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City of strangers

Laimonas Briedis, University of Toronto and Lithuanian Science Academy, Vilnius

Explores the history of Vilnius, from its legendary beginnings in the fourteenth century to the twentieth century dramas of wars, revolutions and massacres, through the insightful impressions of foreign travelers. Napoleon, Dostoyevsky, Stendhal, Döblin, Tolstoy, Bakhtin and Brodsky: these voices – among others equally compelling though lesser known – reveal the essence of Europe in their narrative encounter with this threshold city, situated at the geographical centre of Europe. Laimonas Briedis has woven their letters, diaries, utterances and reflections of Vilnius into a compelling and intimate story, and shares with the reader a deep understanding of the Lithuanian, Polish, Russian and German identities of the place, as well as its centrality in European Jewish culture. Lavishly illustrated and carefully researched, the book is a veritable hall of mirrors, which yields an illuminating vision of Vilnius and an exceptional window on Europe.

"Briedis, the cultural geographer, locates Vilnius concretely by showing how the sweep of European history defines it. He does so by assembling - to use Briedis's word from Döblin - 'a collage of jagged impressions, juxtaposed thoughts and descriptive contradictions'. Between those impressions, thoughts, and descriptions he fills the interstices so well that the city's disjunctive history 'reads' as an informative and engaging story." – Slavic Review

"... subtle and evocative book" – The Economist

"For a complete visit to Vilnius, visitors and residents alike should pick up a copy of the book and get acquainted with the city’s rich, interesting and multicultural history" – The Baltic Times

"Briedis verdient Anerkennung für sein anregend und lebendig geschriebenes historisches Lesebuch über Vilnius, das, obwohl essayistisch verfasst, durch einen sorgfältigen Umgang mit den historischen Quellen und Fakten überzeugt." - Jahrbücher für Geschichte Osteuropas

Contents: Prologue Chapter 1: The Brink of Europe Chapter 2: Mapping Sarmatia Chapter 3: Enlightenment Shadows Chapter 4: Napoleon’s Curse Chapter 5: Russian Intrigue Chapter 6: German Intrusion Chapter 7: The Absent Nation Chapter 8: Maelstrom Europe Notes Illustrations Cited Works Index

Published by Baltos Lankos, Vilnius, distributed by CEU Press.

296 pages, 76 illustrations (maps and photos), cloth
ISBN 978-963-9776-44-9
$45.00 / €34.95 / £30.00