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The Story of the Jews: Finding the Words (1000 BCE - 1492) (Story of the Jews Vol 1) Hardcover – 12 Sep 2013


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Bodley Head (12 Sept. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847921329
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847921321
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 4.7 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 124,976 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Simon Schama is University Professor of Art History and History at Columbia University and the prize-winning author of fourteen books, which have been translated into twenty languages. They include The Embarrassment of Riches: An Interpretation of Dutch Culture in the Golden Age; Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution; Landscape and Memory; Rembrandt's Eyes; the History of Britain trilogy and Rough Crossings, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award. He has written widely on music, art, politics and food for the Guardian, Vogue and the New Yorker. His award-winning television work as writer and presenter for the BBC stretches over two decades and includes the fifteen-part A History of Britain and the eight-part, Emmy-winning Power of Art. The American Future: A History appeared on BBC2 in autumn 2008.

Product Description

Review

"An exuberant tour de force" (Simon Sebag Montefiore Daily Mail)

"Schama at his best, a labour of love, as full of memorable incident as a Bellow novel and wittier than a Woody Allen movie" (The Times)

"Schama has written a proud and personal story of his people, one that will make a good starting point for those interested in one of history’s most fascinating and tragic tales" (Josh Glancy Sunday Times)

"Inspiring… Schama tells it with panache, weaving facts and anecdotes into a vivid history" (Observer)

"Unforgettable…a delicious cacophony of conversations and clamorous arguments echoing across history" (Daily Telegraph)

Book Description

A landmark history of a culture, of a people and of a world by one of our most distinguished and electrifying historians

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Deborah H. Maccoby on 21 Jan. 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"The Story of the Jews" (of which only volume 1 has so far appeared; volume 2 will come out in September) was conceived simultaneously as a TV series and a book, and the book is actually based upon the TV series.

This combination of the visual image and the printed word works excellently in relation to the central theme that the true and eternal homeland of the Jews is the Book - the Jews being very aptly named "The People of the Book"; that the indestructibility of the Book is one of the main reasons for the survival of the Jewish people in the face of terrible adversity; and that as a result the words of the sacred books were regarded as so beloved and holy that beautiful images grew up around them. Schama excels in describing the lovely, vibrantly-coloured images that decorated the words in Hebrew illuminated manuscripts (pages 372-3) - and this book contains beautiful illustrations of these.

Related to this is Schama's demolition of the myth that Judaism is opposed to representational images, with his vivid description of the discovery of early synagogues with brilliantly-coloured paintings on their walls (pages 173-192), also reproduced in the book's illustrations.

Schama is also particularly good on the "mappae mundi" - the "cloths of the world" that were made by the Jews of Palma de Mallorca during the Spanish Golden Age - maps such as the Catalan Atlas (which also features in Schama's illustrations), with its "folding lengths of painted vellum - crowded with Catalan text, webbed with the lines of the winds, brilliant with gold and silver, vermilion and viridian, the personifications of the zodiac, things fabulous and things charted...." (page 375).
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Prof M. Baum on 23 Dec. 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I thought the television version of the Story of the Jews was remarkable but I now realise it simply scratched the surface of the subject.
Simon Schama makes his fun and easy to read. His powerful narrative drive, the frequent comical asides and the extraordinary scholarship of his work make the book unputdownable. As a Jew I thought I knew the story of my people but this book makes me realise how many pieces of the complex jigsaw were missing in my knowledge. Schama provides all the missing pieces so that I can now see the whole picture in it's grandeur, complexity and bloody mindedness.
And this is only part 1!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Ralph Blumenau TOP 500 REVIEWER on 29 Jan. 2014
Format: Hardcover
Yet another History of the Jews? But Simon Schama digs out much that is missing from most such histories. The first chapter already sounds a new and idiosyncratic note: he begins not with the Patriarchs or the Exodus, but many centuries later, in the sixth century BCE, with the Jewish community and temple at Elephantine, in Egypt, during the time when Egypt was governed by the Persians. Schama calls it the “first [sic] Jewish society we know anything much about” (can this be true?), though “outside of a circle of scholars, this first [again], rich Jewish story has had virtually no purchase on the common memory of Jewish tradition.”

Later parts of the story follow along more traditional lines, but Schama also introduces little-known details found in scraps of clay, papyrus or other materials which are about the daily activities and concerns of ordinary people. (There are sixteen pages on the Genizah treasure trove, discovered in Cairo in 1896.) There are also fables which, as all fables do, tell us something about the mind set of the people who invented them.

The book is not one for readers new to the subject: a good deal of knowledge is taken for granted. It does improve as it goes along; but the early chapters are not always an easy read, and the chronology is not always clear and has to be worked out from other sources. Again it is in the early chapters that the style is sometimes stodgily detailed; at other times, both here and later, it is imaginative and eloquent, in places jauntily colloquial, and occasionally verbose and declamatory.
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41 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Michael S on 25 Sept. 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Simon Scharma calls this a Story rather than a History and perhaps with reason. If you were to expect the familiar Jewiosh stories from the Old Testament you would be sadly disappointed. There is no reference to the great tales of Samson, of Elijah in his chariot of fire and (astonishingly perhaps) barely a mention of Abraham. In fact, Scharma has amassed copious evidence about the Jewish experience throughout history from ancient times up to 1492 while ignoring what many would imagine its major source, the Hebrew Scriptures.

Jesus of Nazareth hardly gets a mention but his followers certainly do and their treatment of the Jews, while familiar, still manages to fill one with dismay. Islam treated them slightly better but there were still massive burdens to be borne by Jew living in Moslem areas of the world. A good deal of the book is somewhat depressing, particularly since we know that the worst is yet to follow.

This is not really an easy read because it contains a massive amount of scholarship, far more than the TV programmes that accompany it. However, Scharama has a most attractive style and if you watched the programmes you can imagine his voice as you read: its humour, sardonic asides, deliberate anachronisms and moving passages that touch us more deeply.

It is the first of two volumes, covering the earlier TV programmes: the second volume is due next year. I will certainly be among those who are loooking forward to reading it.
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