Year Zero

Year Zero

A History of 1945

Book - 2013
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A marvelous global history of the pivotal year 1945 as a new world emerged from the ruins of World War II

Year Zero is a landmark reckoning with the great drama that ensued after war came to an end in 1945. One world had ended and a new, uncertain one was beginning. 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, in the wake of unspeakable loss, the euphoria of the liberated was extraordinary, and the revelry unprecedented. The postwar years gave rise to the European welfare state, the United Nations, decolonization, Japanese pacifism, and the European Union. Social, cultural, and political "reeducation" was imposed on vanquished by victors on a scale that also had no historical precedent. Much that was done was ill advised, but in hindsight, as Ian Buruma shows us, these efforts were in fact relatively enlightened, humane, and effective.

A poignant grace note throughout this history is Buruma's own father's story. Seized by the Nazis during the occupation of Holland, he spent much of the war in Berlin as a laborer, and by war's end was literally hiding in the rubble of a flattened city, having barely managed to survive starvation rations, Allied bombing, and Soviet shock troops when the end came. His journey home and attempted reentry into "normalcy" stand in many ways for his generation's experience.

A work of enormous range and stirring human drama, conjuring both the Asian and European theaters with equal fluency, Year Zero is a book that Ian Buruma is perhaps uniquely positioned to write. It is surely his masterpiece.
Publisher: New York : The Penguin Press, 2013
ISBN: 9781594204364
1594204365
Characteristics: 368 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Alternative Title: Year 0

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Janice21383
Oct 11, 2016

I'm almost tempted to describe this book as a joyous, optimistic celebration of a world chastened and enlightened by war. Yes, its story is so important, I might stoop to mislead the light history enthusiast into reading this course of shock therapy between two covers. Buruma is an even-handed and witty writer, but he has created a work of deep anger and disdain for the illusions and pretensions that arrived with the peace, with which we still struggle today. To be blunt, the world after WW II was almost as bad as during WW II, and it is truly astonishing that we have been able to rebuild and progress as far as we have.

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