From the New York Times bestselling author Robert D. Kaplan, named one of the world’s Top 100 Global Thinkers by Foreign Policy magazine, comes a riveting journey through one of Europe’s frontier countries—and a potent examination of the forces that will determine Europe’s fate in the postmodern age.
Robert Kaplan first visited Romania in the 1970s, when he was a young journalist and the country was a bleak Communist backwater. It was one of the darkest corners of Europe, but few Westerners were paying attention. What ensued was a lifelong obsession with a critical, often overlooked country—a country that, today, is key to understanding the current threat that Russia poses to Europe. In Europe’s Shadow is a vivid blend of memoir, travelogue, journalism, and history, a masterly work thirty years in the making—the story of a journalist coming of age, and a country struggling to do the same. Through the lens of one country, Kaplan examines larger questions of geography, imperialism, the role of fate in international relations, the Cold War, the Holocaust, and more.
Here Kaplan illuminates the fusion of the Latin West and the Greek East that created Romania, the country that gave rise to Ion Antonescu, Hitler’s chief foreign accomplice during World War II, and the country that was home to the most brutal strain of Communism under Nicolae Ceaușescu. Romania past and present are rendered in cinematic prose: the ashen faces of citizens waiting in bread lines in Cold War–era Bucharest; the Bărăgan Steppe, laid bare by centuries of foreign invasion; the grim labor camps of the Black Sea Canal; the majestic Gothic church spires of Transylvania and Maramureş. Kaplan finds himself in dialogue with the great thinkers of the past, and with the Romanians of today, the philosophers, priests, and politicians—those who struggle to keep the flame of humanism alive in the era of a resurgent Russia.
Upon his return to Romania in 2013 and 2014, Kaplan found the country transformed yet again—now a traveler’s destination shaped by Western tastes, yet still emerging from the long shadows of Hitler and Stalin. In Europe’s Shadow is the story of an ideological and geographic frontier—and the book you must read in order to truly understand the crisis Europe faces, from Russia and from within.
Praise for In Europe’s Shadow
“[A] haunting yet ultimately optimistic examination of the human condition as found in Romania . . . Kaplan’s account of the centuries leading up to the most turbulent of all—the twentieth—is both sweeping and replete with alluring detail.”—Alison Smale, The New York Times Book Review
“This book reveals the confident, poetical Kaplan . . . but also a reflective, political Kaplan, seeking at times to submerge his gift for romantic generalization in respectful attention to the ideas of others.”—Timothy Snyder, The Washington Post
“A serious yet impassioned survey of Romania . . . Kaplan is a regional geographer par excellence.”—The Christian Science Monitor
“Kaplan is one of America’s foremost writers on the region. . . . In a series of deep dives into the region’s past—Byzantine, Ottoman, Habsburg and Soviet—he finds parallels and echoes that help us understand the present.”—The Wall Street Journal
“Kaplan moves seamlessly from sights, sounds, and conversations to the resonance of history.”—Foreign Affairs
From the Hardcover edition.
Robert D. Kaplan
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
In Europe's Shadow by Robert D. Kaplan is a well written love story for Romania. He gives fascinating glimpses of the history, topography and thought processes in a little known region of the Balkans. But love is blind. The book contains a large number of misrepresentations of historical facts partly because it cites the views of Romanian historians from the era of traditional nationalistic, authoritarian and undemocratic times.
The author repeatedly refers to various regions of the Balkans as Romania, at times when Romania did not exist. Romanian names are given to important historical figures who ruled in the region, with the implication that they were Romanian voivode, even to one who was crowned king of Hungary.
Several passages contain dismissive remarks on Viktor Orban, but no mention is made of the serious shortcomings expressed by non-adherence to EU norms in today's Romania. Two flagrant recently reported examples are the scraping off of German and...
A Shade from Balkan Ghosts
To read this narrative simply as an apologia for Romania's long, tortured history is to demean its value. At that level, the text is tedious. This personal memoir & socio-political history by Robert Kaplan should be read as something more. It is as if Kaplan uses his conception of Romanian history as a prism for delineating the entanglements of Eastern Europe with first the Ottoman Empire and thence, the ever-present threat of Russian imperialism.
This book is not an easy read; it is chuck full of good information and excellent insights. But its information-rich sentence structures can be hard to decode, and bear reading and re-reading to capture their import down to the last dregs of meaning. What could be termed a portrayal of tragedy can be overwhelming; the book in the final analysis is a damnation of totalitarian rule.
Kaplan never fails to disappoint. His work captures not only the geo-political aspects of the region, but also his understanding of culture, philosophy and the people who for centuries have called this region home. If one enjoys an international read with first person narrative, I can endorse this read.
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