December 2, 2014

Dec 2
2014

The Story of the Jews

Simon Schama

(2013)

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SOLD: $4,500

First edition. A passage about a memory from temple when he was nice years old prompts this wonderful annotation: “So many childhood memories opened up again while writing this book—smells, textures, sounds – kosher Proust – more than Proust!” Schama has succeeded in reaching the broad, general audience outside academia, and it is fascinating to read him commenting on the artistic and literary choices he made in telling this story. It’s a reminder that the greatest historians share the novelist’s skill of narrative fluency and imaginative plotting. Before chapter five, “The Menorah and the Cross,” and his jump to the twentieth century, Schama writes, “I paused a little bit before switching time & place so extremely, but the story asks for it—Dura-Europos’s discovery for me—I wanted to recreate the original sense of shock…” At the beginning of chapter nine he says, “haunted by Gibbon, Macaulay here – not a Jewish wordsmith, but part of my apprenticeship.” Further on: “Colour – immensely important throughout the book – Judaism not black & white.” He shows us how parts of the story still move him. The massacre of Jews in Mainz by Crusaders in the 11th century prompts him to write: “still unbearably painful passage to write.” Of the hanging of 269 Jews in London in 1279, he writes: “no one remembers this in English history books.” He takes note of the reviewers in several annotations, and not always to disagree with them. On the issue of the Mishneh Torah, Schama says, “I still have no idea why some reviewers thought this was a misdescription of M.T.!” But on the last page of the book he notes how “some reviewer (kindly) said of this ending, ‘at last Schama shut up & let someone else’s words sound out.’ Quite right!”

SCHAMA, Simon (b. 1945). The Story of the Jews: Finding the Words, 1000BCE – 1492CE. London: The Bodley Head, 2013. 8°. Original gray cloth; dust jacket.

 


About

© Oxford Film and Television Ltd

Simon Schama is the author of sixteen books and the writer-presenter of more than forty documentaries on art, history, and literature for BBC2. He won a National Magazine Award in 1996 for his art criticism for The New Yorker, an Emmy Award in 2007 for his film on Bernini from series The Power of Art, and the Broadcast Critics Guild Awards for his series on British history and for The American Future: A History. In addition, Schama was awarded the NCR Book Award nonfiction prize for Citizens, the National Book Critics Circle award for Rough Crossings, and the WH Smith Literary Award for Landscape and Memory. His latest project is The Story of the Jews, which was broadcast on BBC2 in the UK and published as a book in autumn 2013. The second volume of The Story of the Jews is due to be published in autumn 2014.