Thursday, June 7, 2012


Jerusalem - The Biography is Simon Sebag Monefiore's latest book and I enjoyed it immensely. I already liked his biographies of Stalin and Potemkin, so a biography of one of the most amaznig cities in the world promised to be interesting.

One warning, though: if you have a bad memory for names, this book will kill you. It's almost 900 pages long, but there are 4000 years of history to cover after all and especially in the early years, there's a new ruler as soon as you got used to the old one.

But even the ones who only appear for a short paragraph or page make an impression thanks to Montefiore's vivid writing.  They're not just names, they're persons and you get a glimpse into a whole lot of intriguing, passion, envy and lust for power. In the later centuries, the scene is dominated by intolerance. There's liberality as well, but more often than not it's blacked out by religious zealousness soon enough.

This was one of those books that gave me a list of books I want to read and people I want to learn more about. Montefiore has a few people he clearly has a special liking for, like Usama ibn Muniqdh or Wasif Jawhariyyeh, and his admiration is infectious. Jawhariyyeh lived in Jerusalem for sixty years and his diaries would be a fascinating read, I'm sure...unfortunately, there's no translated edition. He describes his childhood here

For anyone interested in religion and history, I can recommend this book.By the way, if you fancy a glimpse of Jerusalem today, I can highly recommend Dina's blog Jerusalem Hills Daily Photo

Book four for the Non-Fiction Challenge.

Reviews 2012

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