Genre Science, Education
Volume book: Full version
An award-winning writer travels the eastern front of Europe, where the push/pull between old empires and new possibilities has never been more evident. Paolo Rumiz traces the path that has twice cut Europe in two—first by the Iron Curtain and then by the artificial scaffolding of the EU—moving through vibrant cities and abandoned villages, some places still gloomy under the ghost of these imposing borders, some that have sought to erase all memory of it and jump with both feet into the West (if only the West would have them).
In , he is a sublime and lively guide through these unfamiliar landscapes, piecing together an atlas that has been erased by modern states, delighting in the discovery of communities that were once engulfed by geopolitics then all but forgotten, until now.The farther south he goes, the more he feels he is traveling not along some abandoned Eastern frontier, but right in the middle of things: Mitteleuropa wasn’t to be found in Viennese cafés but much farther east, beyond even Budapest and Warsaw. As in Ukraine, these remain places in flux, where the political and cultural values of the East and West have stared each other down for centuries.
Rumiz gives a human face not just to what the Cold War left behind but to the ancient ties of empire and ethnicity that are still at the root of modern politics in flash-point areas such as this.
Paolo Rumiz has been a correspondent for Italy’s since 1986, focusing on the Balkans and Eastern Europe. He was a frontline correspondent during the wars in the former Yugoslavia, Bosnia/Herzegovina, and Afghanistan, and has won many prizes for his journalism and nonfiction.
“In his first book translated into English, correspondent Rumiz vents his anger at the European Union’s “rhetoric of globalization,” which homogenizes ethnic distinctions and threatens to obliterate traditional communities. His nostalgic, engaging search for the heart of European identity takes him from the Arctic to the Mediterranean, through present-day Finland, Latvia, Ukraine and Poland. In these regions, the author finds depopulated villages, survivors of mass deportations and exterminations that continued long after World War II. Exploring the border between Russia and the European Union, Rumiz realized that he was traveling “a seismic fault that’s only apparently dormant” because Russia, under Putin, is becoming a renewed threat. A richly detailed journey into Europe’s dark past and vulnerable present.”
“In this hypnotic travelogue, Italian journalist Rumiz weaves a poetic narrative about his 2008 journey along the length of the former Iron Curtain… There’s an unlikely poetic beauty to his flowery, indulgent prose… He lovingly describes his escapades and experiences, conjuring up places few tourists ever visit, exposing the dichotomy between the modernity of the EU and the time-lost ways of the old world, and illuminating a much-overlooked region of the world in a thoroughly fascinating manner. Though he’s given to purple prose and overly colorful descriptions, there’s no denying the allure and appeal of his European odyssey.”
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