1947: Where Now Begins by Elisabeth Åsbrink
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This book is exactly what its title describes: a look at the year 1947, where the world as we know it begins. From the establishment of Israel to the smuggling of Nazis to South America, this book communicates both the history and humanity of the immediate aftermath of World War Two. Asbrink also doesn’t pull any punches. Without telling the reader what to think, she puts forth example after example of (I think) every nation mentioned practicing something that could be seen as a precursor to genocide or, to put it more gently, failing to care for the vulnerable and in many cases increasing their vulnerability. One of the most fascinating parts for me was learning about Raphael Lemkin, the man who coined the term “genocide” and fought for the UN to recognize this crime, hoping that at some point the death of thousands would mean as much to humanity as the death of one innocent person (I’m planning to read more about him).
Each chapter of the book covers one month of the year, with the exception of “Days and Death” which is the middle chapter and hones in on the author’s father, who was a young child at the time. The chapters are broken up into sections titled by location, giving an around-the-world view of that point in time. What was happening in Sweden? Argentina? Egypt? India? The United States? Russia? Thoughtfully written and immensely thought-provoking, this book is a sobering account of humanity’s failures to clean up the messes we continue to make. Highly recommend.