viernes, 10 de enero de 2014

The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History - Robert M. Edsel

Summary (from Goodreads):

At the same time Adolf Hitler was attempting to take over the western world, his armies were methodically seeking and hoarding the finest art treasures in Europe. The Führer had begun cataloguing the art he planned to collect as well as the art he would destroy: "degenerate" works he despised.

In a race against time, behind enemy lines, often unarmed, a special force of American and British museum directors, curators, art historians, and others, called the Monuments Men, risked their lives scouring Europe to prevent the destruction of thousands of years of culture. Focusing on the eleven-month period between D-Day and V-E Day, this fascinating account follows six Monuments Men and their impossible mission to save the world's great art from the Nazis.

The Monuments Men follows the story of six men of the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives (MFAA) section. This section was born out of the need of protecting culture from both allied and nazis. While their mission was supported in theory by the main political figures of the time, it was never well-funded or organized, since war offensive was given a higher priority. Thus, the number of MFAA men was always scarce. Robert Edsel raises an important question: what is our cultural legacy really worth? Compared to the crimes against humanity committed by the nazis, protecting art seemed like a futile attempt. Although losing art meant partially losing Europe's identity, the MFAA was soon forgotten after the end of World War 2. In this book, he has given us the opportunity to learn about their mission.

I know next to nothing about art history, so I'm not surprised that I didn't know about this particular topic (although I really enjoy reading about WW2). Even I could tell that the book is extremely-well researched. Robert Edsel delivers an in-depth account of the day-to-day lives of the men in the MFAA section, along with their greatest victories: saving the Louvre and hunting down the art Hitler stole to create his own Führermuseum. However, the writing does the topic a disservice. The author tries to convert this story, which is interesting per se, into a mix of Hollywood heist/hero story. It's also peppered with a great deal of cheap patriotism, automatically sanctifying everything the allied forces did, and turning the nazis to cartoon villains.

I was very excited to get my hands on this, but the book wasn't exactly as I expected it to be. The movie trailer might have had something to do with my disappointment, too. The Monuments Men was informative and interesting nonetheless, but I won't be rushing to reread it.

Have you read this book? Please, leave a link to your review in the comments and I will link you here!

2 comentarios:

  1. I'm not quite finished with The Monuments Men yet, but so far I'm really enjoying. There are a ton of fun stories I can't wait to see brought to life in the movie and I agree that it seems really well researched. What disappointed you about it compared to the movie trailer? The trailer did strike me as funnier than the book, which makes me look forwrad to watching it :)

    1. The humour has a lot to do with it. The trailer gives a more relaxed vibe about the whole MFAA - it shows the cluelessness of the MFAA men when faced to their actual mission or to a military problem and the viewer, while the book just tells about it. It is harder to relate to the characters.

      My other big problem with the book vs. the movie is that, while I think the characters on film will be memorable, it was hard to keep track of everyone in the The Monuments Men (and I'm usually good at this). The backstory, when provided, isn't well linked to the further experiences of the MFAA men. We almost never know how these men felt or what they thought about something. I understand it is difficult to reflect this and still keep the book as non-fiction, but it all seemed quite a cold account from an author who is so fascinated with his topic.

      I feel guilty about this comment because it make it seem like I hated the book while, in fact, I liked it! I enjoyed reading it and learned A LOT, but I thought it would become a favorite and it hasn't. That's it.