"If the Balkans hadn't existed, they would have been invented" was the verdict of Count Hermann Keyserling in his famous 1928 publication, Europe. This book traces the relationship between the reality and the invention. Based on a rich selection of travelogues, diplomatic accounts, academic surveys, journalism, and belles-lettres in many languages, Imagining the Balkans explores the ontology of the Balkans from the eighteenth century to the present day, uncovering the ways in which an insidious intellectual tradition was constructed, became mythologized, and is still being transmitted as discourse.
The author, who was raised in the Balkans, is in a unique position to bring both scholarship and sympathy to her subject. A region geographically inextricable from Europe, yet culturally constructed as "the other," the Balkans have often served as a repository of negative characteristics upon which a positive and self-congratulatory image of the "European" has been built. With this work, Todorova offers a timely, accessible study of how an innocent geographic appellation was transformed into one of the most powerful and widespread pejorative designations in modern history.
About the Author
Maria Todorova earned a degree in history from the University of Sofia in Bulgaria, where she taught Balkan history until 1988. She has since taught at several American universities, and is currently Professor of Balkan and East European Studies at the University of Florida.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I've read many books on Balkan history and current events in the past year. None has covered the ground as thoroughly, or shed more light on the encounter between the Balkans and the West. Reflecting exceptionally wide reading combined with the crucial sense of realities on the ground that eludes many meta-commentators on matters Balkan, this book is must reading for anyone serious about understanding the Balkan conundrum. One should note that it is not an easy read, and is occasionally marred by infelicities of expression. But of a hundred books I've read or skimmed in the field this past year, this one takes pride of place.