In This Review

In Europe’s Shadow: Two Cold Wars and a Thirty-Year Journey Through Romania and Beyond
In Europe’s Shadow: Two Cold Wars and a Thirty-Year Journey Through Romania and Beyond
By Robert D. Kaplan
Random House, 2016, 336 pp

Kaplan is infatuated with Romania and has been ever since his first serious encounter with the country, in the early 1980s. That infatuation drives this book’s historical explorations and philosophical reflections, which Kaplan merges with travel accounts to form a panorama including Romania’s origins and identity, its political idiosyncrasies, its people’s sense of victimhood, and the striking insights of its intellectuals. He organizes the book around three visits he made to the country: first in 1981, when Romania was still stuck in the sterile, crushing Ceausescu era; then in 2013, when the country was poised between the modernizing effects of its new pro-Western orientation and the deeply carved traces of its intricate past; and finally in the spring of 2014, after the upheaval in Ukraine had rewritten the script shaping Romania’s geopolitical hopes. Kaplan moves seamlessly from sights, sounds, and conversations to the resonance of history: Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman, and Soviet. Along the way, he considers works that he treasures from the underappreciated canon of Romanian literature and music. In Kaplan’s hands, Romania emerges as no mere footnote, but as a historical and political pivot.