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Simon Schama interview

Simon Schama interview

The Baillie Gifford Prize 2017 longlist

Simon Schama discusses the story of humanity at the heart of his longlisted book Belonging: the Story of the Jews, 1492-1900 and gives us a taster of what he’s working on next.

What does it feel like to be longlisted?

Elated, flattered to be in such fine company, also completely undeluded about where it goes from here.

What inspired you to write this book?

It is part of the longer project of The Story of the Jews; originally meant to be one volume, then two, but this period between the Renaissance and Herzl absolutely demanded to occupy a big space between its own covers. As the work went on its contemporary resonance caught up with its big themes: I was not intending the confluence. 

How did you research? 

Lengthily, waywardly, imaginatively and (I hope) profoundly.

For anyone who wants to explore the subject further, which book(s) would you recommend?

David Biale (ed) The Cultures of the Jews (also 3 vols I am afraid).

In what ways is your book the story of humanity?

Uprootedness and the struggle to belong, the ambiguities of domicile and attachment have become the great trials of our time; the Jews have just been the millenia-long outliers and tragic specialists in this subject.

What are you working on next? 

Return of the Tribes. About the lure of nativism - from centuries ago to now; from Japan to Trumplandia. 

Simon Schama

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