Berlinski’s guide to Europe.

Europe was very much on the minds of conservative pundits in 2005 and 2006. In the wake of terrorist bombing in Madrid and London, ethnic riots in Paris and the assassination of Dutch film maker Theo Van Gogh, conservatives such as George Weigel , Bruce Bawer and Mark Steyn feared a besieged and rapidly depopulating Europe was racing towards chaos or worse, some sort of Islamic takeover. Not to be outdone by her fellow conservatives, Claire Berlinkski would address this perceived nightmarish state of European affairs with her 2006 book Menace in Europe: Why the Continent’s Crises is America’s, Too. After finishing it last weekend, I quickly concluded while I might not agree with everything she wrote, I found her observations significant and more than a few of her arguments compelling.

Berlinski, an American journalist who splits her time between Paris and Istanbul, has written for a host of publications ranging from mainstream newspapers like The New York Times and The Washington Post to conservative publications such as The Weekly Standard and National Review. Her book Menace in Europe has the feel of two separate books.  One book contains her thoughts on the ongoing tensions between native-born Europeans and Muslim immigrants based on her interviews throughout France, England and Holland. The other book could be seen as Berlinksi’s meditations on Europe’s national character. By looking at declining birthrates, cultural ennui and other factors, Berlinksi provides her analysis of where the Continent is headed politically and socially. And certainly most importantly why.

Whatever disagreements I might have with her, in my opinion Berlinski is a rather good writer. I found her book engaging and readable and her arguments if not convincing, certainly credible. On the minus side, in an attempt to show the dark, seething, and potentially violent spirit which lies hidden and unacknowledged within the Continent’s collective psyche, Berlinski devotes an entire chapter to the German industrial metal band Rammstein. While I enjoyed reading about this bizarre and somewhat disturbing band, I’m not sure they warranted an entire chapter.

After reading Menace in Europe if you would like to read other books which touch upon the themes found in Berlinski’s book, feel free to check out the relevent books written by the three authors mentioned at the beginning of this post. As a counter-point, I would definitely also read God’s Continent: Christianity, Islam and Europe’s Religious Crises by Philip Jenkins.

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8 Comments

Filed under Area Studies/International Relations, Islam

8 responses to “Berlinski’s guide to Europe.

  1. I have issues with such words as “collective psyche” which makes me unwilling to read this. As well as, well.. the conservative ideas of this book. I rather dislike the idea of an American thinking she can explain the state of a whole “continent”. But then, since I’m feeling so strongly about this, maybe I should give the book a try?

    • Your perspective on this book would be quite valuable ! If you are interested, I would for you to read her book and share your thoughts on what she said. I think all of us could benefit from your European perspective.
      While sometimes challenging, I think it’s a good idea to read authors representing a wide spectrum of opinion. It can be frustrating at times, but in the end, it’s rewarding.

  2. Sounds like an interesting read (and I am slightly reminded of America Alone?). I like that you read things even if you may disagree with what they are about!

    • Thanks. You have probably noticed that many of the books I read deal with religion or politics or both. I think it’s important that whenever you read subjects that are as expansive as they are potentially divisive that you consider as many perspectives as possible.
      If you could put all your studied authors in a locked room and the result was a knock-down, drag-out fight, then you’ve done a good job !

      • I have noticed, and definitely agree. It can be difficult sometimes to read dissenting opinions but I think it is always, in the end, a really good thing to do. I really should do it more often.

  3. Again, really interesting sounding book. I wish I had a more interesting comment, but that’s about it 🙂

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