Pravda Ha Ha: True Travels to the End of Europe
In 1989 the Berlin Wall fell. In that euphoric year I travelled from Berlin to Moscow, exploring the forgotten half of Europe. Thirty years on I retrace my original ‘Stalin’s Nose’ journey, travelling from revanchist Russia through Ukraine’s bloodlands, to illiberal Hungary, Poland, Germany and the UK, across countries confronting old ghosts and new fears. Along the way I shoulder an AK 47 to go hunting with Moscow’s Chicken Tsar, play video games with a St Petersburg cyber-hacker who cracked the US election, drop by the Che Guevara High School of Political Leadership in a non-existent nowhereland and meet the Warsaw doctor who tried to stop a march of 70,000 nationalists.
As Europe sleepwalks into a perilous new age, I explore how opportunists – from Putin to Home Counties populists – have made a joke of truth and examine the veracity of historical narrative from reportage to fiction to fake news. I ask what happened to the optimism of 1989 and, in the shadow of Brexit, chronicle the collapse of the European dream.
‘A gem of a book, informative, companionable, sometimes funny, and wholly original. MacLean must surely be the outstanding, and most indefatigable, traveller-writer of our time.’ — John le Carré
‘No one writes quite like Rory MacLean’ — Robert Macfarlane
Pravda (Правда) n. 1. Truth. 2. Disposition to speak or act truly or without deceit; truthfulness, veracity, sincerity [- Russ. э́то пра́вда? Is it true?] 3. Russian broadsheet newspaper, formerly the official newspaper of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union [f. Proto-Slavic pravьda, from pravъ = right, correct]
‘Pravda Ha Ha’ will be published by Bloomsbury in the UK in October 2019, and in the US, Australia and New Zealand in January 2020