Vanished Kingdoms has been my bedtime book for a very long time, and I am slightly overdone with it, not through any fault of its own but because it is a text too dense and rich to be read a couple of pages at a time in a tired state. Especially as it is making me realise how very unfamiliar I am with many aspects of European history – which is, after all, the point. Alt Clud, anyone? Seven kingdoms of Burgundy? Litva?
The stories of these identities are unsettling; it seems so easy to lose a country and a culture. Davies simplifies, unthreads, reconnects. In an obscurely moving brief chapter, he declines to attempt the history of Byzantion: “…summarizing Europe’s greatest ‘vanished kingdom’ is almost too much to contemplate…”
It’s a mummy of a book – 740 pages plus notes – so I am having a break between Borussia and Sabaudia.
The break was to be filled by a work on the science of memory:
Current research, literary models and personal experimentation all have their place within the covers. The main drift of the argument is that memory is dynamic, creative and fallible, and as much about the future as the past. You can’t help joining in with the personal experiments as you read. I awarded myself some serious reading time, gobbled it up in one, and doddled about for the next few hours in that slightly disorientated state which follows almost complete absorption.
Thus it is peculiarly apposite that this wanderer chose today to return, having been on long leave since 1975, and I’ve probably not read it since about 1965. The inscription in the front gave me a bit of a turn.
And did I remember it? Oh yes.