Goodbye, Eastern Europe: An Intimate History of a Divided Land (Hardcover)

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Goodbye, Eastern Europe: An Intimate History of a Divided Land (Hardcover)


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In light of Russia's aggressive 2022 invasion of Ukraine, Goodbye, Eastern Europe is a crucial, elucidative read, a sweeping epic chronicling a thousand years of strife, war, and bloodshed, from pre-Christianity to the fall of Communism—illuminating the remarkable cultural significance and richness of a place perpetually lost to the margins of history.

Eastern Europe, the moniker, has gone out of fashion since the fall of the Soviet Union. Ask someone now, and they might tell you that Estonia is in the Baltics, or Scandinavia, that Slovakia is in Central Europe and Croatia is in the Eastern Adriatic or the Balkans. In fact, Eastern Europe is a place that barely exists at all, except in cultural memory. Yet it remains a powerful marker of identity for many, with a fragmented and wide history, defined by texts, myths, and memories of centuries of hardship and suffering.

Goodbye, Eastern Europe is a masterful narrative about a place that has survived the brink of being forgotten. Beginning with long-lost accounts of early pagan life, Mikanowski offers a kaleidoscopic tour recounting the rise and fall of the great empires—Ottoman, Hapsburg, and Russian—the dawn of the modern era, the ravages of Fascism and Communism, as well as Capitalism, the birth of the modern nation-state, and more. A student of literature, history, and the ghosts of his own family’s past, Mikanowski paints a magisterial portrait of a place united by diversity, and eclecticism, and a people with the shared story of being the dominated rather than the dominating.

The result is a loving and ebullient celebration of the distinctive and vibrant cultures that stubbornly persisted at the margins of Western Europe, and a powerful corrective that re-centers our understanding of how the modern Western world took shape.
JACOB MIKANOWSKI is a historian, a freelance journalist and a critic. His writing has appeared in The Atlantic, Aeon, Cabinet, The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Guardian, The New York Times,, The Point, The Awl, Atlas Obscura, Slate and the Los Angeles Review of Books, and elsewhere. He lives in Berkeley, CA.

Product Details ISBN: 9781524748500
ISBN-10: 1524748501
Publisher: Pantheon
Publication Date: July 18th, 2023
Pages: 400
Language: English
A Best Book of the Summer from Bloomberg

“This phenomenal debut from journalist and historian Mikanowski is partly a nostalgic attempt to preserve the culture of a disappearing region and partly a boisterous defense of its legacy. . . . Gripping . . . informative, deeply engaging. . . . this timely book will appeal to readers seeking a fresh take on European history.”
Library Journal, starred review

“The last millennium hasn’t been kind to people living in the area we call Eastern Europe. . . . [Mikanowski] has timed his book all too well: After a post-Soviet period of relative calm, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has brought the unlucky region into the spotlight once again.”
Bloomberg, “Summer’s Best New Books Tackle War, Theft and Scandal on the Beach”

“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

“With the war in Ukraine, Eastern Europe is once again helping determine the world’s future, as it did at several key moments in the 20th 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, author of The Blessing and the Curse: The Jewish People and Their Books in the Twentieth Century

“Ambitious. . . . stunning. . . . 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

“An epic history. . . . of a part of the world too often ignored, told with vigor, color, and authority.”
Kirkus Reviews

“This wonderful book is a firework display: an unforgettable flash of forgotten past, black humour, wild messianic cult or genocidal horror bursts out of almost every page. Mikanowski, whose own dangerously hybrid family emerged from what he calls this “landscape of rapturous diversity,” has written a chronicle rather than a history, a narrative of Eastern Europe which is about personal experiences rather than the crimes and glories of its leaders. He is a master raconteur whose anecdotes show that grotesque events are serious as well as comic. It matters that Hucul people thought God made the world out of cream. It is not just laughable that Baron von Chaos was put in charge of the Habsburg royal mint (which he promptly embezzled). 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
“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 The Iron Curtain

“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 Light in the Distance

“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 civilization 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