Monday, June 9, 2014

Year Zero: History of 1945 by Ian Buruma (2013)

There are certain years when history-wise and world-wise, everything starts all over again.  312 (Constantine converted to Christianity) or 1815 (Waterloo) are good examples; 1865 (for the United States at least) is another.  2001 was another "year zero;" the previous one (sidestepping the turbulent year of 1968) was 1945, the year World War II ended.  Buruman's book isn't a chronology of that year; rather is a historic and sociological study, a wide shot of 1945 and what it meant then, and what it possibly means now.  It's an intelligent book; I have always liked Buruma's probing writing style, and I've always found his writing to have depth that's quite interesting.  This isn't a romantic Greatest Generation look at the end of the war either.

Year Zero: A History of 1945Year Zero: A History of 1945 by Ian Buruma
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There are certain years in which everything history-wise turns back to zero - 1815 is a good world wide example; 1865 is a good American example.  2001 was probably the latest Year Zero.  Buruma's book is about 1945, the year World War II ended.  This isn't a chronological study of the year though; and it's not a Greatest Generation romantic look a the time period either.  Rather, it's a probing, analytical look at the history and sociology; Buruma's peels back some layers of Europe, Asia, Russia and the United States, sometimes exposing some dark unpleasantness that mirrors the black horrors of the war itself.  I've liked Buruma's writing style in the past (Murder in Amsterdam: The Death of Theo van Gogh and the Limits of Tolerance was a great look at the paths modern Europe is currently trodding upon) and I thought this one was quite engrossing.


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