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Robert D. Kaplan has chosen to focus his career on understanding Romania and surrounding countries. Why? Because he pretty much had the area to himself, he says, while others were focusing on the Middle East and other hotspots. Nobody spent time in Bucharest, much less Moldova or the other nearby territories. This could be used as an excuse for a shallow, touristy overview of the region, but Kaplan has ended up writing a book with depth and thoughtfulness.
Kaplan focuses on Romania from the 1930s through World War II, Communism and the fall of the Soviet Union. He philosophizes at length on the meaning of nationalism, ethnic identity and individualism. He writes coolly about the horrors that have been visited upon the country and its people, by both the fascist leadership in World War II and the Communists under Ceaucescu and his predecessor--as well as invaders in prior centuries. He repeatedly returns to the risks facing Romania today, primarily from Vladimir Putin's Russia, which seeks to destabilize its neighbors to prevent them from allying too strongly with the West or becoming a threat to Russian power.
While the book is dense with ideas, it is not always easy listening. I frequently found my attention wandering as Kaplan described the works of yet another scholar or his visit to yet another Romanian town. Listening to the book, you miss the illustrations which might provide some color. (I sometimes went online to look at the maps to see where he was--but that's not easy when you are listening in a car.)
Paul Boehmer, the narrator, did an excellent job with pronunciations (I assume), but his style was somewhat dry, like a college professor giving the same lectures for the tenth time.
6 of 7 people found this review helpful
Past, present and a possible future due to the geopolitical location of Romania. A book that you should read/listen even if you are the biggest Romanian nationalist!
clearly written by someone who knows and loves Romania. fascinating and easy to listen to.