• Pravda Ha Ha

  • True Travels to the End of Europe
  • By: Rory MacLean
  • Narrated by: Rory MacLean
  • Length: 12 hrs and 35 mins
  • 4.7 out of 5 stars (14 ratings)

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Pravda Ha Ha

By: Rory MacLean
Narrated by: Rory MacLean
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Publisher's Summary

Bloomsbury presents Pravda Ha Ha by Rory MacLean, read by Rory MacLean.  

"A gem of a book, informative, companionable, sometimes funny, and wholly original. MacLean must surely be the outstanding, and most indefatigable, traveller writer of our time." (John le Carré)

In 1989 the Berlin Wall fell. In that euphoric year Rory MacLean travelled from Berlin to Moscow, exploring lands that were - for most Brits and Americans - part of the forgotten half of Europe. 

Thirty years on, MacLean traces his original journey backwards, across countries confronting old ghosts and new fears: from revanchist Russia, through Ukraine’s bloodlands, into illiberal Hungary and then Poland, Germany and the UK. Along the way he shoulders an AK-47 to go hunting with Moscow's chicken tsar, plays video games in St Petersburg with a cyber-hacker who cracked the US election, drops by the Che Guevara High School of Political Leadership in a nonexistent nowhereland and meets the Warsaw doctor who tried to stop a march of 70,000 nationalists. Finally, on the shores of Lake Geneva, he waits patiently to chat with Mikhail Gorbachev.  

As Europe sleepwalks into a perilous new age, MacLean explores how opportunists - both within and outside of Russia, from Putin to Home Counties populists - have made a joke of truth, exploiting refugees and the dispossessed, and examines the veracity of historical narrative from reportage to fiction and fake news. He asks what happened to the optimism of 1989 and, in the shadow of Brexit, chronicles the collapse of the European dream.

©2019 Rory MacLean (P)2019 Bloomsbury Publishing Plc

Critic Reviews

"This is a tremendous thing that MacLean is creating; a new kind of history, in several dimensions and innumerable moods, that adds up to – across the span of his books – a great and continuing work of literature." (Jan Morris)     

"No one writes quite like Rory MacLean." (Robert Macfarlane)

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Compelling History in Style and Fun!

Written with style and humor, this book is fun to listen to and a fine lesson in history and contemporary issues. The author weaves interesting and pertinent stories and well researched history into his narrative in such a fluid way that the reader does not even realize how deep this is going until they’re there. All, while we travel with the author through Eastern Europe and beyond. One of the best travelogues I have ever listened to. And he’s a great narrator as well.

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  • nndv,jsd,s\d
  • 01-25-20

The Opposite of good travel-writing

I recall enjoying the same author's "Stalin's Nose", when I was a teenager. I have grown up since 1995; it is a shame that this petulant, self-satisfied writer has not. A good travel book shows an author learning from his experience: this book, however, starts with insufferable moral and political lecturing , and imposes this trite hectoring on the reader throughout the book. Neither the author nor the reader learns anything.

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  • Christopher Whalen
  • 03-29-23

The opposite of bad travel writing

This is the second book I’ve read by Rory MacLean after “Berlin: Imagine a City”. He also made a fascinating podcast series called “The Bright Magic Podcast” to accompany the album by Public Service Broadcasting. Published in 2019, this is a travel book that revisits the history of eastern Europe in the 30 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall. He travels through Russia, Ukraine, Estonia, Hungary, Poland, Germany, Switzerland, and Britain, tracing the effects of the fall of the Soviet Union, the shadow of power and violence cast by the new oligarchs, and the shift to the right in politics that vilifies the unsettled, stateless people caused by our ongoing wars and arms dealing. Each chapter features encounters with people and their personal histories alongside the grander narratives of political changes. MacLean humanizes the stories of a number of refugees, whose horrific experiences trying to find safety in Europe cause as much trauma as the conflicts they are escaping at home. An important and timely work.

MacLean’s own narration of the audiobook version is compelling and brings to life the voices of the characters he encounters on his travels.