EUROPE, EUROPE by Hans Magnus Enzensberger


Forays into a Continent
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West German author Enzensberger, best known for his remarkable narrative poem "The Sinking of the Titanic" (1980), is in fine form here, reporting on his travels through a Europe that is being unified politically and economically from above while the people continue to resist uniformity and maintain their distinctiveness. Enzensberger's book begins and ends atypically: first, a visit to Sweden sparks an essaylike discussion of the social and intellectual results of the benevolent--but all-cont rolling --state; finally, a piece of fiction, purportedly written by an American journalist, describes Europe in the next millenium. In between (with reports on Italy, Hungary, Portugal, Poland, and Spain) is what the author does best: make his political observations stick by combining his extensive knowledge of history and current affairs with a dazzling array of anecdotes, strange encounters, and conversations. Most of the intellectuals he meets talk of their own countries with frustration and despair, while Enzensberger finds value in seemingly negative cliches about national character--e.g., the social acceptance in Italy of nonproductive idlers (fannulloni) becomes a model for work-ethic-oriented industralized Europe, where shrinking employment causes not just economic but emotional and psychological catastrophe for the unemployed. Throughout, he celebrates the chaotic, the irregular, the inefficient--traits that thwart planned development but also mean survival when big systems fail to work. Classy, insightful, and entertaining travel writing with a deeper message about Europe's future.

Pub Date: May 19th, 1989
ISBN: 394-55819-7
Publisher: Pantheon
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