“A gem of a book, informative, companionable, sometimes funny, and wholly original. MacLean must surely be the outstanding, and most indefatigable, traveller-writer of our time”
– John le Carre
In 1989 as the Berlin Wall fell Rory MacLean travelled across post-Soviet Eastern Europe, exploring the region as it emerged, hopeful but uncertain, from the fall of Communism. Thirty years on he retraces his journey to find out what has become of this sense of hope. How has what was once Europe’s terra incognita fared now that the dream of a united, prosperous, post-Communist/post-Fascist world seems to have slipped away to be replaced by rampant inequality and resurgent nationalism?
MacLean makes his return journey in reverse – across countries confronting old ghosts and new fears: from revanchist Russia, through Ukraine’s bloodlands, into illiberal Hungary, and then Poland, Germany and finally to a UK possibly facing its own crisis of populism. If this all sounds a little grim, fear not; MacLean is a highly entertaining, funny and companionable guide, with a real talent for finding the all too human stories that underly the big political developments.
As Europe sleepwalks into a perilous new age, MacLean explores how opportunists – both within and outside of Russia, from Putin to Home Counties populists – have made a joke of truth, exploiting refugees and the dispossessed, and examines the veracity of historical narrative from reportage to fiction and fake news. He asks what happened to the optimism of 1989 and, in the shadow of Brexit, chronicles the collapse of the European dream.