Synopses & Reviews
Wilhelm Von Habsburg wore the uniform of the Austrian officer, the court regalia of a Habsburg archduke, the simple suit of a Parisian exile, the collar of the Order of the Golden Fleece, and, every so often, a dress. He could handle a saber, a pistol, a rudder, or a golf club; he handled women by necessity and men for pleasure. He spoke the Italian of his archduchess mother, the German of his archduke father, the English of his British royal friends, the Polish of the country his father wished to rule, and the Ukrainian of the land Wilhelm wished to rule himself.
In this exhilarating narrative history, prize-winning historian Timothy D. Snyder offers an indelible portrait of an aristocrat whose life personifies the wrenching upheavals of the first half of the twentieth century, as the rule of empire gave way to the new politics of nationalism. Coming of age during the First World War, Wilhelm repudiated his family to fight alongside Ukrainian peasants in hopes that he would become their king. When this dream collapsed he became, by turns, an ally of German imperialists, a notorious French lover, an angry Austrian monarchist, a calm opponent of Hitler, and a British spy against Stalin.
Played out in Europe's glittering capitals and bloody battlefields, in extravagant ski resorts and dank prison cells, The Red Prince captures an extraordinary moment in the history of Europe, in which the old order of the past was giving way to an undefined future and in which everything, including identity itself, seemed up for grabs.
"Part of the family that ruled much of central Europe since 1273, Wilhelm von Habsburg (18951949) came of age during the last 23 years of the dynasty's rule. Von Habsburg lived a nomadic and tragic life; he was a bisexual and a political chameleon (including a brief pro-Nazi period) who was implicated in a major financial scandal in Paris during the 1930s. But during WWI, he had become a fervent Ukrainian nationalist, and this became his life's one constant, culminating with efforts to help formerly pro-German Ukraine turn to the West at the end of WWII. As Yale historian Snyder (Sketches from a Secret War) shows, his efforts were futile; he was charged by the Soviets with spying and died in prison. Snyder hews closely to his subject, so that the complexities of 20th-century Ukrainian history sometimes get short shrift, e.g., he devotes only two sentences to the 1933 'terror famine' that killed three million peasants. Generally, though, this is an interesting biography of a man whose colorful life embodied many of the tensions that plagued Europe in the early 20th century. Illus., maps. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Snyder deftly handles the still-thorny questions about national and sexual identity embodied in this single, remarkable life." Kirkus Reviews
"Here is a master historian at work patient, determined, scrupulous and smart. And how many times a year am I told a story that I've never even heard of? Not often. So, caution, highly addictive!" Alan Furst, author of The Polish Officer and The Foreign Correspondent
"Timothy Snyder has already shown that he has a masterly intellectual grasp of complex issues such as the identity problems of Central and Eastern Europe. He now demonstrates that he can tell a good tale: lucidly, briskly and seductively. The Red Prince delves into areas of history with which most western readers will be unfamiliar. In consequence, it educates as it informs as it entertains." Norman Davies, author of No Simple Victory: World War II in Europe 1939-1945
"The Red Prince must be devoured by anyone who has any interest in the history of Central and Eastern Europe. But the radius of this book ought to reach beyond that. This is a radiant combination of stunning research, worldly knowledge, and good writing. A very rare achievement." John Lukacs, author of Five Days in London
"Timothy Snyder is one of the most remarkable and original historians of Eastern Europe of his generation. His work commands our attention." Timothy Garton Ash, author of Free World and The Polish Revolution
"Timothy Snyder is not only one of the leading authorities on Central European history writing today, he is also an elegant stylist, with a talent for storytelling a wonderful combination." Anne Applebaum, author of the Pulitzer prize-winning Gulag
"Not long ago, Ukrainians polled on behalf of a television show were asked to identify 'The Greatest Ukrainian.' Lenin, whose likeness once disfigured every Soviet-bloc square or railway station, finished in twenty-third place, behind Nikolai Gogol, author of Dead Souls
. Perhaps inevitably, a row broke out between supporters of Yaroslav the Wise, eleventh-century prince of Kievan Rus, who came first, and those of Stepan Bandera, leader of the resistance to both Nazi and Soviet rule, who was poisoned on orders from Moscow in 1959. The Bandera camp claimed that Prince Yaroslav, celebrated during the Soviet era as an acceptable (because long dead) specimen of Ukraine Man, had won by means of a last-minute surge in computerized phone-in votes. Angry Bandera supporters contacted the BBC, which had designed the format of the contest, to complain that their hero hadn't received his rightful due." Nicholas Fraser, Harper's Magazine
(Read the entire Harper's review
In this exhilarating narrative, prize-winning historian Snyder offers an indelible portrait of Wilhelm von Habsburg whose life personifies the wrenching upheavals of the first half of the 20th century, as the rule of empire gave way to the new politics of nationalism. 20 b&w photos and maps.
From the palaces of the Habsburg Empire to the torture chambers of Stalins Soviet Union, the extraordinary story of a life suspended between the collapse of the imperial order and the violent emergence of modern Europe
About the Author
Timothy D. Snyder is Professor of History at Yale University. He received his doctorate from the University of Oxford in 1997, and has held fellowships in Paris, Vienna, Warsaw, and at Harvard. He won the George Louis Beer Prize of the American Historical Association in 2003 for his book The Reconstruction of Nations, and his most recent book, Sketches From a Secret War, was awarded the Pro Historia Polonorum by the First Congress of Foreign Researchers of Poland for the best book on Polish history by a foreign author published in the preceding five years. He lives in New Haven, Connecticut.