Elisabeth Åsbrink translated from the Swedish by Fiona Graham


Where Now Begins

Publication Date: Jan 30, 2018

304 pp


List Price US $16.99
ISBN: 978-1-59051-897-7


List Price US $25.95
Trim Size (H x W): 5.5 x 8.25
ISBN: 978-1-59051-896-0

An award-winning writer captures a year that defined the modern world, intertwining historical events around the globe with key moments from her personal history. 

The year 1947 is a turning point in the twentieth century. The surrender and subsequent division of Germany defines the Cold War. The CIA is created, Israel is about to be born, Simone de Beauvoir finds the love of her life, George Orwell is writing his last book, and Christian Dior creates the hyperfeminine New Look while women are forced out of jobs and back into the home.

While all of this is happening, a ten-year-old Hungarian Jewish boy in a refugee camp for children of parents murdered by the Nazis must make the decision of a lifetime. What he chooses will determine his own fate and that of his daughter yet to be born, Elisabeth.

Excerpt from 1947

Time is not running quite to plan.

On January 1, 1947, The Times informs the people of Britain that they should no longer rely on their clocks or watches. To be quite certain that the time is what it purports to be, it is recommended that they tune in to the BBC, which will broadcast extra bulletins giving the real time. Electric clocks are affected by the frequent power cuts, but mechanical clocks also need overhauling. This may be due to the cold. Things may improve.

In the course of the war, nearly 50,000 tons of bombs fell on Great Britain. More than 4.5 million buildings are damaged. Some towns have been all but wiped out, such as the Scottish port whose air raids were given a name all their own—the Clydebank Blitz.

All across Europe there is similar damage. The Austrian town of Wiener Neustadt once had 40,000 buildings. Now only eighteen are intact. Half the houses in Budapest are uninhabitable. In France, a total of 460,000 buildings are in ruins. In the Soviet Union, 1,700 small towns and villages have been completely destroyed. In Germany, around 3.6 million dwellings have been bombed to bits—a fifth of the country’s homes. Half the homes in Berlin are derelict. In Germany as a whole, more than eighteen million people are homeless. A further ten million are without homes in the Ukraine. All these people have to manage with limited access to water and sporadic access to electricity.

Human rights do not exist, and the concept of genocide is all but unknown. Those who survived have just begun to count their dead. Many travel home but cannot find it; others travel anywhere but to the place they came from.

An NPR Best Book of the Year

“1947 is one of those books that makes you want to major in history. It is one of the best books, certainly the best nonfiction book, that I’ve read recently. I think the subtitle, Where Now Begins, really speaks to one of the things that makes this book so important: The echoes of 1947 are resonating very, very clearly today.” Nancy Pearl on NPR’s Morning Edition

“When journalist Åsbrink was ten, her father left her a letter that was 19 lines long. The first 18 expressed his love; the last sentence said never to pity yourself. When Åsbrink writes about 1947, she honors her father and others who disappeared under Nazi rule…During this year, writer Simone de Beauvoir went to the United States and had a passionate affair with writer Nelson Algren. A Swedish fascist created escape routes for Nazi friends. Nelly Sachs and Paul Celan wrote poetry about ultimate loss. Primo Levi’s memoirs were accepted by a publisher. George Orwell began work on his masterpiece, 1984…For the first time, genocide is recognized as a crime…Asbrink weaves personal and historical stories to show how people migrated across the world, unaccepted in their adopted countries…This superb book deserves a wide audience. In telling history through disparate voices, Åsbrink effectively descries the seas of change, as times change quicker than people do.” —Library Journal (starred review)

“Among innumerable turning points in history, 1947, just two years after World War II ended, is a year worth review. Åsbrink’s book, translated from the Swedish, makes some of that year’s neglected history and high drama tangible and meaningful. With a technique reminiscent of John Dos Passos’ ‘newsreels,’ the author records events from across the world (Paris, Palestine, New York, Los Angeles, Budapest, Berlin, Delhi, etc.), using the present tense to create a sense of immediacy…Throughout the book, Åsbrink artfully selects her narratives…A skillful and illuminating way of presenting, to wonderful effect, the cultural, political, and personal history of a year that changed the world.” —Kirkus Reviews 

“Unearthing many forgotten details, Åsbrink illuminates this pivotal year after the end of WWII, adroitly revealing how profoundly 1947 shaped the decades that followed. Åsbrink takes an expansive, month-by-month look at world events, from the partitioning of India to escaping SS soldiers in Argentina to the grand mufti of Jerusalem to Billie Holiday topping the charts in DownBeat magazine to Simone de Beauvoir visiting New York for the first time. Åsbrink writes with sardonic passion in an immediately striking tone…A sweeping cacophony of modernity.” —Booklist

“Åsbrink has created an exceptional and gripping chronicle of this one momentous post-Second World War year … the book is in no way just a historical record: instead its themes are contemporary, valid, and urgent … 1947: When Now Begins is an extraordinary book, based on an incredible amount of research, presented in a very sober, sensitive way. It invites us to go in search of even more information. A highly recommended must-read.” —European Literature Network

“Elisabeth Åsbrink writes sentences that make one gasp in admiration…[1947]should be read for its poetry, its insights, and the interweaving of personal and political judgments.” —Sydney Morning Herald 

“An intriguing account of a number of significant events which occurred in a year when the world was beginning to come to terms with the fallout from the Second World War…Åsbrink deftly brings together the tangle, the mess, the aspirations, and the disappointments which characterized the period and which for her resonate personally through her family history.” —Rosemary Ashton, author of One Hot Summer: Dickens, Darwin, Disraeli, and the Great Stink of 1858

“Gripping, overwhelming, and completed with such stylistic and factual consistency that you almost lose your breath. It does not happen often, but occasionally: good journalistic craftsmanship rises and becomes great literature.” —Sydsvenska Dagbladet

“Elisabeth Åsbrink has written a book about history that distinguishes itself from many other history books by its poetic beauty…1947 is as much an adept history book as it is a beautiful and well-written piece of fiction. Read it!” —Svenska Dagbladet

“If you don’t get your hands on this book you will miss out not only on a historically meaningful year, but also on a strong reading experience.” —Jönköpings-Posten 

“You get a piece of a life in your hands. There is something here that you seldom find in young Swedish prose…It is beautifully told. Dark, but beautiful.” —Dagens Nyheter