1947 Where Now Begins

Review From User :

Rather than taking a year and giving a full account of what happened during it, this book is something slightly different. Yes, the year is split by months; , but, while it is certainly factual, it is also full of poetic writing and is also quite personal at times. Although the book has a worldwide perspective, it is Eurocentric and takes a cast of characters (some you will have heard of, such as Christian Dior, Primo Levi and Simone de Beuvoir, while others are less well known, such as Raphael Lemkin) through the events of a traumatic and compelling period of history.

In 1947 the war may have finished, but Europe was in turmoil. The Cold War was beginning, a battered England threw up its hands and abandoned both Palestine and India, leaving Palestine to become someone else's problem, and leading to the partition of India. It could also no longer provide support to Iran, Turkey and Greece to hold off Soviet Intervention; directly leading to America having to step up and take over Britain's role. As America offered to provide support to a Europe left with bombed cities and displaced people, the Soviet Union prevented Eastern Europe from receiving aid, widening the division between East and West.

It was a time of upheaval, conflict, movement and, yet, optimism (as well as changes in fashion and music, Thomas Mann releases "Doctor Faustus" and George Orwell is hidden away writing "1984"). When Raphael Lemkin fought to have the concept of genocide accepted legally, while it was first used (although not in legal existence) at the Neuremberg trials that year. With ex-Nazi's fleeing to South America, many of those who survived the concentration camps found they were unwanted by America and Britain and tried to make it to Palestine. In all European countries, the war was still very close and very emotional. As Primo Levi attempted to publish his memoirs of his time in Auschwitz, his was a story that nobody was yet ready to hear and Holocaust deniers were already in existence, while Germany struggled to find a meaning to their recent history and dreamed of a united Europe.

This then is the chaotic world that Elisabeth Åsbrink writes about. A time of change, where much that happened then still resounds today. For example, she tells of Hasan al-Banna, who started the Muslim Brotherhood and pushed for Jihad in Palestine. Those problems, in India and the Middle East, have their beginnings in events in 1947, when rushed, poorly made decisions, led to chaotic beginnings and troubled histories. It is also the beginning of the Cold War, with the Un-American Activities Committee in the States, the Soviet Union tightening its grip on Eastern countries and a Europe coming to terms with the aftermath of the war. If you feel that 2017 has been a year when so much happened that you cannot quite get to grips with it, then perhaps this book will help both explain the past and help you understand the present.


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