1947. Where now begins
ORIGINAL TITLE: 1947. Här börjar nu
AUTHOR: Elisabeth Åsbrink
ORIGINAL PUBLISHER: Natur & Kultur
Somewhere on the timeline, the war ends, while somewhere else, a new age begins – the one we call now. The shift does not happen overnight, from one day to the next; instead, the world vibrates for a number of years. People try to find their way to homes that are no longer there. People run from their deeds, and most of them get away. The earth of Poland is rich with ash.
In 1947, human rights have been neither formulated nor adopted. Justice is administered to some of the leading war criminals on the basis of entirely different accounts of their misdeeds.
In 1947, production begins of the the Kalashnikov, Christian Dior creates the New Look, the first computer bug is discovered, CIA is set up, Hassan Al-Banna draws up the plan that remains the goal of jihadists to this day, a United Nations committee is given four months to find a solution to the problem of Palestine.
Of seemingly disparate events Elisabeth Åsbrink has written the story of a world where good and evil takes shape, where ideas about democracy and participation are born and die at the same moment, where an old order falls and a new one arises. Where now begins.
“The Swedish journalist Åsbrink’s ‘1947’ is an extraordinary achievement. […] Åsbrink is throughout attentive to the complex dynamic produced by the Holocaust’s multiple aftermaths, the urgently necessary and terrifyingly confusing process of decolonization and the consolidation of the Soviet bloc. Her constant intercutting of the world-shaking with the quotidian — including her father as a child navigating post-Nazi Budapest — underscores a challenge to more mainstream genres of history writing. The year 1947 did mark a tipping point between the savagery of the immediate past and the tentative stirrings of postwar potentialities. Ultimately most compelling is 1947’s relationship to our present. A chilling recurrent subplot involves the remarkably rapid regrouping of undeterred ex-Nazis, already inventing denialism, networking transnationally and dreaming up a renewed pan-fascist future.”
The New York Times Book Review
“…[A] gripping history, formed as a patchwork of significant events. In Paris, the final names are added to the treaties ending the war; in New York, Billie Holiday plays Carnegie Hall; in Cairo, the Arab League convenes on the issue of Palestine; on a Scottish island, George Orwell completes “1984.”…[Åsbrink’s] careful juxtaposition of disparate events highlights an underlying interconnectedness and suggests a new way of thinking about the postwar era.”
The New Yorker
“In this highly readable and original narrative history, Swedish journalist and author Elisabeth Åsbrink offers a salutary lesson that gives the lie to the idea that humanity learns from its misstakes, and reminds us that small steps and seemingly minor choices can make waves, both across the globa and across time. […] Five stars.”
“Among innumerable turning points in history, 1947, just two years after World War II ended, is a year worth review. Åsbrink’s book, translated from the Swedish, makes some of that year’s neglected history and high drama tangible and meaningful. With a technique reminiscent of John Dos Passos’ “newsreels,” the author records events from across the world (Paris, Palestine, New York, Los Angeles, Budapest, Berlin, Delhi, etc.), using the present tense to create a sense of immediacy…Throughout the book, Åsbrink artfully selects her narratives…A skillful and illuminating way of presenting, to wonderful effect, the cultural, political, and personal history of a year that changed the world.”
“A fascinating and thought-provoking fresco of the flow of twelve months of world history. The language and story telling unveil our history as well as opens us to other ways of thinking than traditional historical analysis.”
“A powerful and enormously moving new book”
“1947 is equally an instructive lesson in history as it is beautiful and well-written prose. Read it!”
“The book is fantastic.”
“If you don’t get your hands on this book you will miss out not only on a historically meaningful year, but on a strong reading experience.”
” … a book that is both a collection of images from the past and a rare timeless mosaic that the reader has to put together herself … Elisabeth Åsbrink’s 1947 is a well written and captive book. But more than that: it fascinates by opening so many separate, and at the same time connected, stories.”
“Elisabeth Åsbrink writes sentences that make one gasp in admiration.”
The Sydney Morning Herald
“It’s a remarkable book. It charts world events – month by month, city by city – for the year of 1947, as the world recovers from the cataclysm of WW2. And even if you think you are reasonably up to speed with modern history because you’ve read books and watched films and you know people who lived through it, you will probably find yourself surprised by some of what’s chronicled here. I certainly was.”
ANZ LitLovers blog
1947. Where now begins was shortlisted for the prestigious August prize with the following motivation:
”What do we do today that our descendants will struggle with in seventy years? The question is raised by this kaleidoscopic collection of essays in which major politics merge with everyday events, in a year of world history. In a beautiful prose the reader is guided through a seemingly insignificant year with a black history casting shadows over time to come. ”
PHILIPPE SANDS, AUTHOR OF EAST WEST STREET:
“Extraordinarily inventive and gripping, a uniquely personal account of a single, momentous year.”