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

Geert Mak, Liz Waters

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

Geert Mak, Liz Waters

In 1999, Geert Mak spent a year criss-crossing Europe, looking to define the continent on the verge of a new millennium. The result was his monumental book In Europe.

The Dream of Europe focuses on the first two turbulent decades of our current century, taking in the rocky EU expansion into eastern Europe and the rise of Putin; the aftermath of 9/11 and terrorist attacks across Europe; the migrant tragedy in the Mediterranean; the 2008 financial crash; the rise of right-wing populism, and of course, Brexit.

Mak sketches the climate and mood at the turn of the century, the optimism that reigned but vanished along the way in the great European project. Above all, Mak is an observer, endlessly curious to learn how seismic political and cultural shifts effect people’s lives.

The book opens describing life in the tiny Norwegian polar city of Kirkenes - ‘the hub of the European periphery, a laboratory for the future’ - a geopolitical pressure cooker of a place with 3,500 inhabitants 5km away from the Russian border. The local restaurant serves up reindeer-and-mushroom pasta, Russian subs lurk around the undersea cables, the locals complain about the NATO surveillance ship in the harbour scrambling their phones, and the melting polar ice attracts Chinese investors and other major players for the future Arctic maritime trading route, which promises to half the travel time of the Suez Canal.

Mak traces our current times through stories like these: you come away fascinated by the place, perhaps the most important Norwegian trading town you’ve never heard of, with a sense of global understanding news feeds can’t always offer.

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