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.

Keep an eye on the world
signup buttonGet Geographical’s latest news delivered straight to your inbox every Friday, plus a collection of free eBooks on the subjects that matter to you!

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...

Films

The inside story about The Cave – the first feature…

Books

by Laura Waters • Affirm Press (via bookdepository.com) • £16.61 (paperback)

Books

by John Halpern, MD and David Blistein • Hachette Book…

Books

by Gavin Thurston • Seven Dials • £16.99 (hardback)

Books

by Jon Gertner • Icon Books • £18.99 (hardback)

Books

by Justin Marozzi • Allen Lane • £25 (hardback)

Exhibitions

The Great Animal Orchestra combines the audio recordings of bioacoustics…

Films

Hotel Mumbai shares a true story of heroism in the…

Films

A moving coming-of-age story about a young black man’s struggle…

Books

by Raja Shehadeh • Profile Books • £14.99 (hardback)

Books

by Caroline Crampton • Granta Books • £14.99 (hardback)

Books

by Alastair Humphreys • Harper Collins • £14.99 (hardback)

Books

by Ben Aitken • Icon Books • £12.99 (paperback)

Books

by Edward O Wilson • Allen Lane • £17.99 (paperback)

Books

by David Eimer • Bloomsbury • £20 (hardback)

Films

The uplifting story of a remarkable man who sailed the…

Books

by John Higgs • Weidenfeld & Nicolson • £20/£11 (hardback/eBook)

Books

by Lewis Dartnell • Bodley Head • £18.99 (hardback)

Books

by Richard Williams • Polity Books • £15.99 (paperback)