats; Jewish tavern keepers, traders, and journalists—these and many others seeking fortune and adventure rubbed shoulders in Odessa, the greatest port on the Black Sea.

Here a dream of cosmopolitan freedom inspired geniuses and innovators, from Alexand
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published February 28th 2011 by W. W. Norton & Company
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Lauren Albert
The book suffers from a split personality. King seems to have started out writing a comprehensive history of Odessa but at some point it turned into the history of Jewish Odessa. Now, that story is absolutely essential to the overall history but the book seems imbalanced for its strong focus on that—particularly during World War II. I think it would have been a better book had King just written a book on Jewish Odessa—there is more than enough there to write a whole book.

With that said, I found
I read this because I've been nibbling on 'The Complete Works of Isaac Babel' for a couple of years now. He has such a distinctive voice, one I have never come across before. Could it be the translation? Could it be Odessa? This is a fascinating history of a city from founding to now. The chapter on Pushkin was especially spirited. I found out there is a lot more to Isaac Babel than Odessa and a lot more to Odessa than a baby carriage going down a long flight of stairs.
This is not a conventional history, but the city as presented here, is not a conventional city. Author Charles King explains how unique Odessa is by fulfilling the promise of his subtitle. While providing an historical backdrop he mainly writes of the "genius" and "dreams" of Odessa through the personalities who built, influenced and otherwise defined this unusual city. The later chapters focus on "... and Death" as he describes the city's role in persecuting Jews before and during WWII.

Field Ma
Kathleen McRae
Well written and very enjoyable book on the Black Sea port city of Odessa.It was created as a model of enlightenment by Catherine the Great and was to be the Russian Empires gateway to the Middle East.It built itself as a city of many nationalities and religions and became a place for cultures to merge and clash. It was home to one of the most vibrant Jewish communities in Europe and its decimation of its Jews is a different one from most of Europe.
Valentina Tkachenko
Very quick read (finished it in one day) and a good introduction to the history of Odessa. Not very detailed, though. I wish that it had been longer, or narrower in scope. Much of the early history is told through "great men" and then the book morphs into a history of Jewish Odessa. A very important topic, and crucial to understanding the city, but not the only story worth exploring in a book which claims to tell the whole history of the city.
Charles King writes well and is obviously highly knowledgeabla about his subject. Though it is getting a bit frustrating that in the last years he has produced only introductory-level works on Caucasus, the Black Sea and now Odessa and very little substantial original research. He is too inclined to anecdotes and is unable to grasp social and economic history, which is detrimental to writing histories of human communities.
Katia Nosenko
Well written book. But when i feel that the first part of the book is really well researched, this feeling is fading after the chapter on the Second World War. The book creates an impression, partly intentionally i think, that the city's life was very uneventful and not distinctive after the War. While i do not know much about Odessa of this period i would not agree and wish i could find out more from this book.

3.5 stars
Charles King's study of the city of Odessa is strongest when it discusses the travails of the city's Jewish population, not only during WWII but before that. His account makes clear that the horrors of the Holocaust did not happen in a vacuum, however much revisionist historians in the former Soviet Union might prefer to remember events. So that segment of the work sparks with passion, though unfortunately the rest isn't as gripping. (Perhaps if it had been marketed more as a history of the Jewi ...more
Cristina Ana
Great read! I've postponed reading a monograph on Odessa since a few years ago when I was due to move there for a job, which in the end didn't happen.
As a Romanian, it was painful to read the important history testimonials, not captured in the history books I grew up with, the ones about Romania as an imperial power during the World War II, the Romanian occupation, the Transnistria Governorate, the 1941 Odessa massacre, the Romanian eugenic practices.
There's one downside to how the story is tol
This is a magnificent. Odessa was the hometown of such as Pushkin, Lenin, Jabotinsky, and Babel. My father's family came from nearer Istanbul in an area disputed between Turkey and Russia. This book deals at length with that dispute and the history of what happened to all the ports along the western shore of the Black Sea between Istanbul and Odessa. Those ports used to be the main access to grain grown in Russia's heartland. And the mixture of Middle Easterners, Southern Europeans, and Russian ...more
I can not well assess whether I am disappointed by the essay in itself or rather from the real history of Odessa here narrated by Charles King.
I expected a Jewish epic and instead the book focuses on few, very few jewish people and not at all on the local Jewish culture.
Read in italian translation.

Non riesco bene a valutare se sono deluso dal saggio in se o piuttosto dalla vera e propria storia di Odessa qui narrata da Charles King.
Mi aspettavo una epopea ebraica e invece il libro si sofferma su
Margaret Sankey
Built up by Catherine II as part of her Black Sea plans, run by a variety of European exiles from the French Revolution (and John Paul Jones) and catch-all for the people spun to the edges of Europe (Greek revolutionaries, German farmers, Italian merchants, central Asian traders and Jews), Odessa was an unusually open Russian city made wealthy by its location and the grain and oil trades and often allowed to be less strictly controlled by authority, although battered with particularly brutal rep ...more
Dimitrios Triantaphyllou
Well written and fascinating account of the history of the lovely city of Odessa...can't wait to go back and visit it with a different perspective thanks to Charles King....nevertheless, it has its shortcomings as the book details the plights of the Jews of Odessa while short thrifting the many other ethnic groups that comprise it and marked the city's history (at times at the expense of its Jewish denizens and other ethnicities)....will be writing an academic review Ihave been commissioned to w ...more
A good read covering the history of the city of Odessa. It has an easy to follow narration.
Kathy Gardner
Excellent reading to understand the current situation in Odessa and the Ukraine. It explains part of the complexity of the relationship of the Russians and other cultures involved in the development of the psyche of race, religion, and politics that drive the disparate parts of the city. Fascinating really.
The Book : An Online Review at The New Republic
In Odessa, you can smell Europe.” Or so said the Russian poet Alexander Pushkin. Like so many others who spoke of this place, he misspoke, or at least he stretched the truth. That trait is one of the city’s best-known commodities. Read more...
i felt like it kinda skimmed through a lot of what could have been rich accounts. a lot more tell than show.
Excellent understanding of multicultural nuance throughout the evolution of this ancient to modern city.
Interesting historical time period to be sure. Quality of writing is fine.
Very readable history of Odessa, I learned a lot and it wasn't dry.
Frank Roberts
Fascinating and expressive history of a remarkable city.
Ted Brewster
It was okay, but not enough detail for me.
Mar 28, 2011 Angie marked it as to-read
Shelves: nonfiction, history
Didn't get a chance to finish.
Peter Edelman
The story of Odessa is a sad chapter in Romanian history as well. Odessa is another casualty of 20th century totalitarianism, once cosmopolitan, now bland and forgettable.
Al. marked it as to-read
May 18, 2015
Peter marked it as to-read
May 08, 2015
Telans marked it as to-read
May 04, 2015
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A native of the Ozark hill country, Charles King studied history and politics at the University of Arkansas and Oxford University. He is the author of The Ghost of Freedom: A History of the Caucasus (Oxford University Press, 2008), The Black Sea: A History (Oxford University Press, 2004) and The Moldovans: Romania, Russia, and the Politics of Culture (Hoover Institution Press, 2000), as well as es ...more
More about Charles King...
Midnight at the Pera Palace: The Birth of Modern Istanbul The Ghost of Freedom: A History of the Caucasus The Black Sea: A History The Moldovans: Romania, Russia, And The Politics Of Culture Extreme Politics: Nationalism, Violence, and the End of Eastern Europe

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