THE CHEQUER-BOARD OF NATIONS
Living Space: The,Story of South-Eastern Europe, By Stoyan Pribichevich. (Heine
Rcsleased by MICHAEL DE LA BEDOVERE
THIS charmingly written historical
cultural and political account of Central Europe and the Balkans by the son of a Jugoslav Minister of the Interior could scarcely have appeared in this country at a more opportune moment. It is not too much to say that the reader who troubles—and the trouble is certainly a pleasure—to study these pages will learn enough to be, relatively speaking, art expert on the most puzzling corner of our Continent, the corner which for generations has offered the temptations that have proved the undercurrent of major policy in peace and war.
The author is a convinced democrat, and be appears to be writing for the American rather than the British reader, but he is a man of sound and moderate judgment and his book is clearly based upon considerable study and personal acquaintance with most of the countries described. He supports the plan of a Danubian Confederation of small States, Slav and non-Slav, ruled by democratic regimes, all of which would operate as one economic unit. But one can still be a democrat while entertaining doubts as to whether this democratic confederation is yet feasible in lands whose origins, differences, peasantry, governments and the character of whose people ate so graphically described in these pages. The author himself feels that " anyone who really wishes evil to the Nazis should not bewail their forcible penetration of SouthEastern Europe," for it can only lead to German disaster; but, granting the truth of this, one still wonders whether something more positive in the way of order and creed than anything which Balkan history has yet produced will not be required if such a Confederation is to be built without outside authority.
However, these concluding reflections of the author are by the way. The real value and interest of the book lie in the too little known story of how the races of this part of Europe came to settle in their present quarters, how Rome, Byzantium, the Turks. the Germans played in turn their controlling parts, and how finally the present national
divisions are settled—for how long! And more interesting still is the writer's brilliant rinalysis of the types of people, the religious and cultural ideals. the economic struggles, the forms of government which obtain in this chequer-board of nations. In particular, the description of peasant life and outlook is a brilliant piece of writing whose 'esson no commentator On Balkan affairs :rn neglect. And its essential truth, no loubt, applies far more widely, for the peasant through the world remains very much the same, the world's teal breadwinner and yet the last to enjoy the fruits of toil.
History can be written in many ways and from a hundred points of view so that it is rare to get within the compass of a single volume an account that seems to cover everything in time and space. To have achieved something like this for a handful of small countries entirely unfamiliar to the average Englishman or American, and yet to have kept an unbroken thread of narrative running through the hook is a real feat. This book should be made available in every public library.