From the palaces of the Habsburg Empire to the torture chambers of Stalin's Soviet Union, the extraordinary story of a life suspended between the collapse of the imperial order and the violent emergence of modern Europe.
Wilhelm Von Habsburg wore the uniform of the Austrian officer, the court regalia of a Habsburg archduke, the simple suit of a Parisian exile, the collar of the Order of the Golden Fleece, and, every so often, a dress. He could handle a saber, a pistol, a rudder, or a golf club; he handled women by necessity and men for pleasure. He spoke the Italian of his archduchess mother, the German of his archduke father, the English of his British royal friends, the Polish of the country his father wished to rule, and the Ukrainian of the land Wilhelm wished to rule himself.
In this exhilarating narrative history, prize-winning historian Timothy D. Snyder offers an indelible portrait of an aristocrat whose life personifies the wrenching upheavals of the first half of the 20th century, as the rule of empire gave way to the new politics of nationalism. Coming of age during the First World War, Wilhelm repudiated his family to fight alongside Ukrainian peasants in hopes that he would become their king. When this dream collapsed, he became, by turns, an ally of German imperialists, a notorious French lover, an angry Austrian monarchist, a calm opponent of Hitler, and a British spy against Stalin.
Played out in Europe's glittering capitals and bloody battlefields, in extravagant ski resorts and dank prison cells, The Red Prince captures an extraordinary moment in the history of Europe, in which the old order of the past was giving way to an undefined future - and in which everything, including identity itself, seemed up for grabs.
©2008 Timothy Snyder; (P)2009 Audible, Inc.
"[A]n interesting biography of a man whose colorful life embodied many of the tensions that plagued Europe in the early 20th century." (Publishers Weekly)
Interesting material, but rendered difficult to listen to because of the strange pronunciation of most names, etc., by the reader. Good book but very poorly read.
Great narrative covering a little-known corner of 20th Century European History. The narrator, however, is clearly more at home with French pronunciation than with any of the Slavic languages (a problem, given the subject matter). Most distressing was the insertion of a bogus "l" in "Czech(l)oslovakia."
"Fascinating and timely but oddly narrated"
From the perspective of England with it's relatively fixed and long standing borders it can come as a shock to be reminded of how fluid and modern mainland Europe's borders and political institutions are. Red Prince uses the central character of Wilhelm Habsburg to guide the listener through what could otherwise be a confusing or even tedious survey of aristocratic family trees and now-defunct middle European duchys as they collapse and are reformed during the 20th century. This approach succeeds in simultaneously creating a fascinating cast of characters and conveying with a real sense of clarity the workings of the Austro-Hungarian empire and its collapse on being squeezed between the forces of Nazism and Stalinism. This would easily warrant a 4 star review but for the odd narration. The narrator himself has a great voice - very clear and with a nice tone but he reads the book in what begins to sound like very uniform bites of about 4 seconds in duration all of which use exactly the same pattern of intonation. That might not sound too bad but the effect is to make the book sound like it's being intoned rather than narrated. Whole sentences can go by before the reader snaps back to attention, conscious that potentially interesting stuff may have slipped by. This could be down to the producer so apologies to Michael Damon if the "gregorian chant" affect has been imposed in the editing suite. For all of that though this is an interesting and timely book.
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