Imagining the Balkans
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Original book cover description
"If the Balkans hadn't existed, they would have been invented" was the verdict of Count Hermann Keyserling in his famous 1928 publication, Europe. This book traces the relationship between the reality and the invention. Based on a rich selection of travelogues, diplomatic accounts, academic surveys, journalism, and belles-lettres in many languages, Imagining the Balkans explores the ontology of the Balkans from the eighteenth century to the present day, uncovering the ways in which an insidious intellectual tradition was constructed, became mythologized, and is still being transmitted as discourse.
The author, who was raised in the Balkans, is in a unique position to bring both scholarship and sympathy to her subject. A region geographically inextricable from Europe, yet culturally constructed as "the other," the Balkans have often served as a repository of negative characteristics upon which a positive and self-congratulatory image of the "European" has been built. With this work, Todorova offers a timely, accessible study of how an innocent geographic appellation was transformed into one of the most powerful and widespread pejorative designations in modern history.
Maria Todorova on her book
Todorova has said of the book:
- "The central idea of Imagining the Balkans is that there is a discourse, which I term Balkanism, that creates a stereotype of the Balkans, and politics is significantly and organically intertwined with this discourse. When confronted with this idea, people may feel somewhat uneasy, especially on the political scene. ... The most gratifying response to me came from a very good British journalist, Misha Glenny, who has written well and extensively on the Balkans. He said, 'You know, now that I look back, I have been guilty of Balkanism,' which was a really honest intellectual response"