- Paperback: 672 pages
- Publisher: Harper Perennial; New Ed edition (19 April 2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0006863485
- ISBN-13: 978-0006863489
- Product Dimensions: 17.5 x 3.5 x 24 cm
- Average Customer Review: 16 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 99,000 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Landscape and Memory Paperback – 19 Apr 2004
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‘One of the most intelligent, original, stimulating, self-indulgent, perverse and irresistibly enjoyable books I have ever read.’ Philip Ziegler
‘This is a tour de force of vivid historical writing…It is astonishingly learned, and yet offered with verve, humour and an unflagging sense of delight.’ Michael Ignatieff, IOS
‘Simon Schama is a giant, a great thinking machine and a golden lyricist as well. He takes us beyond geololgy and vegetation into myth and memory, to unravel the ancient connections which bring mountain, forest and river into our soul.’ Brian Masters, MoS
‘Schama long ago established himself as one of the most learned, original and provocative historians in the English speaking world…Unclassifiable, inimitable, fascinating, “Landscape and Memory” will inform and haunt, chasten and enrage. It is that rarest of commodities in our cultural marketplace – a work of genuine originality.’ Anthony Grafton, New Republic
The forest primeval, the river of life, the sacred mount -- read Landscape and Memory to have these explained...'One of the most intelligent, original, stimulating, self-indulgent, perverse and irresistibly enjoyable books I have ever read. ' Philip ZieglerLandscape and Memory is a history book unlike any other. In a series of journeys through space and time, it examines our relationship with the landscape around us -- rivers, mountains, forests -- the impact each of them has had on our culture and imaginations, and the way in which we, in turn, have shaped them to answer our needs. This is not a conventional history book -- but a history book that builds up its argument by a series of poetic stories and impressions which cumulatively have the effect of a great novel. The forest primeval, the river of life, the sacred mount -- and the end of the wonderful book we understand where these ideas have come from, why they are so compelling and how they still lie all around us.See all Product description
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There are undoubted instances of the self-congratulatory, ‘I know a lot more than you’, and the academic show-off in this extraordinarily dense piece of erudition and scholarship.
I suppose I should declare how I came to read this book, which isn’t a volume I’d have normally acquired. Resident in the UK, I was seeking a translation of the Qur’an, for research purposes, and could find nothing suitable. Eventually, I discovered one on the Amazon USA site, so ordered it. The package arrived with a brick of a book (priced at £30.00) and about five times the physical size of the paperback I’d ordered. It was Simon Schama’s book. I explained, via email, what had happened. The generous folk over the pond suggested I keep the book they’d posted in error and then sent me the book I’d ordered.
There’s some irony that an order for a book on Islam should produce a volume written from a distinctively Jewish point of view, but that’s no matter to an agnostic, of course.
The anecdotal passages, accounts of family history, I found entertaining and engaging. But much of the scholarly text, replete with references to historical figures I frequently failed to recognise, was too unfamiliar to permit a sympathetic read. There were lengthy passages that would no doubt delight the specialist, but which bored me to sleep.
Too much information can be as off-putting as too little, and I was left with the impression of an author more concerned to demonstrate his immense range and depth of knowledge than to provide the casual reader with a means of accessing it.
The book deals largely with the way in which landscape informs our imaginations and therefore influences the creation of works of art. How locations can impact on both events and the artist’s response to them. It’s also a history lesson deeply influenced by the Hebrew view of the world.
A significantly weighty tome, both physically (I read part of it while in hospital and found my arms soon wearied from holding it up) and in terms of content, it was a work I could read only in portions. I learnt much but was also frequently left in the dark about those aspects of which I had no former knowledge.
Students of art history and Jewish society will find a great deal in these pages. For the general reader there’s a mix of the incomprehensible with informed education.
So, a work I enjoyed in part and endured in others. Frustrating and rewarding in turn.
Half the problem was the massive weight of the book. It took me weeks to finish as it was a hardback, large format book coming in at nearly 900 pages, and was just far too big for me to carry around, as I do most books I am reading. This meant that I was confined to reading at home, preferably with a table underneath it to support its substantial weight.
The rest of my difficulties came from the fact that I struggled to find a coherent narrative which held the book together. There was definitely a coherent argument and set of ideas underpinning the material, but the sections of the book were not laid out particularly sympathetically to the reader struggling to find their way through the huge quantities of materials, sources, illustrations and notes.
There were some sections I enjoyed more than others. The section on the Anglo Saxon forests and their appropriation and abuse by the Norman aristocracy were fascinating, as was the section on the romantic idea of the mountains and the gradual touristification of the French Alps and Pyrenees. I struggled more with the sections on the Germanic walds and the American relationship with the wilderness, perhaps because I came to these areas with less prior knowledge of them.
The whole book was scholarly, erudite and lucid, but for me overwhelming as a book to try and read for pleasure. As a text book I imagine it is more useful, or for those with a good framework of existing knowledge on which to hang the material Schama offers in such quantities.
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