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On walking in today's Europe

Fabian Göranson paints a melancholy and loving portrait of a continent that is still alive in the past, but desperately looking for a viable future.


When I read Fabian Göranson's book in serial form The dream of Europe, published at Galago Publishers, I'm struck by a sense of déjà vu. The same feeling I had as a teenager when I read Jack Kerouac's book on the road, beat generation's great novel, a drive through the vast United States.

Kerouac traveled around between 1947 and 1950, right after World War II. The trip was an attempt to understand the United States and what the dream of America was all about.

Fabian Göranson and his travel companion Daniel Berg traveled around for one month in June in Europe in search of a European identity. But it is also an inner journey – a constant commute between the local and the global, the personal and the great.

Dictatorship, corruption and industrial deserts

"I was born 1978 when the whole of Eastern Europe was ruled by stiff communist dictatorships." Fabian places himself at the center of the story, it's his voice telling, it's his surreal worldview being offered. He is not judgmental, but factual, today's Europe is also what he repeats as a mantra: "Ukraine: civil war, Belarus: stern dictatorship, Turkey: civil war and dictatorship, Russia: dictatorship."

«Brussels is like a Rome without uines, like a Kreuzber subculture as a post-apocalyptic
Paris. "

The trip was both an initiation journey and an educational novel – they met people who gave them keys to cities and countries – they traveled through vast landscapes and industrial deserts.

Germany is both fragmented and burdensome – Italy corrupt and friendly, sparse and depopulated – migrants from Macedonia and Montenegro travel around in construction work. The feeling of home is gone.

In Hungary, a Budapest with walls affixed to Soros' face is presented. What does this philanthropic capitalist who is known for his support for refugees arriving in Europe want?

In Warsaw – made as a backdrop of buildings that look absolutely identical to those destroyed during the war – young Poles are trying to find answers and hope for the future.

Brussels, where Fabian lived for two years as a young teenager, is described as follows: "Brussels is like a Rome without ruins, like a Kreuzberg without subcultures, like a post-apocalyptic Paris."

In France, most Paris shows diversity and decay: "The whole of Belleville is like a big African wedding," writes Fabian. The neighborhood was formerly most African, now it is the Chinese and Vietnamese who have taken over.

In the Parisian quarter of Marais, Fabian tries to eat a falafel at L'As du Falafel, but the sex of hundreds of tourists scares him. It is perhaps in Marais that the gentrification process is more tangible. The old Jewish quarter has now been transformed into a reserve for fashion shops and wealthy travelers. On an old hammam, a Gucci shop now stands.

With the help of drawings in blue and black, Fabian Göranson paints a melancholy and loving portrait of a continent that lives in the past but is desperately looking for a viable future.

A modern Marco Polo

The language is consistently beautiful and baroque, Göranson's ideas are both ingenious and apt. "I dream of cities I've never been to," and Italo Calvino's magnificent The invisible cities (1972) is a powerful reference. As a modern Marco Polo, Göranson travels through an inherited continent built on slavery and colonialism.

Like a modern Marco Polo, Göranson travels through a scarred continent that is built
on slavery and colonialism.

The city of Nantes in France became rich in triangle trading, black slaves were exchanged in the city for tobacco, cocoa and sugar, which were resold with big profits. Even Voltaire, who wrote fiery pamphlets against slavery, owned part of a company that sold and bought slaves in the same city.

During the trip, Daniel and Fabian meet theorists and poets, smugglers and prostitutes, masons and intellectuals. They live in simple hotels and eat fast food in cafes. They are trying to blend in. They travel like modern backpackers, but carry the weight of a dying modernity.

In Belgrade and Macedonia, Göranson sees clear traces of the war, a tribal war in the middle of Europe, called the war in Yugoslavia. A war in which hate rhetoric was significant, and where neighbors killed each other. In Greece he sees dying beggars and drug addicts – the contrast between rich and poor is extreme, and the refugees living in tents make the city a smelting furnace.

Europe on the verge of divorce?

Fabian's book is both personal and universal. It starts with a hint of divorce and it ends with a divorce – without drama, without hate. Safe Sweden is part of Europe and its mystique, but it is also a place on the periphery, in the border, which the Romans called borderline: the soldiers who protected the outer borders of the empire and were usually recruited from the Barbarian tribes, who received some land and gold to fight the invasions of their former countrymen.

In a conversation that Fabian Göranson and Daniel Berg bring with them they meet along the journey, concerns about the current of refugees migrating towards Europe are also reflected and must be integrated.

The Romans' recipe was to make them citizens and entrust them with the protection of the borders. It remains to be seen if today's solution can be a similar one.

The dream of Europe is both dreamlike and surreal, but at the same time it is a painful read, beautiful and fragile as a Greek vessel.


Ana L. Valdés
Ana L. Valdés
Valdés is a writer, anthropologist and activist.

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