Our directory of things of interest

University Directory

EPIC CONTINENT by Nicholas Jubber book review

  • Written by  Elizabeth Wainwright
  • Published in Books
EPIC CONTINENT by Nicholas Jubber book review
13 Aug
2019
by Nicholas Jubber • John Murray Press • £20 (hardback)

I’m in Mallorca, a Mediterranean island that throughout history has been buffeted by invasion, war, hunger, prosperity and tourism. It feels an appropriate place to immerse into the wider European story as told by Nicholas Jubber, who in Epic Continent sets out on a physical and mythological journey to uncover what it means to be European.

Stay connected with the Geographical newsletter!
signup buttonSince its inception in 1935, Geographical has reported on many thousands of global issues, allowing readers to look past the boundaries and borders of our world and take a broader perspective. In these turbulent times, we’re still committed to telling expansive stories from across the globe, highlighting the everyday lives of normal but extraordinary people. Stay informed and engaged with Geographical.

Get Geographical’s latest news delivered straight to your inbox every Friday!

Jubber finds that place and story are deeply linked – ‘the contours of the story seem to wind, eternally, out of the shrubs and rocks’ – but also finds the stories of Europe ‘joined together in so many surprising ways’. The carefully chosen stories he explores include the Anglo-Saxon masterpiece Beowulf, the Greek epic The Odyssey, and stories less wound into British consciousness such as The Song of Roland, or The Nibelungenlied – a story which, after the Nazis got hold of it, became ‘an anthem for German nationalism’.

These epics were based on moments of change – the aftermath of the Trojan War; the collapse of a Germanic kingdom; the transition from paganism to Christianity. But many of these stories were lost for centuries including Beowulf, written down over 1,000 years ago. It wasn’t until its interpretation by and influence on Tolkien that it became one of Europe’s most influential stories again.

The word ‘epic’ derives from the Greek epein – ‘to say’. Epics were created to be spoken, and so ‘before the age of printing, were able to sink deep roots, entangling themselves around the core of European culture’. The stories that Jubber travels for us, then, are the myths that made Europe. They are our foundation and a ‘pulsating part of daily life’, spoken in various forms by ordinary people for millennia. In Epic Continent, these ancient, tattered stories are offered as signposts to help us understand the birth of Europe – and so, perhaps, its future.

Click here to buy Epic Continent via Amazon

geo line break v3

Free eBooks - Geographical Newsletter

Get the best of Geographical delivered straight to your inbox by signing up to our weekly newsletter and get a free collection of eBooks!

geo line break v3

NEVER MISS A STORY - Follow Geographical on Social

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in REVIEWS...

Books

Read on for our reviews of some of the latest…

Books

by Paul Wapner • Polity Books • £9.99 (paperback)

Books

by Lucy Jones • Allen Lane • £20 (hardback)

Books

by Robert Twigger • Weidenfeld & Nicolson • £20/£13.99 (hardback/eBook)

Books

by Nick Danziger • Unbound • £50 (hardback)

Books

by Riaz Dean • Casemate • £20 (hardback)

Books

by Adam Rutherford • Weidenfeld & Nicolson • £12.99/£6.99 (hardback/eBook)

Books

by Emily Chappell • Profile • £14.99 (hardback)

Books

by Christiane Ritter • Pushkin Press  • £9.99 (paperback)

Books

by Sophy Roberts • Doubleday • £16.99 (hardback/eBook)

Books

by Kapka Kassabova • Granta Books • £14.99 (hardback)

Books

by Gaia Vince • Allen Lane • £20 (hardback)

Exhibitions

Photographer Claudia Andujar has spent 50 years documenting the lives…

Films

Monbiot demonstrates the shocking facts and presents a vision for…

Books

by Andrew Blum • The Bodley Head • £16.99 (hardback)

Books

by Sue and Patrick Cunningham • Papadakis • £40 (hardback)

Books

by Sanmao (translated by Mike Fu) • Bloomsbury • £16.99…

Books

by Matthew Woodward • Lanna Hall Publishing • £8.95 (paperback)

Books

by John Hemming • Hurst • £20 (hardback)