A Review of Neal Ascherson's "Black Sea"
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From the Paper:"Like the region for which the book is named, and which it purports to describe, Black Sea by Neal Ascherson is a dizzying patchwork of disparate elements that sit uneasily together, vying noisily for the reader's attention. Its plethora of interesting and no-so-interesting--often distracting--trivia, its imaginative accounts of the author's travels, its prodigious erudition, and its occasional flashes of wisdom and insight--all strung together on a jagged timeline--do not come together to make a unified and coherent whole. The countless daubs of colour in this pointillist rendition of the Black Sea landscape do not quite resolve themselves into a recognizable picture, no matter how far back the reader steps. Thus, it is difficult to determine precisely what the book is about or what it was intended to be.
By Ascherson's own belated admission (in the Epilogue), the book is about "identities, and about the use of mirrors to magnify or to distort identities--the disguises of nationalism" (p. 274). But it clearly encompasses much more than that. At its deepest level, Black Sea is a chronicle of greed and rapacity, of selfishness and self-interest, of conceit and intolerance--and of the devastating effects these regrettable human qualities have on the lives of ordinary people and the environment they inhabit.
"The guiding metaphor in the history and politics of the region is surely the Black Sea itself. With its anoxic depths and its toxic surface waters, it is a shockingly accurate analogue of the human activity that has infested and continues to blight its teeming shores. The most ironic parallel between life in the Sea and life on land is the takeover in recent times of Black Sea waters by non-indigenous species of marine life such as Mnemiopsis. The innumerable invasions on land by wave after wave of non-indigenous peoples have been no less catastrophic. The impending ecological disaster that now threatens the Black Sea (an issue that constitutes the major focus of the final chapter) is perhaps the inevitable outcome of the human tragedy that has continually played itself out in the ebb and flow of the region's five-thousand-year-old history. As governments and scientists wrangle over how best to avert the disaster, the fate of Sea and Land come together and become inextricably intertwined, casting a new and somewhat ironic light on the region's checkered history."
Cite this Book Review:
A Review of Neal Ascherson's "Black Sea" (2014, September 11) Retrieved January 17, 2021, from https://www.academon.com/book-review/a-review-of-neal-ascherson-black-sea-154009/
"A Review of Neal Ascherson's "Black Sea"" 11 September 2014. Web. 17 January. 2021. <https://www.academon.com/book-review/a-review-of-neal-ascherson-black-sea-154009/>