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The Library of Babel

A Spin-off of http://bookwormshead.blogspot.co.uk

Anne Applebaum - Between East and West

Between East and West: Across the Borderlands of Europe - Anne Applebaum

Stunning travelogue from Kaliningrad to Odessa passing through Poland, Lithuania, Belarus, and Moldova including a bunch of places called in three or four different names at the same time once belonging to Hungary, Romania and former Czechoslovakia.

For those who are interested in digging deeper into these fascinating - if often forgotten - places, the Polish journalist Andrzej Stasiuk travelled on a similar route in his On the Road to Babadag a decade or so later.

And yet I have to reckon Between East and West is much much better than the excellent Babadag.

The year is 1991 and Anne Applebaum writes with the keen eye of a skilled reporter, the deep knowledge of a masterful historian and the flawless humor of a talented novelist.

And, what's more, Ms Applebaum (who married the Polish Foreign Affairs Minister Radek 'Twitter' Sikorski and now entertains herself writing books on Polish traditional cuisine...sic transit gloria mundi) doesn't make confusion at all. She is as knowledgeable about the writings by Bruno Schulz and Gregor von Rezzori as she masters the political and economic intrigues of post-communist countries.

Either if you're looking for something profound and engaging about that dreadful place named Kaliningrad (formerly Koenigsberg) or if you want to learn more about the sentimental life of Adam Mickiewicz - the poet on whose patriotism Poles and Lithuanians still quarrels for - there cannot be anything better than this.

PS: Just one remark for Anne Applebaum: Koenigsberg was heavily bombed and almost completely destroyed by the RAF well before the Red Army conquered the town. The author here doesn't mention the British bombing at all and that's a strange omission.