14.6.13

Anne Applebaum - Between East and West (Across the Borderlands of Europe)

Rating 8.0

Stunning travelogue from Kaliningrad to Odessa passing through Poland and Belarus and a bunch of places called in three or four different names at the same time once belonging to Hungary, Romania and former Czechoslovakia.

For those who are interested in digging deeper into these fascinating - if often forgotten - places, the Polish journalist Andrzej Stasiuk travelled on a similar route in his On the Road to Babadag a decade or so later.

And yet I have to reckon Between East and West is much better than the excellent Babadag.

The year is 1991 and Anne Applebaum writes with the keen eye of a skilled reporter, the deep knowledge of a masterful historian and the flawless humor of a talented novelist.

The Prussian heydays of Königsberg, now the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad and the birthplace of philosopher Immanuel Kant

And, what's more, Ms Applebaum (who married the Polish Foreign Affairs Minister Radek 'Twitter' Sikorski and now entertains herself writing books on Polish traditional cuisine...sic transit gloria mundi) doesn't make confusion at all. She is as knowledgeable about the writings by Bruno Schulz and Gregor von Rezzori as she masters the political and economic intrigues of post-communist countries.

Khmelnitsky in Ukraine, formerly known as Kamenets Podoslski, the last Polish outpost against the Mongol hordes and the Turkish troops

Either if you're looking for something profound and engaging about that dreadful place named Kaliningrad (formerly Koenigsberg) or if you want to learn more about the sentimental life of Adam Mickiewicz - the poet on whose patriotism Poles and Lithuanians still quarrels for - there cannot be anything better than this.

Navahrudak in Belarus formerly known as Nowogrodek, the birthplace of the Polish bard Adam Mickiewicz also known as Adomas Mickiewicius by the Lithuanians 

PS: I've got just one annoying remark for Anne Applebaum:
Koenigsberg was heavily bombed and almost completely destroyed by the RAF well before the Red Army conquered the town. And yet, as far as I remember, the author doesn't mention the British bombing at all and that's an alarming and biased omission.

No comments:

Post a Comment