The Stories Old Towns Tell


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A Journey through Cities at the Heart of Europe

Marek Kohn

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A fascinating journey through Europe’s old towns, exploring why we treasure them—but also what they hide about a continent’s fraught history
Historic quarters in cities and towns across the middle of Europe were devastated during the Second World War—some, like those of Warsaw and Frankfurt, had to be rebuilt almost completely. They are now centers of peace and civility that attract millions of tourists, but the stories they tell about places, peoples, and nations are selective. They are never the whole story.
These old towns and their turbulent histories have been key sites in Europe’s ongoing theater of politics and war. Exploring seven old towns, from Frankfurt and Prague to Vilnius in Lithuania, the acclaimed writer Marek Kohn examines how they have been used since the Second World War to conceal political tensions and reinforce certain versions of history.
Uncovering hidden stories behind these old and old-seeming façades, Kohn offers us a new understanding of the politics of European history-making—showing how our visits to old towns could promote belonging over exclusion, and empathy over indifference.

Marek Kohn is the author of nine books, including Four Words for Friend, A Reason for Everything, and Dope Girls.

“Marvellously rich and beautifully written. Here are the stories, myths, anecdotes and calamities of Old Towns, and how their citizens, planners and conquerors dealt with (and caused) destruction. No critical lover of Europe should be without this book.”—Neal Ascherson, author of The Struggles for Poland

“I thought I was well travelled in the region, but Marek Kohn managed time and again to tell me stories, large and small, that I didn't know.”—John Kampfner, author of Why the Germans Do it Better

“A remarkable, vitally important reconstruction of the history of Old Towns and the role they play in Europe. Outstanding.”—Rosemary Wakeman, author of A Modern History of European Cities

“Marek Kohn has identified a fascinating and unexplored subject, his research is meticulous, and the stories are stirring. This really is a new take on old Europe. Very good indeed.”—Eva Hoffman, author of Lost in Translation

ISBN: 9780300267846
Publication Date: April 25, 2023
344 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
11 b/w illus. + 1 map
Four Words for Friend

The Rewards of Using More than One Language in a Divided World

Marek Kohn

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