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Forgotten Land: Journeys Among the Ghosts of East Prussia Paperback – 12 Apr 2012

3.9 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; Reprints edition (12 April 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330456601
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330456609
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.3 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 225,960 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

Praise for "Siegfried Sassoon"
"This is it. The thoroughly authentic, artistically intelligent biography we've been waiting for. The book is refreshingly rich and subtle as well as psychologically acute. Thank you, Max Egremont." --Paul Fussell, author of "The Great War and Modern Memory"

Praise for "Forgotten Land"

"Memory, its suppression and manipulation, is a recurrent theme in this original book . . . Egremont has written a book that tries to make sense of this history--not as a single, chronological narrative, but as a sequence of short, interconnected essays in which measured reflections, portraits of the leading political and cultural figures, and conversations with exiles from this 'forgotten land' are interwoven. Egremont's allusive prose style seems to echo these multiple perspectives, changing frontiers, blurred racial identities, shifting allegiances and the mass movement of peoples--a story for our time." Richard Calvocoressi, "The New Statesman"

"The book's canvas is remarkable . . . Egremont's compelling tale exploits his boundless intellectual curiosity, mastery of German and eye for whimsy as well as tragedy. I know enough of the story he tells to appreciate how much he has discovered that is quite unfamiliar to Anglo-Saxon readers . . . his literary journey through its past makes fascinating reading." --Max Hastings, "Sunday Times" (UK)

"East Prussia is Germany's lost province, in national memory the place of Immanuel Kant, honorable nationalism, and military strength. Max Egremont has captured the spirit of the land and its people." --Professor Roger Louis

'A masterwork on a region that is at risk of becoming lost in the mists of history.'--Pennant magazine

'Carved up between Russia and Poland after the Second World War, Prussia casts a sorrowful spell in this non-fiction curio which uneasily blends engrossing history with threadbare travelogue.'
--Sunday Telegraph

Book Description

Following his highly successful life of Sassoon, Max Egremont turns his attention to a world that has vanished into history.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
For those of us who have grown up in the westernmost parts of Europe, it is completely impossible to imagine how it feels for people literally to find their country has disappeared off the map, to be driven from their land and see a foreign nation occupy their homes. Over the last century perhaps nowhere in Europe has this been more traumatically experienced than in East Prussia, which abruptly ceased to exist at the end of WWII, when Britain and the United States agreed to Stalin's demand that this territory should become a spoil of war.

Two-thirds of East Prussia were absorbed by Poland and the remaining northern third became a new region of Russia, to be renamed as Kaliningrad, after a senior Russian political figure (who died without ever setting foot there). For many years, Kaliningrad was a closed region - off-limits to all foreigners (except favoured anti-Western "freedom fighters" and their ilk) and most Russians, for the region was turned into a huge military base - the headquarters of the Soviet Baltic Fleet and home to hundreds of thousands of troops occupying the closest Russian territory to NATO forces, immediately behind the Warsaw Pact frontline.

And then everything changed. The Soviet Union collapsed and, with the independence of the Baltic States and Belarus from the former USSR, Kaliningrad found itself cut off from the Russian mainland, separated from the motherland by two foreign countries, whichever route (other than by air) people chose to take. In the early 1990s the future of Kaliningrad became a hot topic for western and, indeed, Russian analysts, researchers, diplomats, politicians and others.
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Format: Hardcover
In Forgotten Land, Max Egremont describes his travels among the old lands of East Prussia, bringing to the task a deep knowledge of modern history and the proficiency of an experienced writer. The book is a mixture of history, travel-writing and personal interviews, a fascinating mix which builds up a compelling picture of these lands and the changes that the last couple of centuries, particularly the post-Second World War settlement, have brought to them.

For after the Second World War, the lands of East Prussia were parcelled out between Russia and Poland. Those of the German population who could, fled westwards in the face of the retributive zeal of the advancing Russian troops. Many others were recruited as forced labour by the Russians and found themselves in the Gulag system. Towns and cities were renamed, gravestones were used as paving stones and so far as was possible, all traces of German residency were obliterated.

While the lands of East Prussia have buried their German past, it is perhaps Kaliningrad which shows the most dramatic change since it was the German city-port of Königsberg. With the fall of the Soviet Empire in 1989 the territory around Kaliningrad has been part of the Russian Federation but has had no land connection to the rest of Russia. When Max Egremont visited it in 1992 he found it "a parody of Soviet planning, with cracked concrete, cratered streets, people bend against the cold and wet . . .". In the post-Soviet age he finds "black limousines and dark-suited security guards . . . wait outside the Kaliningrad clubs, restaurants and hotels; the show of money mocks any idea of communism".
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Fascinating history of a haunted area of Europe ,sadly forgotten. The book makes me keen to visit this mysterious landscape.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Despite having German contacts and also having a good knowledge of the broad sweep of German history, (or maybe because of those aspects) I found this to be a riveting book, perhaps because of the way it's written; I quite liked the "butterfly approach", finding out certain things about Käthe Kollwitz but not all in one go. The characters may have been largely coming from the ranks of "the great and the good" but they also had an awareness of things larger than themselves. Above all, the book and the memories highlight the tragedy Germans inflicted upon themselves with the permanent loss of the East (For the history of this, read "Germany 1945, by Richard Bessel). Whatever the feelings of 'they had it coming", the nature and extent of the expulsion is a sad tragedy in itself. Fortunately, the book also highlights the post-Communist era of seeking a kind of resolution/greater understanding of the German dimension to this area. This is one of the most interesting books I have read this year.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is an odd, personal history full of anecdote and atmosphere. It takes a mixed approach of focusing on historic individuals' lives to tell the marginalised history of this lost part of Germany.
Sometimes it wanders too far and stretches the significance of the content but if you are interested in the eastern end of western europe and its often tragic past then this is a relatively easy narrative.
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