Postwar, a history of Europe since 1945, by Tony Judt

I was a bit surprised to find the word ‘magisterial’ absent from then encomia on the cover and flyleaf of this book, as it is just that. A wonderful, entertaining book about almost everything that has happened in Europe since the Second World War. He deploys quotations brilliantly (it seems a feature of many of his books) and just reading those at the beginning of each chapter would be rewarding, even if you ignored the rest of the text.

I was ill in bed quite a lot when I read this and it helped to have that time for reading set aside for me. It is a long book (over 800 pages of small print) but it really flows along. The writer’s personal enthusiasms, for Italian and French film makers, for the Beatles, for social democracy, become evident as you go along but that is good. He is both a recounter of history and an interpreter of it from a reasoned and well informed perspective.

And amazing facts present themselves. In 1968, some 30,000 Jews were expelled from Poland because they were, well, Jews. There was hardly any deNazification in Austria after the war. Stalin and Hitler’s real legacy was the destruction of the multicultural, multiethnic Europe that existed in many parts of Europe before ethnic boundaries were forced to coincide with national ones. The use of German by Jews helped enormously to maintain its position as an international language, used across frontiers. Once they were gone, it lost out rapidly to English. There is irony here.

A superb book.


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