Year Zero

Year Zero : A History of 1945

3.87 (1,380 ratings by Goodreads)
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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.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 368 pages
  • 156 x 238 x 30mm | 657.71g
  • Penguin Press
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • black & white illustrations
  • 1594204365
  • 9781594204364
  • 137,417

Review quote

"Smithsonian Magazine"
"[Buruma] makes a compelling case that many of the modern triumphs and traumas yet to come took root in this fateful year of retribution, revenge, suffering and healing."
"Kirkus Reviews"
"[An] insightful meditation on the world's emergence from the wreckage of World War II. Buruma offers a vivid portrayal of the first steps toward normalcy in human affairs amid the ruins of Europe and Asia...Authoritative, illuminating."
"In 1945, the war ended, but a new world began. Taken and destroyed cities were transformed; the liberated celebrated; scores were settled; people starved; justice was and was not meted out; soldiers and refugees came home; suffering ended, or continued, or began anew. An eclectic scholar who has written on religion, democracy, and war, Buruma presents a panoramic view of a global transformation and emphasizes common themes: exultation, hunger, revenge, homecoming, renewed confidence. Though there was great cause for pessimism, many of the institutions established in the immediate postwar period--the United Nations, the modern European welfare state, the international criminal-justice system--reflected profound optimism that remains unmatched. Buruma's facility with Asian history lends this selection a particularly internationalized perspective. But it is the story of his father--a Dutch man who returned home in 1945 after being forced into factory labor by the Nazis--that sews the various pieces together and provides a moving personal touch."
Fritz Stern:
"A brilliant recreation of that decisive year of victory and defeat, chaos and humiliation, concentrating on peoples, not states. Gripping, poignant and unsparing, "Year Zero" is worthy of its author in being at home in both Europe and Asia. It is a book at once deeply empathetic and utterly fair, marked by wisdom and great knowledge; the often personal tone inspired by the fate of his father, a Dutchman forced into German
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About Ian Buruma

Ian Buruma is the Luce Professor of Democracy, Human Rights, and Journalism at Bard College. His previous books include "The China Lover, Murder in Amsterdam, Occidentalism, God's Dust, Behind the Mask, The Wages of Guilt, Bad Elements," and "Taming the Gods."
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Rating details

1,380 ratings
3.87 out of 5 stars
5 25% (347)
4 44% (613)
3 24% (333)
2 5% (72)
1 1% (15)
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