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.