Richard Flanagan at The Guardian:
Danube was originally published in Italian in 1986, the same year Mikhail Gorbachev introduced the Soviet Union to two new concepts: glasnost andperestroika. Written during the final efflorescence of the cold war – when, as we now know, the world came the closest it has ever been to a nuclear war – the countries of what was then called eastern Europe had become, after four decades of isolating Soviet rule, terra incognita to many in the west.
Ignorance always summons greater ignorance in its defence. When Danube was published in English, in 1989, the influential American Kirkus Reviews called the book “heavy-going” in its description of what it termed “this little-known (at least to most Americans) corner of Europe”. The New York Times reviewer tellingly declared his preference for the Rhine as the river of civilisation, “closer to our western world and to our history … It only sends its Nibelungen to the east to get them massacred by the hordes of Attila.”