The History of Half-Forgotten Europe
My forty years in the writer's trade were marked by the publication of "Vanished Kingdoms". In many ways, it is my best book – wide-ranging, innovative in both form and content, and very solidly edited; but the latter stages of its production caused me more headaches than the preceding four decades.
As the "Introduction" explains, the book's central concept, that "all states die” had been growing on me for ages. So, too, had the themes of memory and changing communal identity. What is more, the book's structure, in which each case study was divided into three clear sections, was in place from the start. Research undertaken "on the hoof” during visits to all point from Strathclyde and Dublin, to Aragon, Burgundy, Aquitaine, and Estonia, gave me and my wife enormous pleasure. Some delay was caused by ill-health during our stay in Cambridge, but delivery in May 2008 saw me in optimistic mood.
Disaster loomed when the contracted publisher failed to do any editing for months on end. My agent then decided to switch to Penguin Books. It proved in the long run to be a life-saving move, but not before another year was lost when the copy-edited text was judged unsatisfactory a few weeks prior to the intended publication date. Unnecessary friction was caused by designers insisting on unconsulted covers. In the third edition, the American publishers multiplied the misery by sending in an 800-page set of copy-edited proofs out of the blue and completely incompatible with the agreed Penguin Text. Not surprisingly, my Polish publishers managed to translate, edit and print the book twelve months ahead of everyone else.
Nonetheless, all was forgiven when a series of brilliant reviews emerged. "Vanished Kingdoms" tread on no-one's corns, and has spawned the most enthusiastic flow of readers’ letters in forty years.