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Year Zero: A History of 1945by Ian Buruma
Synopses & Reviews
A marvelous global history of the pivotal year 1945 as a new world emerged from the ruins of World War II
Year Zero is a landmark reckoning with the great drama that ensued after war came to an end in 1945. One world had ended and a new, uncertain one was beginning. Regime change had come on a global scale: across Asia (including China, Korea, Indochina, and the Philippines, and of course Japan) and all of continental Europe. Out of the often vicious power struggles that ensued emerged the modern world as we know it.
In human terms, the scale of transformation is almost impossible to imagine. Great cities around the world lay in ruins, their populations decimated, displaced, starving. Harsh revenge was meted out on a wide scale, and the ground was laid for much horror to come. At the same time, in the wake of unspeakable loss, the euphoria of the liberated was extraordinary, and the revelry unprecedented. The postwar years gave rise to the European welfare state, the United Nations, decolonization, Japanese pacifism, and the European Union. Social, cultural, and political reeducation” was imposed on vanquished by victors on a scale that also had no historical precedent. Much that was done was ill advised, but in hindsight, as Ian Buruma shows us, these efforts were in fact relatively enlightened, humane, and effective.
A poignant grace note throughout this history is Burumas own fathers story. Seized by the Nazis during the occupation of Holland, he spent much of the war in Berlin as a laborer, and by wars end was literally hiding in the rubble of a flattened city, having barely managed to survive starvation rations, Allied bombing, and Soviet shock troops when the end came. His journey home and attempted reentry into normalcy” stand in many ways for his generations experience.
A work of enormous range and stirring human drama, conjuring both the Asian and European theaters with equal fluency, Year Zero is a book that Ian Buruma is perhaps uniquely positioned to write. It is surely his masterpiece.
"An account of the decisive first moment of the modern world, Buruma's (The China Lover, Occidentalism) history explores the nascent social and political forces that later influenced the Cold War and post — colonial movements and ultimately defined the latter half of the 20th century. Starting with a world ruined by war, Buruma moves adeptly from describing the elation of victory and the desire for revenge to the Allies' attempts to reform societies by eliminating all traces of militarism or fascism and establishing a European welfare state, as destroyed cities are rebuilt and fallen nations reimagined. Despite the growing sense of optimism and confidence of the time, men and women still starved, justice was delayed and soldiers and refugees returned home to find themselves unwanted. Equally critical of the victors and the vanquished, Buruma takes great pains to document the brutality and cruelty committed around the world. Rooted in first-person accounts — most notably, the author's own father, a Dutch student forced into labor by the Nazis — Buruma's compelling book manages to be simultaneously global in its scope and utterly human in its concerns. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Ian Buruma is the Luce Professor of Democracy, Human Rights, and Journalism at Bard College. His previous books include The China Lover, Murder in Amsterdam, Occidentalism, God's Dust, Behind the Mask, The Wages of Guilt, Bad Elements, and Taming the Gods.
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