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Europeana: A Brief History of the Twentieth Century

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Told in an informal, mesmerizing voice, Ouredník represents the twentieth century in all its contradictions and grand illusions, demonstrating that nothing substantial has changed between 1900 and 1999—humanity is still hopeful for the future and still mired in age-old conflicts. As he demonstrates that nothing can be reduced to a single, true viewpoint, Ouredník mixes har Told in an informal, mesmerizing voice, Ouredník represents the twentieth century in all its contradictions and grand illusions, demonstrating that nothing substantial has changed between 1900 and 1999—humanity is still hopeful for the future and still mired in age-old conflicts. As he demonstrates that nothing can be reduced to a single, true viewpoint, Ouredník mixes hard facts and idiosyncratic observations, highlighting the horror and absurdity of the twentieth century and the further absurdity of attempting to narrate this history.


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Told in an informal, mesmerizing voice, Ouredník represents the twentieth century in all its contradictions and grand illusions, demonstrating that nothing substantial has changed between 1900 and 1999—humanity is still hopeful for the future and still mired in age-old conflicts. As he demonstrates that nothing can be reduced to a single, true viewpoint, Ouredník mixes har Told in an informal, mesmerizing voice, Ouredník represents the twentieth century in all its contradictions and grand illusions, demonstrating that nothing substantial has changed between 1900 and 1999—humanity is still hopeful for the future and still mired in age-old conflicts. As he demonstrates that nothing can be reduced to a single, true viewpoint, Ouredník mixes hard facts and idiosyncratic observations, highlighting the horror and absurdity of the twentieth century and the further absurdity of attempting to narrate this history.

30 review for Europeana: A Brief History of the Twentieth Century

  1. 5 out of 5

    Ahmad Sharabiani

    Europeana: Stručné dějiny dvacátého věku = Europeana: a brief history of the twentieth century, 2005, Patrik Ouředník Told in an informal, mesmerizing voice, Ouredník represents the twentieth century in all its contradictions and grand illusions, demonstrating that nothing substantial has changed between 1900 and 1999--humanity is still hopeful for the future and still mired in age-old conflicts. As he demonstrates that nothing can be reduced to a single, true viewpoint, Ouredník mixes hard fact Europeana: Stručné dějiny dvacátého věku = Europeana: a brief history of the twentieth century, 2005, Patrik Ouředník Told in an informal, mesmerizing voice, Ouredník represents the twentieth century in all its contradictions and grand illusions, demonstrating that nothing substantial has changed between 1900 and 1999--humanity is still hopeful for the future and still mired in age-old conflicts. As he demonstrates that nothing can be reduced to a single, true viewpoint, Ouredník mixes hard facts and idiosyncratic observations, highlighting the horror and absurdity of the twentieth century and the further absurdity of attempting to narrate this history. تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز بیست و ششم ماه آوریل سال 2015میلادی عنوان: شهرفرنگ اروپا - چکیده ای از پیدا و پنهان تاریخ سده بیستم میلادی؛ نویسنده: پاتریک اوئورژِدنیک؛ مترجم: خشایار دیهیمی؛ تهران، انتشارات ماهی، 1394؛ در 122ص؛ شابک: 9789642091911؛ موضوع: تاریخ و تمدن از نویسندگان چک - سده 20م نقل نمونه متن کتاب: «نخستین نسل‌ کشی سده ی بیستم میلادی، در سال 1915میلادی در «ترکیه»، رخ داد.؛ حکومت ابتدا ششصد خانواده‌ ی ارمنی را که در «قسطنطنیه» زندگی می‌کردند، بازداشت و تیرباران کرد، سپس سربازانی را که تبار ارمنی داشتند، و در ارتش ترکیه خدمت می‌کردند، خلع سلاح و تیرباران کرد.؛ و به همه‌ ی ارامنه، دستور داده شد، که شهرها، و روستاها را، ظرف بیست‌ و چهار، یا چهل‌ و هشت ساعت، تخلیه کنند، و ارتش ترکیه در برابر دروازه‌ های شهر، مستقر شد، و همینطور که افراد بیرون می‌آمدند، مردان را به گلوله می‌بست، و زنان را و ‌کودکان را، به مناطق صحرایی «بین‌ النهرین (میان رودان)» تبعید می‌کرد.؛ و زنان و کودکان، می‌بایست پای پیاده، بدون غذا، سیصد تا پانصد کیلومتر را طی می‌کردند، و بسیاری از آنها در طول راه ‌مردند.» (شهر فرنگ اروپا – صفحه 42کتاب)؛ پایان نقل تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 20/05/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی

  2. 4 out of 5

    Riku Sayuj

    It is hard to put a finger on what this book tries to do but it does something important. It narrates history in a detached way without giving any undue importance to the 'major' events. It is one of those rare instances when its brevity is the greatest strength of a historical narrative. It is not that it lacks in detail, don't get me wrong here. It does go on about how people did things to each other and developed theories about each other, about how people and nations thought and acted, about It is hard to put a finger on what this book tries to do but it does something important. It narrates history in a detached way without giving any undue importance to the 'major' events. It is one of those rare instances when its brevity is the greatest strength of a historical narrative. It is not that it lacks in detail, don't get me wrong here. It does go on about how people did things to each other and developed theories about each other, about how people and nations thought and acted, about large numbers and statistics of war, and about how absurd it all was. It never says in so many words that it was absurd, of course. But it makes you realize that when history is told by someone who has (or seems/ attempts to seem) no agenda or alliances or a spirit of inquiry or even an interest in educating the readers (etc.) but is just told, told as if it is just something that happened - then that narrative has the power to show you how small everything was and how collectively we are a bunch of such magnificent buffoons. There is a touch of Douglas Adams in there somewhere, in that humor and in the sad irony that keeps on putting a half-smile on the reader’s face despite the subject matter being dealt with (Hint: I am not talking of Adams’ sci-fi books here). It is only apt that Ouředník is also the translator of Beckett and Queneau and perhaps most pertinently, of Rabelais. This should be required reading for students of History - even as we learn about the great nations and the of great wars and of the heroes and of the generals and of the great science and its advances and of turning points and tragedies, we should also learns perspective and learn that history was just about a large bunch of people making decisions that would always seem absurd (like the proverbial best-laid schemes...) to everyone but themselves - either to other countries or at least to posterity . And that would be a valuable lesson... I am not doing justice to this, as I said it is hard to put a finger on what this book does. Just read it?

  3. 4 out of 5

    Justin Evans

    Most 'experimental' literature fails, just as most scientific experiments fail to produce important data, and most experiments in the kitchen or even bedroom fail to spice up one's life. This doesn't keep anyone from trying again and again, just in case this time is the time. Well, Europeana is the time. Ourednik avoids every possible literary characteristic--no characters, no plot, no personal investment, no meditating, an absolutely minimal narrator--while somehow providing, nonetheless, all t Most 'experimental' literature fails, just as most scientific experiments fail to produce important data, and most experiments in the kitchen or even bedroom fail to spice up one's life. This doesn't keep anyone from trying again and again, just in case this time is the time. Well, Europeana is the time. Ourednik avoids every possible literary characteristic--no characters, no plot, no personal investment, no meditating, an absolutely minimal narrator--while somehow providing, nonetheless, all the literary pleasures. The book is a very vaguely chronological history of Europe (with the odd side-trip to the U.S. or rest of the world), mainly between the first world war and the end of the twentieth century. It's told as you might tell history to a child: "After the First World War, Communism and Fascism spread though Europe because lots of people believed that the old world was rotten and it was necessary to seek new paths, and that democratic rule was not capable of preventing a world war and that capitalism has proved the economic crisis." I don't remember a single critical comment (there's no, e.g., 'communists said x, but really did y') and very few negatives. Sentences get longish, but never complicated. Well, obviously it's grim reading at times, but you're never invited to wallow in the inhumanity-of-man-to-(wo)man silliness that much 'deep' contemporary literature prefers. The narrative voice is simply too neutral to create an overwhelming emotional response in that way. Instead, Ourednik makes the reader uncomfortable in their complicity, as on page 97: "And the Jehovah's Witnesses said that smoking and alcohol soil the blood and they refused to eat black pudding and blood sausage and refused blood transfusions because the mixing of blood contradicted divine ordinances, just like the consumption of blood sausage or alcohol or extramarital sex." Presumably you, like I did, are laughing at the foolishness of the blood sausage bit, at the very least, and most likely at all of these hopelessly illiberal, out of date ideas. Ourednik goes on, "And they refused to enlist in the army and said that they belonged to the Kingdom of God and worldly matters were no concern of theirs," which you might think sounds vaguely sensible given the century we're dealing with, but also hopelessly naive and dangerously quietist. Then Ourednik throws in the kicker, as his sentence concludes, "and many of them died in the concentration camps in Germany and the Soviet Union because their attitude subverted the revolutionary ideal and propagated asocial and counterrevolutionary ideas in society." Yes. Exactly how much better are we than than the Nazis and Stalinists? There is a problem with the neutrality of the book's narrative: I'm not sure how much it could change anyone's ideas. I found many of my own concerns in the book, but then, almost anyone can find her concerns in a book this neutral and this distanced from judgment. But that's a minor complaint, and only those who refuse to think at all will find their entire world-view bolstered. There's also a danger in how much knowledge the book requires: if you don't know a bit of the history, you won't get too much out of it. And if you don't know much about the intellectual history, you'll miss the glorious destruction of the century's more obnoxious social sciences (particularly psychology) and philosophies. On the other hand, nobody can read everything, and this is a much better way to spend an afternoon than trying to read Talcott Parsons or Martin Heidegger.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Greg Brozeit

    A book to reread many times. This extended, quirky essay is a unique take on the events of the 20th century. This view of the history of the world wars and life under totalitarianism is filled with truth, humor, irony, and consistently interesting perspectives. Whenever I'm between books and not sure what I want to read next, I pull this off the shelf and reread random sections to give me inspiration, make me laugh and think. Truly one of the favorite books in my collection. A book to reread many times. This extended, quirky essay is a unique take on the events of the 20th century. This view of the history of the world wars and life under totalitarianism is filled with truth, humor, irony, and consistently interesting perspectives. Whenever I'm between books and not sure what I want to read next, I pull this off the shelf and reread random sections to give me inspiration, make me laugh and think. Truly one of the favorite books in my collection.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Fede

    I was going to rate this one 3 stars for the originality, but then I came across this monstrosity (translation from the Italian edition is mine): "The aircraft was called Enola Gay and the pilot later explained to the journalists he had named it after his Irish grandma, as he thought it would be funny." This means the author is not only ignorant, but also a bullshitter. Irish grandma? Enola Gay was Paul Tibbets' MOTHER, you fuck. He named the aircraft after his MOTHER. * May I know when and where I was going to rate this one 3 stars for the originality, but then I came across this monstrosity (translation from the Italian edition is mine): "The aircraft was called Enola Gay and the pilot later explained to the journalists he had named it after his Irish grandma, as he thought it would be funny." This means the author is not only ignorant, but also a bullshitter. Irish grandma? Enola Gay was Paul Tibbets' MOTHER, you fuck. He named the aircraft after his MOTHER. * May I know when and where the interview you refer to was published? Because I doubt it even exists. That's when I started to realise this mercifully short book might very well be full of such crap. Hence the total lack of notes or at least a bibliography to corroborate the million references, or rather inventions of an author who doesn't seem to discern between history and histrionics. * "Enola Gay is mother proud of Little Boy today..." (OMD, "Enola Gay", 1980)

  6. 5 out of 5

    MJ Nicholls

    I'm not as drivellingly crazy about this as most Goodreaders seem to be, but it is a funny and horrifying little mini-history using Czech irony (such a thing exists) to make its impact. The history isn't presented in any logical order. Some parts juxtapose others, such as the Holocaust next to Bill Clinton's (non-)affair, or Dadaism beside detailed parts on eugenics and so on. The tone is slightly childish, most sentences starting with "and then . . . " as though being narrated by a grownup to a I'm not as drivellingly crazy about this as most Goodreaders seem to be, but it is a funny and horrifying little mini-history using Czech irony (such a thing exists) to make its impact. The history isn't presented in any logical order. Some parts juxtapose others, such as the Holocaust next to Bill Clinton's (non-)affair, or Dadaism beside detailed parts on eugenics and so on. The tone is slightly childish, most sentences starting with "and then . . . " as though being narrated by a grownup to a child. We're either encouraged to laugh at the absurdity of the world or see it as one elaborate joke. The result is a bizarre, funny and shocking (but not entirely useful) book.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan

    Conclusion: Human beings are ridiculous creatures.

  8. 5 out of 5

    J

    I wanted to love this. I really did. A detached voice recounting the horrors of the first half of the 20th century is like, my literary bread and butter. While Ourednik's style is delightfully informal, and his ability to show linkages and disparities between different events has a really strong sense of ironic timing, this kind of feels like a re-hash of so much I've already read about this particular time and mood of modern history from writers with far more powerful, obsessive visions. Sure, I wanted to love this. I really did. A detached voice recounting the horrors of the first half of the 20th century is like, my literary bread and butter. While Ourednik's style is delightfully informal, and his ability to show linkages and disparities between different events has a really strong sense of ironic timing, this kind of feels like a re-hash of so much I've already read about this particular time and mood of modern history from writers with far more powerful, obsessive visions. Sure, he's got the tar-black irreverence of people like Heller, Vonnegut and Celine and the sense of remembrance, of the importance of excavating the past, of writers like W.G. Sebald and Tony Judt, but this just seems like someone copying their ideas and styles instead of really propelling them into new terrain. Maybe I've just spent too much time with my nose buried in similar material to be shaken or impressed by more of it, even if it's well written, which Europeana is.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Living Belowtheclouds

    This is one of my favorite books ever. I recommend it. It is frenetic and I find humor in it. It makes me think about life and about human stupidity

  10. 4 out of 5

    Ed Erwin

    I gobbled this up in one bite. (It has set on my "currently reading" shelf for over a month because I wasn't ready to review it.) This is a very unusual history of Europe in the 2oth century. It covers all the important wars and revolutions, but never mentions Hitler, Stalin, Lenin, Churchill, Mussolini, Tito, or any other "big name" person. It mentions horrific events in the same tone of voice as marvelous wonders. It is as if it were a history written by an extra-terrestrial. One thing that mak I gobbled this up in one bite. (It has set on my "currently reading" shelf for over a month because I wasn't ready to review it.) This is a very unusual history of Europe in the 2oth century. It covers all the important wars and revolutions, but never mentions Hitler, Stalin, Lenin, Churchill, Mussolini, Tito, or any other "big name" person. It mentions horrific events in the same tone of voice as marvelous wonders. It is as if it were a history written by an extra-terrestrial. One thing that makes it special is that it doesn't go in linear order, but jumps back and forth, and even repeats itself at times. This is similar in effect to a technique used by surrealists. When you place different ideas next to each other in random order, the reader's mind will inevitably make connections between things. Connections that wouldn't arise except through those chance meetings. The back cover labels this as a "novel" and "fiction" but my library shelves it as non-fiction. I believe that everything in it is factually true. But the extremely emotionally-detached tone does make it read like fiction. The author is also the Czech translator of François Rabelais, Alfred Jarry, Raymond Queneau, Samuel Beckett, and Boris Vian, which should give you some idea of how his thoughts lean.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jason

    To think of this as a novel is probably a mistake. It's closer to a lyric essay, told in sections that explain in a detached voice (and therefore sometimes trivializes) the key events and ideologies of the twentieth century. Everything's here: WWI, WWII, Genocide, technologies, the Sixties, the Holocaust, Communism, etc. The prose ambles and moves seeming from thought to thought, not in a linear fashion but in the ways that our brain leaps from thought to thought. In other words, it's told in a To think of this as a novel is probably a mistake. It's closer to a lyric essay, told in sections that explain in a detached voice (and therefore sometimes trivializes) the key events and ideologies of the twentieth century. Everything's here: WWI, WWII, Genocide, technologies, the Sixties, the Holocaust, Communism, etc. The prose ambles and moves seeming from thought to thought, not in a linear fashion but in the ways that our brain leaps from thought to thought. In other words, it's told in a kind of stream of consciousness structure, and in the midst of very general historical discussion zeros into very specific and often obscure and surprising anecdotes that will make your skin crawl. Some of those stories are made up, but only some, which makes this book a novel, I suppose. Though most of these details are verifiable facts, however suspect that term is these days. Recommended for fans of: history, lyric essays, experimental fiction, Holocaust studies, and critics of the book ideas of the last century.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Marc

    Short, entertaining booklet in which the 20th century is summarized in a very original way: as a narrative in which facts are juxtaposed in a 'maelstrom' that highlights the absurdity of many developments. Nice, but not really captivating. Short, entertaining booklet in which the 20th century is summarized in a very original way: as a narrative in which facts are juxtaposed in a 'maelstrom' that highlights the absurdity of many developments. Nice, but not really captivating.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Simmons

    A swirling absurdist overview of a century in which every small step for man and giant leap for mankind is often mirrored by an equally grand step backward. How much of the 20th century can be celebrated, and how much bemoaned? Are we better off now than we used to be? By the time you read the final, devastating sentence of this unique, odd, and beguiling book, you may feel very unsure of the answers.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Mark Broadhead

    Europeana's subtitle is "A Brief History of the Twentieth Century". Not brief enough, I'd say. I didn't see the point of this experiment, other than to make Ourednik get up to speed on the last hundred years of factoids. To top it all, it isn't funny, it isn't interesting (if you know 20th century history at all), and it isn't literature (in the translation at least). Europeana's subtitle is "A Brief History of the Twentieth Century". Not brief enough, I'd say. I didn't see the point of this experiment, other than to make Ourednik get up to speed on the last hundred years of factoids. To top it all, it isn't funny, it isn't interesting (if you know 20th century history at all), and it isn't literature (in the translation at least).

  15. 4 out of 5

    Kobe Bryant

    Mostly depressing WW2 factoids

  16. 4 out of 5

    Ethan

    Europeana brilliantly employs the word “and” to devastating effect.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Tobias

    A short, artful "alien's-eye view" telling of the history of twentieth century in all its madness. A short, artful "alien's-eye view" telling of the history of twentieth century in all its madness.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Joseph

    Originally here: https://fxxfy.wordpress.com/2020/02/0... Patrik Ouředník’s “Europeana: A Brief History of the Twentieth Century” is the best novel about the Twentieth Century. Let me explain. I qualify “about” because the best novel of the Twentieth Century is obviously Ulysses. (I haven’t read Ulysses, but enough people whose opinions I trust have told me that it is the best, so I take this to be true.) But Ulysses was written in the innocent adolescence of a new age—the one cracked open by mach Originally here: https://fxxfy.wordpress.com/2020/02/0... Patrik Ouředník’s “Europeana: A Brief History of the Twentieth Century” is the best novel about the Twentieth Century. Let me explain. I qualify “about” because the best novel of the Twentieth Century is obviously Ulysses. (I haven’t read Ulysses, but enough people whose opinions I trust have told me that it is the best, so I take this to be true.) But Ulysses was written in the innocent adolescence of a new age—the one cracked open by machine manufacturing, the invention of the automobile and airplane, and the second founding of America with the settlement of the Civil War—when such a magisterial, imaginative, synthetic work full of style and possibility was still conceivable. After the two-phase internal collapse of Western civilization with the War to End All Wars followed by World War II, such an endeavor became self-evidently ridiculous: as the details of the otherworldly barbarity with which the German Sonderkommandos and the Red Army collaborated to turn Poland into a hellscape of human sacrifice slowly became available to the world’s reading public, it became immediately and undeniably incumbent upon any thinking person to stare the facts in the face and figure out what the hell happened. (Adorno’s famous remark about the impossibility of poetry after Auschwitz is silly if understood to be true for all time, but it was surely a sensible way to think in 1955.) Ouředník’s book does precisely this. It is assembled entirely out of dry, factual statements about a wide variety of events and developments taking place between 1914 and 1999—the formation and beliefs of the Jehovah’s witnesses, the creation of barbie dolls and the dawn of the consumer society, the dawn of New Age spirituality and the sexual revolution, painstakingly accurate descriptions of most of the century’s philosophical and theoretical schools, and above all the twin horrors of German National Socialism and Soviet Communism in Russia—held in parataxis as skillful as Solomon’s. But unlike Solomon, Ouředník never declares all to be vanity, nor does he need to: he suspends judgment and lets the century speak for itself in all its insanity, terror, and, on occasion, genuine hilarity. And in contrast to the 800-some pages of Joyce’s tome, “Europeana” is a slim volume of scarcely 100 pages, containing what lesser historians would require a thousand to adequately cover. Consider one representative passage: "In 1907 a Frenchman crossed the English Channel in a powered aircraft and in 1910 a Peruvian flew over the Italian Alps in a powered aircraft in and in 1911 the Italians used a powered aircraft in the war against Turkey and in 1914 aircraft designers figured out where to lace machine guns so that aircraft could fire at each other and in 1915 they figured out how to drop bombs from aircraft, and in 1945 the Americans invented the atom bomb and dropped it on a city called Hiroshima." At no point does Ouředník break from this “objective” voice to say that such a development is bad. Instead, he simply reports the consequences of the nuclear blast: alongside the gruesome image of “the school children who survived the explosion picked maggots out of patients’ wounds with chopsticks,” he tells us that “[p]eople who survived the explosion and the atomic diseases scared other members of the population because they looked like lepers and behaved like madmen,” which in its naïve truthfulness contains a jet black humor. And then he lets us know about the thinking of the age, characterizing the disputes of anti-atomic idealists and pro-bomb realists: "Afterwards a lot of people thought it had been gratuitous brutality to drop an atom bomb at the very end of the war, but military strategists said that if the Americans had not dropped it, someone else would have, because it had to be tried out at least once in real conditions in order to create a balance of terror as a guarantee against the outbreak of a third world war." For anyone with eyes to see, the judgment passes itself. Of course, it is inaccurate to call Ouředník’s book a “novel.” There is nothing fictitious about it, and in a more serious age we would consider this a new genre of experimental historiography much more fertile and interesting than most of the options currently on the table. Only on precisely two occasions does Ouředník allow himself miniscule poetic flourishes, made all the more poignant by their rarity: “And young people looked toward the future and the wind ruffled the ears of corn and the sun rose on the horizon.” The author’s commitment to objectivity demonstrates how any optimism about “the arc of history” dissolves in the acid bath of brutal, overwhelming facticity that is the Twentieth Century. The constant deluge of insane details occasionally grants the reading a dreamlike quality, much akin to reading a science fiction novel, just before the reality of what he is reporting comes crashing down. “And the Jehovah’s Witnesses said that smoking and alcohol soil the blood,” he tells us, “and they refused to eat black pudding and blood sausage and refused blood transfusions because the mixing of blood contradicted divine ordinances, just like the consumption of blood sausage or alcohol or extramarital sex.” Silly enough, and yet another contribution to the laundry list of kooky new religions that emerged in the primordial soup of the late 19th century. But in the next sentence, the hammer falls: “And they refused to enlist in the army and said that they belonged to the Kingdom of God and worldly matters were no concern of theirs, and many of them died in the concentration camps in Germany and the Soviet Union because their attitude subverted the revolutionary ideal and propagated asocial and counterrevolutionary ideas in society.” The Twentieth Century was an age of contradictions: it matched childish, naïve optimism about the possibility of human freedom—from God, from morality, from the Earth, from responsibility to one another, from all internal and external limitations placed on the human animal—with a rapid and gleeful development of techniques and technologies of barbarity that makes Caligula’s Rome look utopian by comparison. “Europeana” is a gift because it clarifies for us the fact that practically nothing from the period can be clarified, and reminds us that many of the learn’d experts who try to do so would have been (if they weren’t already, in reality) willing architects of the century’s most grotesque and dehumanizing innovations.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Ville Verkkapuro

    An extremely well-edited and nicely flowing history of the world we live in. This was a vortex of information. Insightful, informative, funny. Very funny. But extremely sad and maybe most of all terrifying. I simply love simplifying. Like what Kurt Vonnegut said about literature: it's all about what a bummer it is to be a human being. It's completely true. Editing is a crazy thing. Everything we perceive is not the truth and also nothing but the truth. "Life,” wrote Charles Spencer Chaplin, “is a tr An extremely well-edited and nicely flowing history of the world we live in. This was a vortex of information. Insightful, informative, funny. Very funny. But extremely sad and maybe most of all terrifying. I simply love simplifying. Like what Kurt Vonnegut said about literature: it's all about what a bummer it is to be a human being. It's completely true. Editing is a crazy thing. Everything we perceive is not the truth and also nothing but the truth. "Life,” wrote Charles Spencer Chaplin, “is a tragedy when seen in close-up, but a comedy in long-shot." Nothing describes this book better.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Vampire Who Baked

    Behind the façade of facetiousness and black humour, this book carries a lot of weight, about history and historical memory and the conflicts between the historical memories of various communities. Instead of being a chronology of events, this book is more of a cyclic faux-chronology of contexts, all presented in a higgledy-piggledy David Markson-esque confused mass of recurring factoids. What really works for this book is the decidedly casual, detached tone in which the author describes the mos Behind the façade of facetiousness and black humour, this book carries a lot of weight, about history and historical memory and the conflicts between the historical memories of various communities. Instead of being a chronology of events, this book is more of a cyclic faux-chronology of contexts, all presented in a higgledy-piggledy David Markson-esque confused mass of recurring factoids. What really works for this book is the decidedly casual, detached tone in which the author describes the most horrific of events and ideas-- a technique that lends itself to be seen either as high satire, or as deadpan dark humour, or as a caricature of the readiness with which individuals and societies carried out the most heinous crimes, or as severe opprobrium on humanity that such events were ever allowed to take place. For example, right after describing how the fat from Jewish corpses were used to make soap during the Holocaust, the author proceeds to calmly provide a recipe for the soap, enumerating all the steps in gory detail. You might think-- how can you be so blasé about describing something so grotesque? But then you remember, an entire society had already carried out everything that was being spoken of, with the utmost casualness. Someone had to devise that recipe. Many had to follow that recipe day in and day out, from extracting the fat to the final step of adding the fragrance to remove the odour from the soap. And an entire country had to then use that soap knowing where it came from-- maybe not everyone used that soap, but does it make a difference? In a sense, the book describes the mundane, everyday nature of the darkness present in humanity and society as a whole-- not just the Holocaust, but all the wars and genocides before and after. Years after an event, it is comforting to relegate it to the dust-heap of the past-- to see it simply as a sequence of happenings too far away to understand or empathise with, occurring one after the other as if in a scripted narrative, with daily life brought to a halt in service of history. Well, the Holocaust did not happen in place of daily life, the Holocaust was daily life. And that is a disturbing thought-- a very disturbing thought. And to think that you were laughing with glee at the writing just moments before this realisation hit you.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Ben Loory

    But other historians said that the twentieth century actually started earlier, that it began with the industrial revolution that disrupted the traditional world and that all this was the fault of locomotives and steamships. And yet others said that the twentieth century began when it was discovered that people come from apes and some people said they were less related to apes because they had developed more quickly. Then people started comparing languages and speculating about who had the most a But other historians said that the twentieth century actually started earlier, that it began with the industrial revolution that disrupted the traditional world and that all this was the fault of locomotives and steamships. And yet others said that the twentieth century began when it was discovered that people come from apes and some people said they were less related to apes because they had developed more quickly. Then people started comparing languages and speculating about who had the most advanced languages and who had moved furthest along the path of civilization. The majority thought it was the French because all sorts of interesting things happened in France and the French knew how to converse and used conjunctives and the pluperfect conditional and smiled at women seductively and women danced the cancan and painters invented impressions. But the Germans said that genuine civilization had to be simple and close to the people and that they had invented Romanticism and lots of German poets had written about love, and about the valleys where there lay mists. The Germans said they were the natural upholders of European civilization because they knew how to make war and carry on trade, and also to organize convivial entertainments. And they said the French were vain and the English were haughty and the Slavs did not have a proper language and language is the soul of a nation and Slavs did not need any nation or state because it would only confuse them. And the Slavs, on the other hand, said this was not true, that in fact their language was the oldest of all, and they could prove it. And the Germans called the French WORM EATERS and the French called the Germans CABBAGE HEADS. And the Russians said that the whole of Europe was decadent and that the Catholics and Protestants had completely ruined Europe and they proposed to throw the Turks out of Constantinople and then annex Europe so as to preserve the faith.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Gabriel

    Inside, Ourednik has put together, in page-long sections, capsule histories of the progress of events in Europe in the 20th century. These capsule histories are not randomly assembled, but neither are they sequential or otherwise "logically" structured (i.e., the structure itself is what differentiates this from capital-H History). The most interesting thing here is the book's classification as "Fiction." If the structure is what keeps it from being History, is it Ourednik's selection of events Inside, Ourednik has put together, in page-long sections, capsule histories of the progress of events in Europe in the 20th century. These capsule histories are not randomly assembled, but neither are they sequential or otherwise "logically" structured (i.e., the structure itself is what differentiates this from capital-H History). The most interesting thing here is the book's classification as "Fiction." If the structure is what keeps it from being History, is it Ourednik's selection of events that makes it Fiction? It is a bit strange to find myself saying that the most interesting part of a book that I liked, and enjoyed reading, so thoroughly as I did this one is, really, outside of the book after all, but because many of Ourednik's sections have to do with the way that History is perceived while it is being lived (as history), it was clearly intentional. In this sense, the book brings History down to history, but it also manages to do something else-- the novel as "history" (think of the 18th c. authors here, Fielding et al.) of a single man (or woman, or men, or women) standing in for Man in order to better encompass the time is exploded, and the myth stood on its head. By the end of it, we come to recognize "Germany" or "France" as a character just as "Tom Swift" or "Pip." But then, that is precisely what we must do when we are confronted by History.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Vaiva Sapetkaitė

    I liked the idea of this book, but actually later it gets monotonic. So at the beginning I was cheering that it is a wonderful book, later understood that the same things are intertangled over and over again and finally I just wanted to finish it faster :) Anyway, I am glad that I read "Europeana", because it is a good reminder of history and sometimes an absurd and irony of it. I liked the idea of this book, but actually later it gets monotonic. So at the beginning I was cheering that it is a wonderful book, later understood that the same things are intertangled over and over again and finally I just wanted to finish it faster :) Anyway, I am glad that I read "Europeana", because it is a good reminder of history and sometimes an absurd and irony of it.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Angela Woodward

    I loved its repetitive moves through the same hundred years, pulling different strands, though often the same strand over again with slight variations. Time is compressed and elongated all at once as we drift back and forth from 1914 to 2014. Beautiful without being pretty, personal despite the utter absence of narrator.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Neil Godfrey

    Just about every other sentence begins with "And." And I liked it! Just about every other sentence begins with "And." And I liked it!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jackie

    Dismal and unconventional but honestly brilliant.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Aurora

    A strange and fascinating little book about the horrors and absurdities of the twentieth century.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jordan

    - I wonder how much of the anecdotes in the book are fictional, and how much comes from research. Some of them are so specific, and some are things I think I've heard before, but I can't really be sure. It's strange. - I enjoyed the book. I felt like it was somewhat ungrounded, in that it seemed to be perpetuating the norms from the 19th century, the normative categories of nation and people-as-nation, those stereotypes, but maybe that's a misread or a reaction. - It seems specifically against ma - I wonder how much of the anecdotes in the book are fictional, and how much comes from research. Some of them are so specific, and some are things I think I've heard before, but I can't really be sure. It's strange. - I enjoyed the book. I felt like it was somewhat ungrounded, in that it seemed to be perpetuating the norms from the 19th century, the normative categories of nation and people-as-nation, those stereotypes, but maybe that's a misread or a reaction. - It seems specifically against making philosophy and abstract ideas interpretable or very useful at all. Instead, it wants to say what happened. Who died, where, how. It doesn't spend much time describing the differences in power, of the leaders of democratic institutions or the leaders of Communist or fascist governments or anything. It doesn't talk about that really at all, which to me is a main focal point of the 20th century. - Reading the history of the 20th century laid out this way, tracing it like spaghetti in a bowl, is a good exercise. It's one of those things that for better or worse feels like a communion with history.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Amin Alizadeh

    Description of the 20th century of the west and mostly Europe, using the association of words and phrases and no with a timeline or any other kind of logic. This is not a useful book if you have not previously been familiar with the history of the 20th century in Europe. On the other hand for those who have had previous readings in this field, this book does not have anything new probably as it is not a profound one. However, it does have some brilliant descriptions and presents direful scenes. I Description of the 20th century of the west and mostly Europe, using the association of words and phrases and no with a timeline or any other kind of logic. This is not a useful book if you have not previously been familiar with the history of the 20th century in Europe. On the other hand for those who have had previous readings in this field, this book does not have anything new probably as it is not a profound one. However, it does have some brilliant descriptions and presents direful scenes. I, here, share the most stirring one I found with you. It is about the deliberate famine in the Soviet Union. "And six million people died of hunger. And some people hid the corpses of their neighbors and sold them on the black market or to their neighbors, and for the money they received they bought meat from other corpses because they did not want to eat the flesh of those with whom they had possibly spent a pleasant time in the past."

  30. 4 out of 5

    John M.

    This is a jazzy book, even if it does talk about pleasant things like the Holocaust and the horrors of WWI trench warfare. Basically, it's an uninterrupted stream of facts (some it's hard to tell whether they're true or not) about major events and philosophies of the twentieth century. It's jazzy because of the way it's written, with certain facts popping up every so often, like musical motif in a jazz quartet. I really like experimental books like this, with a large breadth covered in a short t This is a jazzy book, even if it does talk about pleasant things like the Holocaust and the horrors of WWI trench warfare. Basically, it's an uninterrupted stream of facts (some it's hard to tell whether they're true or not) about major events and philosophies of the twentieth century. It's jazzy because of the way it's written, with certain facts popping up every so often, like musical motif in a jazz quartet. I really like experimental books like this, with a large breadth covered in a short time, like Autoportrait or I Remember. Ourednik has a gift for creating droll observations like, "And every year some hunter killed another hunter instead of a wild boar by mistake and the other hunters joined together and bought his widow a new washing machine or something similarly useful for the home." If you like dark wry cynicism, you should check this out. Other times, his Ourednik's offhand style can make disturbing facts stick in the mind, like the stuff about the Nazi lampshades made with human skin and the dolls with human hair. He has a certain distaste for philosophies that claim to explain the entirety of the human experience and often counterbalances them against one another to show their absurdity, taking special care to lovingly shit on Communism and psychoanalysis. It's difficult to tell what the author truly believes, but I got a hopeful message from the book, despite the cynicism: that horrible things may happen and different ideas to explain horrible things will rise and fall in popularity, but people will continue to live and evolve and overcome and make history and that's what's important.

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