The Dream of Europe: Travels in the Twenty-First Century by Geert Mak (Translated from Dutch by Liz Waters) - review by Piers Brendon

Piers Brendon

Continental Drift

The Dream of Europe: Travels in the Twenty-First Century


Harvill Secker 592pp £25

If newspapers are the first draft of history, higher journalism between hard covers is the second. In this absorbing book, the distinguished Dutch social commentator Geert Mak gives a report on the state of Europe during the first two decades of the new millennium. A sequel to his bestselling In Europe, which vividly assessed the state of the continent at the end of the 20th century, it is based not on archival research but on investigations made during indefatigable travels. These range from Wigan to Warsaw, from Putin’s Moscow to Puigdemont’s Barcelona, from Kirkenes on the Barents Sea, perhaps destined to be the key port on a new Arctic shipping route – a kind of Polar Silk Road – to Samos in the Aegean, a refugee ‘oubliette’ where the uprooted of the earth survive in cold and squalor. It’s an illuminating odyssey but also a depressing one, since what Mak finds is that during the last twenty years the dream of Europe has become something of a nightmare.

Whereas in 2000 the overwhelming majority of Europeans reckoned that their children would have a better life, now they think the opposite. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Western ideas of freedom and liberal democracy seemed set to conquer the world, Francis Fukuyama promulgating the most fatuously optimistic

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