12.10.11

Norman Davies - Heart of Europe


Rating 7.3

Pretty good summary of 1100 years of Polish history written by the author of the monumental God's Playground.

This book has a peculiarity: it goes backwards leaving out everything that happened after Jerzy Buzek. Be prepared, then.

The first edition of the book was published in the mid 1980s, therefore the account starts from this period to get back as far as the almost mythological Mieszko I and the beginning of the Piast dinasty.

Nevertheless, in case you own one of the last editions of Heart of Europe, you will find a couple of extra chapters at the end which, although subverting the top-bottom chronology of the book, are very welcome. Here Davies investigates over the record of the 7 prime ministers Poland had in 7 years between 1989 and 1996 and tries to foresee what would have come next.

What I liked in this book is that there are bits of "human touch" while talking about the "poetry side" of early Solidarnosc in Gdansk or writing about Polish culture and literature citing important names such as Rey, Słowacki, Sienkiewicz, Konwicki, Miłosz, Szymborska and Huelle.



I kind of like Davies' writing style which has just this tendency of being too dry and self-satisfied sometimes, but confirms how this guy is probably the maximum living expert on Polish history.

The only thing I found a bit disturbing is how Norman Davies talks about himself ("the author") in third person at some point underlining how this God's Playground of him is considered "one of the books of the Millennium" (I beg your pardon: by whom?). Which could even be true, but still a lower profile and a little more demureness may help this superstar of historian!

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