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The Red Prince
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William von Habsburg wore the uniform of the Austrian officer, the court regalia of a Habsburg archduke, and, every so often, a dress. As a teenager during WWI, he chose for his kingdom the exotic and unknown land of Ukraine. But the collapse of his Ukrainian dream made him, by turns, an ally of German imperialists, a notorious French lover, an angry Austrian monarchist, a calm opponent of Hitler, and finally a British spy against Stalin. Acclaimed historian Timothy Snyders The Red Prince offers an indelible portrait of a fascinating man who embodied the many contradictions of twentieth-century Europe.
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Part of the family that ruled much of central Europe since 1273, Wilhelm von Habsburg (1895-1949) came of age during the last 23 years of the dynasty's rule. Von Habsburg lived a nomadic and tragic life; he was a bisexual and a political chameleon (including a brief pro-Nazi period) who was implicated in a major financial scandal in Paris during the 1930s. But during WWI, he had become a fervent Ukrainian nationalist, and this became his life's one constant, culminating with efforts to help formerly pro-German Ukraine turn to the West at the end of WWII. As Yale historian Snyder (Sketches from a Secret War) shows, his efforts were futile; he was charged by the Soviets with spying and died in prison. Snyder hews closely to his subject, so that the complexities of 20th-century Ukrainian history sometimes get short shrift, e.g., he devotes only two sentences to the 1933 "terror famine" that killed three million peasants. Generally, though, this is an interesting biography of a man whose colorful life embodied many of the tensions that plagued Europe in the early 20th century. Illus., maps. (June) Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

"Foreign Affairs" "Not often does scholarly history soar and entrap like a fine historical novel, but here it does.... The book's real triumph is how it carries the reader from the gilt and pomp of the nineteenth century; through the dawn of a new century in war, the salacious lives of the high-born royal outcasts in 1930s Paris, and the shadow politics of Nazi Germany; and ultimately to the crushing weigh of Soviet occupation in postwar Eastern Europe. Snyder embeds all of this in a shrewd, sharp framing of the larger history before and during Wilhelm's life, ending with thought-provoking reflections on the links to the present." Adam Zamoyski, "Spectator"" ""Snyder is probably the most intelligent and sensitive historian working on East Central Europe today, and he is eminently fitted for the task of telling this tale. He has unearthed a wealth of unknown material and fascinating detail....A wonderful book, a gripping read full of surprises and memorable vignettes, which fills a gap in our knowledge and provides an accessible introduction to a badly neglected area of European history." "Seattle Times" "Deeply researched and beautifully written, "The Red Prince" captures in shimmering colors the death of old Europe and the continent's descent into barbarism. It abounds with a cast of unforgettable characters, from bloodthirsty nationalist strongmen and shady conspirators to alluring demimondaines and debauched nobles. Snyder, an award-winning historian at Yale University, has written a compelling biography as well as a vivid depiction of an era and offers insightful observations on the mutability of personal and national identity." Mark Mazower, "Guardian" "There are few historians who possess Timothy Snyder's winning combination of languages, stylish story-telling, and analytic insight; in "The Red Prince," he has produced a gem.... He is a sensitive writer, with a novelist's feel for language." "Telegraph" "A vivid portrait of a vanished world... superb, being both prodigiously researched and elegantly written."

Snyder (history, Yale Univ.; Sketches from a Secret War), whose previous works have won scholarly awards for historical writing, here follows the exploits of Wilhelm von Hapsburg (1895-1948) as he trots across Europe getting involved in hefty doses of both intrigue and mischief. This Hapsburg archduke was an officer, a gentleman, a would-be Ukrainian king, a lover of both men and women, a poet, an opponent of the Nazis, and, ultimately, an anti-Soviet spy for the French. Although he was a relatively minor member of European royalty, Snyder shows that he was more than just another Old World fop. Wilhelm witnessed and participated in the evolution and decline of Europe's Old Order, playing his part in two world wars and in post-World War II realignments. While the truth of Wilhelm's life seems stranger than fiction, Snyder does an excellent job of documenting this story. Appropriate for both lay readers of biography and specialists and students of 20th-century European history, this is recommended for public and academic libraries.--Antonio S. Thompson, Austin Peay State Univ., Clarksville, TN Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

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