The author and historian examines the ideas raised by his new book on the aftermath of the Second World Warby Prospect Team / October 25, 2013 / Leave a comment
On 7th October, Ian Buruma came to the Prospect offices in London to discuss his new book Year Zero: A History of 1945 with the magazine’s managing editor, Jonathan Derbyshire. Samuel Moyn, reviewing Year Zero in the October issue of Prospect, wrote: “For its reconstitution of the atmosphere of an age, Year Zero is unrivalled in how easy it makes work that eludes most historians, which is to realise that the lives of those in the past were as detailed and rich and real as our own.”
What follows is the complete transcript of the discussion between Buruma and Derbyshire, followed by questions from the audience.
JD: Human rights, certainly in their legal sense as opposed to their moral sense, are among the products of the utopian hopes aroused by the Allied victory in the Second World War. Those hopes are one of the subjects of your book aren’t they?
IB: Yes and there are various reasons why I thought of the subject. One is that the world our fathers created after the war in the spirit of “never again” which is very much a part of human rights. The term “genocide” was coined by Raphael Lemkin, the Nuremburg trials were held and after this period of devastation there was an impetus for creation and building a better world or a more equal world. One of the sources of this book that I found most astonishing was a magazine written by American soldiers for American soldiers called Yank. The magazine’s politics were far to the left of the Democratic Party today so there was a different atmosphere.