Belonging : The Story of the Jews, 1492 - 1900
The words that failed were words of hope. But they did not fail at all times and everywhere. These gripping pages teem with words of defiance and optimism, sounds and images of tenacious life and adventurous modernism, music and drama, business and philosophy, poetry and politics. The second part of Simon Schama's epic Story of the Jews is neither overwhelmed by hopelessness nor shrouded in the smoke of the crematoria. As much as it gives full weight to the magnitude of the disaster that befell the Jews, it is a story of hope vindicated rather than wiped out. The stories unfold across the world - in the provincial pavilions of Ming China and beneath the brass chandeliers of Rembrandt's Amsterdam; on ships and carts, stage-coaches and railway trains crossing oceans and continents; in the honky-tonk of San Francisco and the pampas of Argentina, the department stores of Berlin and the avenues of Trieste. The stories themselves are played on the stage of opera houses; in the travelling camera of an expedition in Ukraine, the prison cells of Stalin's Russia, the lagers of the Holocaust; the scenery of misery and redemption in Palestine and Israel. At the heart of the story is the budding belief that peoples of different faiths, customs and cultures can be fellow-citizens of a common country. And amidst all the brutality, somehow the light of Jewish endurance is never extinguished. The odyssey is unforgettable, the storyteller impassioned, the words unfailing.
The epic conclusion to Simon Schama's landmark history of the Jews, following his highly acclaimed first volume.
"A magnificent achievement... [a] parade of bustlingly vital characters from across the globe ... all painted in luminous colour... By offering such a throbbing cavalcade of characters, Schama is defying several key assumptions, even stereotypes, about Jewish history and Jews themselves... Above all, while much Jewish history can read like a sorrowful trudge through disaster, plague and pogrom, Schama's book teems with life rather than death" -- Jonathan Freedland * Guardian * "A rich melody that soars above the ground bass of prejudice and persecution ... Schama has made himself the leading virtuoso of our time. This second volume of this trilogy is an affirmation of faith in the grand narrative ... Its familiar and familial tone proclaims the author's unapologetic mission to play his part in the story of the Jews by bringing their history alive... [A] glittering gemstone of a book" -- Daniel Johnson * The Times * "Magisterial... In a wonderfully rich narrative that moves between continents and disciplines of history, Schama describes the influence Jews have had on the world... Schama is superb on the chances for assimilation that Georgian society offered wealthy Jews who had nominally converted... The third and final volume won't be easy reading. But at least in the company of Schama - one of the finest writers and thinkers of his generation - we're guaranteed a guide both insightful and eloquent" -- Saul David * Daily Telegraph * "Rich, complex and fascinating ... Schama maintains the attention with the vividness of his writing and his talent for unearthing gripping figures full of human contradictions. And through this dazzling immersion in the preoccupations of the period that the bigger picture slowly emerges ... Profoundly illuminating" -- Andrew Anthony * Observer * "Simon Schama is an international treasure ... In this reworking of a birth of a nation, Schama reveals himself not so much the D. W. Griffith as the Tintoretto of historical narrative. By painterly touches, he manages to convey colour, texture, shape, context, light and shadow, as well as to stimulate the senses ... Schama displays reflective intelligence and discerning human insight ... He is imaginative, epigrammatic and fearless ... an effervescent cicerone who instructs and entertains in like measure." -- Bernard Wasserstein * Spectator *