Last Days in Old Europe: Trieste '79, Vienna '85, Prague '89 (Paperback)Richard Bassett (author)
- 10+ in stock
Part memoir, part reflection, this book brings to life central Europe during the last ten years of the Cold War. It begins in Trieste in 1979 where the embers of the Habsburg Empire still burnt brightly, and then moves to the darker, claustrophobic world of Vienna in 1985. It recreates the farce and tragedy of the last days of communism.
The final decade of the Cold War, through the eyes of a laconic and elegant observer
In 1979 Richard Bassett set out on a series of adventures and encounters in central Europe which allowed him to savour the last embers of the cosmopolitan old Hapsburg lands and gave him a ringside seat at the fall of another ancien regime, that of communist rule. From Trieste to Prague and Vienna to Warsaw, fading aristocrats, charming gangsters, fractious diplomats and glamorous informants provided him with an unexpected counterpoint to the austerities of life along the Iron Curtain, first as a professional musician and then as a foreign correspondent.
The book shows us familiar events and places from unusual vantage points: dilapidated mansions and boarding-houses, train carriages and cafes, where the game of espionage between east and west is often set.
There are unexpected encounters with Shirley Temple, Fitzroy Maclean, Lech Walesa and the last Empress of Austria. Bassett finds himself at the funeral of King Nicola of Montenegro in Cetinje, plays bridge with the last man alive to have been decorated by the Austrian Emperor Franz-Josef and watches the KGB representative in Prague bestowing the last rites on the Soviet empire in Europe.
Music and painting, architecture and landscape, food and wine, friendship and history run through the book. The author is lucky, observant and leans romantically towards the values of an older age. He brilliantly conjures the time, the people he meets, and Mitteleuropa in one of the pivotal decades of its history.
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
Number of pages: 224
Weight: 168 g
Dimensions: 198 x 129 x 13 mm
'Richard Bassett's spirited memoir of ten crucial years in recent European history is full of insights into the last days of two empires: the Habsburg, whose embers he savours beautifully, and the Communist, which he vividly shows us collapsing in front of him. The book is charming and funny, but it has a serious purpose, lightly worn, and a flavour all of its own.' - Anne Applebaum
'Most memoirs by former journalists fail lamentably ... A vastly enjoyable exception to the rule is Richard Bassett's charming, imaginative and elegantly written memoir of his adventures in central Europe, for many years as a correspondent for The Times.' - Victor Sebestyen, The Evening Standard
'As Soviet rule in central Europe collapsed in the late 1980s, newsworthy events, thrilling and poignant, abounded. Many were enriched by the diffident, elegant presence of Richard Bassett.' - Edward Lucas, The Financial Times
'In the 1980s Richard Bassett was "our man" in central Europe, and a high old time he appears to have had. This memoir of that period and those places is nicely crafted and would happily accompany a bottle or two of Holzpur 2004 spread over a couple of winter evenings.' - David Aaronovitch, The Times
You may also be interested in...
Would you like to proceed to the App store to download the Waterstones App?
Or, add to basket, pay online, collect in as little as 2 hours, subject to availability.