Author(s): Simon Schama
The words that failed were words of hope. But they did not fail at all times and everywhere. These gripping pages teem with words of defiance and optimism, sounds and images of tenacious life and adventurous modernism, music and drama, business and philosophy, poetry and politics. The second part of Simon Schama's epic Story of the Jews is neither overwhelmed by hopelessness nor shrouded in the smoke of the crematoria. As much as it gives full weight to the magnitude of the disaster that befell the Jews, it is a story of hope vindicated rather than wiped out. The stories unfold across the world - in the provincial pavilions of Ming China and beneath the brass chandeliers of Rembrandt's Amsterdam; on ships and carts, stage-coaches and railway trains crossing oceans and continents; in the honky-tonk of San Francisco and the pampas of Argentina, the department stores of Berlin and the avenues of Trieste. The stories themselves are played on the stage of opera houses; in the travelling camera of an expedition in Ukraine, the prison cells of Stalin's Russia, the lagers of the Holocaust; the scenery of misery and redemption in Palestine and Israel. At the heart of the story is the budding belief that peoples of different faiths, customs and cultures can be fellow-citizens of a common country. And amidst all the brutality, somehow the light of Jewish endurance is never extinguished. The odyssey is unforgettable, the storyteller impassioned, the words unfailing.
Simon Schama is University Professor of Art History and History at Columbia University. His award-winning books, translated into fifteen languages, include Citizens, Landscape and Memory, Rembrandt's Eyes, A History of Britain, The Power of Art, Rough Crossings and The American Future. His art columns for the New Yorker won the National Magazine Award for criticism and his journalism has appeared regularly in the Guardian and the Financial Times where he is Contributing Editor. He has written and presented forty films for BBC2 on subjects as diverse as Tolstoy, American politics and John Donne and won an Emmy for The Power of Art.