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Book description
This is an excellent history of Poland which I read some years ago. From the introduction :To the average inhabitant of Western Europe, the history of Poland is a yawning chasm whose edges are obscured by an overhang of accepted commonplaces (what a beautiful phrase!) - that the Poles are a romantic people, good at fighting, riding, dancing and drinking, pathologically incapable of organisation or stable self-government, condemned by geography and their own ineptitude to be the victims of history.Sounds harsh, coming from a Polish American, and a little unreasonable for anyone in the year 2013, but hes referring to the melodramatic facts that Poland as a country was removed from the map of Europe not once, but twice, first by Austria and Prussia, and secondly by Hitler and Stalin. Poland appears in Europe as the restaurant where despots may dine without paying the bill. An English or an American person will at some fundamental level never really be able to understand the anxieties of being European. We assume that all these countries we see delineated neatly on the political maps have always been there - always been a France there, and a Germany about there, Spain is the bit that sticks out here and Italy looks like a boot kicking an oblong football. Whats the problem? But the entire history of Europe has been like a kaleidoscope, someone always grabbing it and giving it a shake to make a new arrangement of borders and peoples. Some towns changes their states three or four times in a hundred years. Some countries disappeared. And all this chaos is not something from the 17th century, the latest version of it was the breakup of Yugoslavia, 1990-1999. This is why the EC is such an article of faith among the political elite - they think never again!The USA and Great Britain cant really get this on an emotional level, theyve never been invaded, they did the invading. (All right, there was the Norman Conquest in 1066, Ill give you that. That was just a change of management and a new set of accountants came in to perform an audit (the Doomsday Book). No big deal. ) Cant imagine the USA or Great Britain ever being wiped off the map. But if youre Polish, you can imagine no Poland.So this is a very fascinating read for anyone who likes their traditional narrative history, galloping across the centuries. It was written in 1987, just before the latest upheaval and rebirth, so maybe there is an updated edition. One of my favourite history books.
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