I started to actually get upset when I realized that I was nearing the end (after all, histories can't go past the present).
This book is amazingly co...moreI started to actually get upset when I realized that I was nearing the end (after all, histories can't go past the present).
This book is amazingly comprehensive and focuses on the "myths" of Europe as much as it does the history. It's case seems to be made out of what people claim about Europe, offering ways to think about history as a kinetic movement that is constantly wrestling with itself. As he quotes in the last chapter: "The essence of a nation is that all individuals have many things in common, and also that they have forgotten many things." - Ernest Renan. The "nation" itself is a portal for infinite scrutiny for Judt, as he unpacks Soviet colonism of Eastern Europe, divided nationalities, Nationalism in all it's forms, the European Union's role in challenging national identity, sub-national conflicts within states, as just some of the avenues of thought. Perhaps what affected me most was his early observation that postwar Europe's legacy is one of ethnic cleansing, in that nations were born out of the mass movement and murder of people. This is not just in regards to the Holocaust, but also in the codification of European states into fixed ethno-linguistic countries that finally retire in the last few decades into nostalgic old men and women, who go about making monuments to the nations they feel that they had lost. But even then, the idea of the "nation" has already been pulled out from under them.(less)
Instrumental for testing norms of "state death," including: nationalism's role, economics, buffer state status, resurrected states, imperial rivals, o...moreInstrumental for testing norms of "state death," including: nationalism's role, economics, buffer state status, resurrected states, imperial rivals, occupations, norm after 1945.
Says that 1/4 of all states since 1816 have died, in opposition to the widely held perception that states never die.
Also gives a definition of "state death" based on loss of governance, inability to control foreign policy, no international recognition, and no means of defense.
Includes many helpful lists and charts of historical state deaths, rival states, and state resurrections, as well as case studies. While Fazal sets a good precedent, she also invites further research. (less)
It's nearly impossible to follow such a book as Lenin's Tomb but Remnick does a wonderful job at picking up where he left off. In Resurrection, Remnic...moreIt's nearly impossible to follow such a book as Lenin's Tomb but Remnick does a wonderful job at picking up where he left off. In Resurrection, Remnick focuses on how the democratic revolution contended with disillusion. Yeltsin is the perfect character in this world: democratic promise gives way to oligarchy, poor health, and flirtations with Russia's communist and czarist past.
This book definitely sets the stage for the Russia we know today. Interestingly enough, Putin does not appear on the scene...
I was struck by the narrative structure of Moby Dick, more than anything, swearing upon reading it, that James Joyce had read it before embarking on U...moreI was struck by the narrative structure of Moby Dick, more than anything, swearing upon reading it, that James Joyce had read it before embarking on Ulysses. It's not a straight novel by any means and no wonder people were confused when reading it in 1851. Ishmael drifts away as a first person character, morphing into an encyclopedist, finally turning into an omniscient recorder of crew-people's thoughts. Ishmael is the narrator, yet his narration takes on multiple forms (again, like Ulysses) - first person narration, the random second person appeal, chapters of lore and research, chapters of dialogue, chapters of stage direction, and finally, the italicized epilogue. Indeed, Ishmael leaves hardly any mark on the characters and the story as a whole, making one wonder about his narrative eye. He says, "Call me Ishmael." He never says, "My name is Ishmael." He is the chronicler in disguise as something he is not - the orphaned and abandoned. Biblically, "Ishmael" means "God Listens," but he's also the cast out son of Abraham, the wanderer outside, looking back in, provided for only when the most abandoned. (less)
This book made me nostalgic of the good ol' days of Western imperialism. Ah, nothing like waking up to the markets of the former Ottoman Empire, sampl...moreThis book made me nostalgic of the good ol' days of Western imperialism. Ah, nothing like waking up to the markets of the former Ottoman Empire, sampling the Asian teas from the top of a pagoded camel, smiling at your Mohammedean fez-headed domestic servant condescendingly... ahh...
Apparently, Imperialism can be a good thing. Countries of old British colonialism were given decent infrastructures (in exchange for total subserviance), not to mention America's two big post-occupied nations of Japan and Germany... Ferguson, after going through an exciting history of America's imperial escapades up to World War II, gives the reader a good sense of post World War II America as the almost-Empire--always nervous to utter the "E"-word, always one foot in and one foot out of the pool. "We're going to leave any time now" seems to be the American mantra Day 1 of any occupation.
Ferguson was actually able to sway my personal stance on the Iraq war, though it would not be a popular opinion among most Post-Mid-Term Election Americans. Unfortunately, the last third of the book lags as Ferguson begins to show the economic side of imperialism, and me, not one for the numbers, was admittingly a bit lost.
Still, a good book to learn about Free Trade, Liberal Empires, and somber realities. (less)