The Curtain and the Wall

Timothy Phillips


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Granta Books
7 September 2023
ISBN: 9781783785780
480 pages

From the publisher

The Iron Curtain divided the continent of Europe, north to south, with the Berlin Wall as its most visible, infamous manifestation. Since the Cold War ended and these borders came down, Europe has transformed itself. But we cannot consign the tensions and restrictions of the past to history. At a time when Russia is once again making war and when divisions elsewhere in Europe are on the rise, these old fault lines have new resonance. What do the Curtain and the Wall mean today? What have they left in their wake?

In this major new book, Timothy Phillips travels the route of the Iron Curtain from deep inside the Arctic Circle to the meeting point of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Turkey. He explores the borderlands where the clash of civilisations was at its most intense between 1945 and 1989, and where the world’s most powerful ideologies became tangible in reinforced concrete and barbed wire. He looks at the new Europe that emerged from the ruins. The people he meets bear vivid witness to times of change. There are those who look back on the Cold War with nostalgia and affection. Others despise it, unable to forgive the hard and sometimes lost decades that their families, friends and nations endured. In these historic landscapes lie buried many of the seeds of our world’s current disputes – over borders, and about belonging and the meaning of progress.

The Curtain and the Wall transports the reader across 5,000 kilometres of Europe and through eight decades, to show how one of the defining stories of the 20th century continues to shape our world today.