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Year Zero. A History of 1945 by Ian Buruma

Year Zero. A History of 1945 (2013)

by Ian Buruma

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English (13)  Dutch (1)  Norwegian (1)  Danish (1)  French (1)  All (17)
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Year Zero is a history of 1945, but Ian Buruma approaches it not just as an historian, but also as a journalist and novelist - more broadly, as a intellectual. The result is a book that offers well-sourced details, but also thoughtful overarching judgments, and an artist's insights into how various nations' cultures changed in the wake of World War II. While the opening and closing of the book are somewhat chronological, for the most part the book is organized thematically: the experience of victory (or defeat), sexual expression, feeding populations, dealing with displaced persons, seeking reconciliation, rebuilding societies, and the slide into the Cold War. Buruma tells the story from an internationalist vantage, underscored by his starting with the personal experience of his Dutch father. Americans appear throughout, but this isn't an American-centric history - it explores 1945 as a global experience across Europe and Asia (Africa and Latin America are largely omitted). In that sense, if you've read biographies of major American figures of the time - Eisenhower, MacArthur, Marshall - this offers an illuminating parallax, in addition to being well-worth reading on its own. ( )
  bezoar44 | Oct 22, 2016 |
Buruma starts with some reminiscences from his father, who was a forced laborer in Berlin during the war, having been drafted from the Netherlands. He says this led him to the topic of 1945, the year at the end of the war, and he explores the year in topics, such as the sexual license during liberation, the impulse to revenge, and the opportunism in the confusion of war. He relates poignant stories about the disgrace of "horizontal collaborators", the starvation, and the exultation of liberation. There are more details of the European experience, but the plight of Japan, Indonesia, Korea and Phillipines are discussed. The last section of the book, "Never Again" deals with the formation of the United Nations. The choice details are too many to rewrite, but the prose and pace were excellent. ( )
  neurodrew | Sep 12, 2016 |
A fascinating year, well told. ( )
  gbelik | Apr 2, 2016 |
1945, the year World War II ended (or did it?). Buruma tells the story mostly of that year, with a bit of forward-looking to explain a little more about what was set in motion, in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. There’s plenty of trauma and starvation, and also grand hopes—mostly not to rebuild what was destroyed, but to build something better, whether in nations like Japan or internationally in a united Europe and the United Nations. Also a lot of sex (a lot of it with soldiers, for tangible benefits or for relief and fun or for association with winners) and a lot of rape (particularly in Germany). ( )
  rivkat | Jan 14, 2016 |
This is a good read. The end of WWII brought a sea of conflicts, notably the desire of various colonial countries to throw off their European masters, the struggles between the two superpowers, and the twin desires to punish the enemy and rehabilitate him.There is nothing here about the German experience, which I thought there would have been. The author is particularly good on the Japanese and Chinese experiences. ( )
  annbury | Nov 16, 2015 |
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A Klee drawing named "Angelus Novus" shows an angel looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contempating. His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we preceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe that keeps piling ruin upon ruin and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. The storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress. - Walter Benjamin - Ninth Thesis on Philosophy of History
To my father, S.L. Buruma, and to Brian Urquhart
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When Allied troops in Germany liberated millions of prisoners of Hitler's fallen Reich - in concentration camps, slave labor camps, prisoner of war camps - they expected to find them docile, suitably grateful, and happy to cooperate in any way they could with their liberators.
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A global history of the pivotal year 1945 as a new world emerged from the ruins of World War II. 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, the euphoria of the liberated was extraordinary. The postwar years gave rise to the European welfare state, the United Nations, decolonization, Japanese pacifism, the European Union, and the Cold War.--From publisher description.… (more)

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