Central and Eastern Europe: Looking for books

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Central and Eastern Europe: Looking for books

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1skf
toukokuu 7, 2012, 9:58am

I will be traveling with my husband for his work to Istabul, Greece, Bulgaria, Hungary, Austria, Italy, Poland, Serbia, and the Czech Republic. I'm looking for books to read to learn about these countries. Last time I went to Istanbul I read Crescent and Star by Stephen Kinzer and learned so much about the country. I prefer biographies and well-written histories that aren't too detailed and keep it interesting, but I'm also happy to read well-researched fiction that takes place in these countries. Anything that will help me understand the countries, people, and culture. Please make suggestions! Thanks.

2nemoman
Muokkaaja: toukokuu 7, 2012, 11:16am

Black Lamb and Grey Falcon by Rebecca West and Between the Woods and the Water byPatrick Fermor are as about as good as it gets respecting the Balkans. I also recommend Balkan Ghosts by Robert Kaplan. As for Istanbul, I believe Istanbul: Memories of a City by Orhan Pamuk is the best book I have read on the city. As for Greece, I like Lawrence Durrell's book on Corfu: Prospero's Cell: Reflections on a Marine Venus. His brother Gerald Durrell wote a trio of wonderful books about his chilhood days on Corfu, e.g., My family and the Other Animals. Patrick Fermor also wrote some excellent books on Greece: Mani and Roumeli.

3LolaWalser
toukokuu 7, 2012, 1:13pm

Kaplan is terrible; it's better that you read nothing than him. Rebecca West's book is a classic, but it was published before WWII. Even the Balkans have changed in 70+ years. Unfortunately, many Westerners insist on looking at them through the eyes of imperialists.

For a manageable overview of Balkan history I recommend Mark Mazower's The Balkans (the touchstone comes up Greek, must be the latest CK entry).

The list of the countries you'll be visiting covers enormous territory, spatial and temporal. A survey of European history may be the best beginning point for getting a hang on "what happened", but as to why, or, especially, getting to "understand people", I don't trust any number of books to be adequate or sufficient source. As a rule, it is better to assume a basic intelligibility--i.e. those people are like people anywhere else, needing and wanting the same things, valuing similar things, thinking similar thoughts.

In your place, I think I'd start with Tony Judt's Postwar, for the contemporary point of view, the attention it pays to Eastern Europe and a new way of looking at it, such as older ideological histories don't have. Then I'd look at his references for more specific interests.

4nemoman
Muokkaaja: toukokuu 7, 2012, 1:46pm

>3 LolaWalser: I am curious. Why the strong dislike for Kaplan? I also liked his Mediterranean Winter.

5skf
toukokuu 7, 2012, 2:06pm

I've read Balkan Ghosts before and thought it was worth reading. Thanks for all the suggestions so far!

6nemoman
Muokkaaja: toukokuu 7, 2012, 11:51pm

I want to add some books on Greece, not because they add to your historical knowledge, but because they are simply wonderful. Eleni by Nicholas Gage and a follow-on North of Ithaca: a granddaughter returns to Greece and Discovers her roots by Eleni Gage grandaughter which catalogue Eleni's life during WWII in Greece And her grandaughter's subsequent restoration of her home.

7nemoman
Muokkaaja: toukokuu 8, 2012, 12:01am

I want to add some books on Greece, not because they add to your historical knowledge, but because they are simply wonderful. Eleni by Nicholas Gage and a follow-on North of Ithaca: A Journey Home Through A Family's Extraordinary Past by Eleni Gage's grandaughter which catalogue Eleni's life during WWII in Greece And her grandaughter's subsequent restoration of her home.