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Goodbye Eastern Europe

An Intimate History of a Divided Land

Jacob Mikanowski



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One World
01 August 2023
Eastern Europe is disappearing. Not off the map of course, but as an idea.

Today it calls to mind a jumble of post-Soviet states paved over with C&A and McDonald’s. We could describe Eastern Europe as a group of twenty nations – but why? For most of their history, they weren’t nations at all.

The region is more than the sum total of its annexations, invasions and independence declarations. Eastern Europe abounds with peoples tied together by tragicomic twists of fate. Lives could be turned upside down by distant decrees from Vienna or Istanbul, or just as easily by a stubborn bureaucrat in your village. In twentieth-century Knust, you could live in six different countries without ever leaving your house. You could get married any day, but buying a teakettle was a singular event.

Goodbye Eastern Europe is a eulogy for a world we are losing, a vanishing culture of polytheism, vampires, sacred groves, and movable borders.
Imprint:   One World
Country of Publication:   United Kingdom
Dimensions:   Height: 234mm,  Width: 153mm,  Spine: 34mm
ISBN:   9780861542598
ISBN 10:   0861542592
Pages:   400
Publication Date:  
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Hardback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Jacob Mikanowski is a writer and academic. His parents were Polish immigrants to the US, and he spent his childhood between Poland and Pennsylvania. He is now a PhD candidate at the UC Berkeley in California. Concurrently, he has become a well-known essayist and freelance journalist, writing pieces for publications including the Guardian, New York Times, Atlantic, New Yorker, Harper’s, Slate, Aeon, Prospect Magazine and many more. His two long reads for the Guardian were included in the paper’s ‘Best of the Year’ round-up in 2018.

Reviews for Goodbye Eastern Europe: An Intimate History of a Divided Land

"‘An insightful chronicle… distilling more than a decade of research, [Mikanowski] carefully argues that if something marks out Europe’s eastern half, it is not homogeneity but wild, glorious diversity.’ —Economist 'A scholarly and intimate history… from ‘vampire Europe’ to the latest Russian invasion of Ukraine.' —Spectator, BOOKS OF THE YEAR 2023 'Do not rush to bid farewell to eastern Europe until reading this book. Meticulously researched and beautifully written, this very personal story of the place that one can’t find on the map pays tribute to the origins of the experiences, cultures and ideas that continue to shape political and ideological battles of the modern world.' —Serhii Plokhy, author of The Last Empire 'A lively and sweeping history' —Washington Post 'A highly captivating book that delights on every page and dispels the ""damaging stereotypes"" and ""dour connotations"" traditionally associated with Eastern Europe. Far more than a simple history, Goodbye Eastern Europe is a magical swan song for an astonishingly diverse but disappearing world of peasants and poets, resilience and romance, calamity and fantasy, where a shared affinity for the absurd has long been essential for survival.' —Rebecca Lowe, author of The Slow Road to Tehran 'This wonderful book is a firework display: an unforgettable flash of forgotten past... Mikanowski shows that the vast regions between Germany and Russia are not just a zone of blood and tragedy, but of marvellous human vigour and resilience.' —Neal Ascherson, author of The Black Sea 'A rich, counterintuitive history told with flair, Goodbye Eastern Europe is both a tour of an often-misunderstood part of the world and an examination of political fault lines that continue to shape our lives today.' —Daniel Trilling, author of Lights in the Distance 'Jacob Mikanowski has taken on the seemingly impossible task of writing a comprehensive history of that ""Other"" Europe, hoping to catch a myriad of vanishing worlds. My initial scepticism was quickly dispelled. Goodbye Eastern Europe succeeds in delighting even a jaded follower of matters East European like me. It is a richly informative and readable book which starts with the Dark Ages and ends with our own even darker era, ranging from the Baltics to the Balkans and covering an enormous swathe of land, describing the ever shifting frontiers and changing nationalities in the course of a historical narrative as vibrant as the area it describes.' —Vesna Goldsworthy, author of Iron Curtain ‘Goodbye Eastern Europe is a thematic history of a divided half-continent, a goulash of imperial histories, shifting frontiers and heartbreaking family stories, spiced with myth and poet-martyrs, and deeply satisfying on the palate… vital and informed.’ —TLS ‘An intriguing attempt to trace the residual power of those who are no longer there… [an] intimate history.’ —Financial Times ‘An eloquent and absorbing new plea for the retention of the idea of Eastern Europe… Emphasising how there is far more to the region than its post-Sovietness, this is a wonderful exploration forged by a deep love of Europe.’ —New European ‘[Mikanowski] challenges the simplifying and often false narratives written by those in power… part history, part sentimental journey… Accessibly written, often humorous in tone, Goodbye Eastern Europe reads more like a Western (but in the east) than a traditional history… Mikanowski continues the process that began with the 1989 revolutions of unearthing the alternative stories that exist on the margins of history, in the soil, in literature, in the landscape.’ —Irish Independent 'Ambitious...a stunning portrait of a ""land of small states with complicated fates"". Shot through with lyrical reflections and astute analysis, this is a rewarding portrait of a diverse and complex part of the world.' —Publishers Weekly, starred review 'Goodbye Eastern Europe is a collective portrait of people, places, states and ideas, most of which no longer exist. Beautifully written and witty, it presents the region as a place full of magic, vibrancy, diversity, conflict and coexistence. Mikanowski blends together reality and myth, poetry and historical research, personal experience and ideologies to revive and bring us back the civilisation that was lost during the calamitous twentieth century but that is still crucial to Eurasian history.' —Eugene Finkel, Kenneth H. Keller Associate Professor of International Affairs 'A revelatory and superbly-written narrative reveals the fascinating strata of history, community and personality about which we in the West are largely unfamiliar… gripping. Mikanowski’s timely book pours iridescent light on the lands and peoples of Eastern Europe who co-existed for centuries before Western culture dismissed them as existing beyond the frontier of civilisation.' —Iain MacGregor, The Critic 'An epic history...of a part of the world too often ignored, told with vigour, colour, and authority.' —Kirkus Reviews 'With the war in Ukraine, Eastern Europe is once again helping to determine the world's future, as it did at several key moments in the twentieth century. Yet for all its historical importance and cultural richness, the region remains a blank on many outsiders' mental maps. In this dramatic and wide-ranging book, Jacob Mikanowski makes Eastern Europe come to life by rooting its history in individual human stories, showing how diverse peoples lived together from the Middle Ages to the Holocaust and beyond.' —Adam Kirsch '[Mikanowski’s] perceptive new book… Goodbye Eastern Europe takes an appealingly wide-ranging and eclectic approach to this region of shifting borders and multi-layered identities… illuminating… The result is a captivating and revealing book.' —Geographical Magazine 'A eulogy for a world we are losing.' —Jewish News 'A warm, charismatic and sensitive historical survey… Above all, [Mikanowski] is blessed with a brilliant eye for revealing detail, surprising anecdotes, and humorous historical tidbits.' —Exberliner"

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