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Jerusalem: The Biography (English Edition) [Format Kindle]

Simon Sebag Montefiore
5.0 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (1 commentaire client)

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Extrait

Excerpted from the Preface

 
The history of Jerusalem is the history of the world, but it is also the chronicle of an often penurious provincial town amid the Judaean hills. Jerusalem was once regarded as the centre of the world and today that is more true than ever: the city is the focus of the struggle between the Abrahamic religions, the shrine for increasingly popular Christian, Jewish and Islamic fundamentalism, the strategic battlefield of clashing civilizations, the front line between atheism and faith, the cynosure of secular fascination, the object of giddy conspiracism and internet mythmaking, and the illuminated stage for the cameras of the world in the age of twenty-four-hour news. religious, political and media interest feed on each other to make Jerusalem more intensely scrutinized today than ever before.
 
Jerusalem is the Holy City, yet it has always been a den of superstition, charlatanism and bigotry; the desire and prize of empires, yet of no strategic value; the cosmopolitan home of many sects, each of which believes the city belongs to them alone; a city of many names—yet each tradition is so sectarian it excludes any other. This is a place of such delicacy that it is described in Jewish sacred literature in the feminine— always a sensual, living woman, always a beauty, but sometimes a shameless harlot, sometimes a wounded princess whose lovers have forsaken her. Jerusalem is the house of the one God, the capital of two peoples, the temple of three religions and she is the only city to exist twice—in heaven and on earth: the peerless grace of the terrestrial is as nothing to the glories of the celestial. The very fact that Jerusalem is both terrestrial and celestial means that the city can exist anywhere: new Jerusalems have been founded all over the world and everyone has their own vision of Jerusalem. Prophets and patriarchs, Abraham, David, Jesus and Muhammad are said to have trodden these stones. The Abrahamic religions were born there and the world will also end there on the Day of Judgement. Jerusalem, sacred to the Peoples of the Book, is the city of the Book: the Bible is, in many ways, Jerusalem’s own chronicle and its readers, from the Jews and early Christians via the Muslim conquerors and the Crusaders to today’s American evangelists, have repeatedly altered her history to fulfil biblical prophecy.

When the Bible was translated into Greek then Latin and English, it became the universal book and it made Jerusalem the universal city. Every great king became a David, every special people were the new Israelites and every noble civilization a new Jerusalem, the city that belongs to no one and exists for everyone in their imagination. And this is the city’s tragedy as well as her magic: every dreamer of Jerusalem, every visitor in all ages from Jesus’ Apostles to Saladin’s soldiers, from Victorian pilgrims to today’s tourists and journalists, arrives with a vision of the authentic Jerusalem and then is bitterly disappointed by what they find, an ever-changing city that has thrived and shrunk, been rebuilt and destroyed many times. But since this is Jerusalem, property of all, only their image is the right one; the tainted, synthetic reality must be changed; everyone has the right to impose their “Jerusalem” on Jerusalem—and, with sword and fire, they often have.

Ibn Khaldun, the fourteenth-century historian who is both participant and source for some of the events related in this book, noted that history is so “eagerly sought after. The men in the street aspire to know it. Kings and leaders vie for it.” This is especially true for Jerusalem. It is impossible to write a history of this city without acknowledging that Jerusalem is also a theme, a fulcrum, a spine even, of world history. At a time when the power of Internet mythology means that the hi-tech mouse and the curved sword can both be weapons in the same fundamentalist arsenal, the quest for historical facts is even more important now than it was for Ibn Khaldun.

A history of Jerusalem must be a study of the nature of holiness. The phrase “Holy City” is constantly used to describe the reverence for her shrines, but what it really means is that Jerusalem has become the essential place on earth for communication between God and man.

We must also answer the question: Of all the places in the world, why Jerusalem? The site was remote from the trade routes of the Mediterranean coast; it was short of water, baked in the summer sun, chilled by winter winds, its jagged rocks blistered and inhospitable. But the selection of Jerusalem as the Temple city was partly decisive and personal, partly organic and evolutionary: the sanctity became ever more intense because she had been holy for so long. Holiness requires not just spirituality and faith but also legitimacy and tradition. A radical prophet presenting a new vision must explain the centuries that have gone before and justify his own revelation in the accepted language and geography of holiness—the prophecies of earlier revelations and the sites already long revered. Nothing makes a place holier than the competition of another religion.
 
Many atheistic visitors are repelled by this holiness, seeing it as infectious superstition in a city suffering a pandemic of righteous bigotry. But that is to deny the profound human need for religion without which it is impossible to understand Jerusalem. Religions must explain the fragile joys and perpetual anxieties that mystify and frighten humanity: we need to sense a greater force than ourselves. We respect death and long to find meaning in it. As the meeting-place of God and man, Jerusalem is where these questions are settled at the Apocalypse—the End of Days, when there will be war, a battle between Christ and anti-Christ, when the Kaaba will come from Mecca to Jerusalem, when there will be judgment, resurrection of the dead and the reign of the Messiah and the Kingdom of Heaven, the New Jerusalem. All three Abrahamic religions believe in the Apocalypse, but the details vary by faith and sect. Secularists may regard all this as antique gobbledegook, but, on the contrary, such ideas are all too current. In this age of Jewish, Christian and Muslim fundamentalism, the Apocalypse is a dynamic force in the world’s febrile politics.
 
Death is our constant companion: pilgrims have long come to Jerusalem to die and be buried around the Temple Mount to be ready to rise again in the Apocalypse, and they continue to come. The city is surrounded by and founded upon cemeteries; the wizened body-parts of ancient saints are revered—the desiccated blackened right hand of Mary Magdalene is still displayed in the Greek Orthodox Superior’s Room in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Many shrines, even many private houses, are built around tombs. The darkness of this city of the dead stems not just from a sort of necrophilia, but also from necromancy: the dead here are almost alive, even as they await resurrection. The unending struggle for Jerusalem—massacres, mayhem, wars, terrorism, sieges and catastrophes—have made this place into a battlefield, in Aldous Huxley’s words the “slaughterhouse of the religions,” in Flaubert’s a “charnel-house.” Melville called the city a “skull” besieged by “armies of the dead”; while Edward Said remembered that his father had hated Jerusalem because it “reminded him of death.”

Revue de presse

Jewish Book Council Book of the Year

"Spectacular. [Montefiore] really tells you what the life of the city has been like and why it means so much. You fall in love with the city. It's a treasure. It's a wonderful book."
—Bill Clinton, #1 Holiday Book Pick on the Today show

"Magnificent. . . Montefiore barely misses a trick or a character in taking us through the city's story with compelling, breathless tension."
Wall Street Journal
 
"Impossible to put down. . . . Vastly enjoyable."
New York Times Book Review
 
"A powerful achievement. . . . At once a scholarly record and an exuberantly written popular tour de force."
New York Review of Books
 
"Magisterial. . . . As a writer, Montefiore has an elegant turn of phrase and an unerring ear for the anecdote that will cut to the heart of a story. . . . A joy to read."
The Economist

"Already a classic. Jerusalem is an extraordinary achievement, written with imagination and energy. . . . Simon Sebag Montefiore tells this modern story with clarity and admirable impartiality. . . . Read this book."
Financial Times 

"Montefiore’s towering biography of the city relates in fascinating, horrific and sometimes comical detail the wars to annexe its symbolic sanctity and the daily lives of its inhabitants. This monument of scholarly research is also a compelling story: of human foibles, lust, bravery and chicanery."
The Times of London

"Densely textured. . . . Montefiore embraces Jerusalem’s paradoxes in his chronological account, which seeks to avoid hindsight and disclaims a political agenda. He succeeds admirably in remaining evenhanded, a particularly notable achievement."
Los Angeles Times

"A memorable and distinguished history of a city where ‘the truth is much less important than the myth’. . . . Splendidly evoked."
Richmond Times-Dispatch
 
"Magnificent. . . . A spectacular book for general readers. . . . This is a book about the ages, for the ages."
Wichita Eagle
 
"Sweeping and absorbing. . . . Montefiore is a master of colorful and telling details and anecdotes. . . . His account is admirably dispassionate and balanced."
Washington Post Book World

"In his stunningly comprehensive history, Simon Sebag Montefiore covers 3,000-plus years of the Earth’s most fiercely contested piece of geography. . . . Not only has Montefiore delivered a piece of superb scholarship, he has done so in an extremely easy-to-read style. The author tells the history of the complex relationships that existed between long-dead peoples in a manner that makes them seem human and understandable. . . . Meticulously researched."
The Newark Star-Ledger
 
"Few historians have demonstrated the vision, mastery, and boldness necessary to publish on a subject so vast and in such detail as Montefiore. . . . A marvelous panorama."
Library Journal
 
“This is an essential book for those who wish to understand a city that remains a nexus of world affairs. . . . Although his Jewish family has strong links to the city, Montefiore scrupulously sustains balance and objectivity. . . . Beautifully written, absorbing.”
Booklist (starred)
 
“A panoramic narrative of Jerusalem, organized chronologically and delivered with magisterial flair. Spanning eras from King David to modern Israel with rich anecdotes and vivid detail, this exceptional volume portrays the personalities and worldviews of the dynasties and families that shaped the city throughout its 3,000-year history.”
Publishers Weekly (starred)
 
“An essential text, bathed in blood, lit with faint hope. . . . The author sees Jerusalem not just as the setting for some of history’s most savage violence but a microcosm of our world. . . . The story is horribly complex, and Montefiore struggles mightily to make everything clear as well as compelling.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred)
 
“Four thousand years of history absolutely romped through—a masterwork.”
The Evening Standard (UK)
 
“Immensely readable. . . . Montefiore is that rarest of things: a historian who writes great, weighty tomes that read like the best thrillers. . . . [He] has a visceral understanding of what makes history worth reading. [Montefiore] manages to bring people who have been dead for two millennia alive again and make them breathe, and he has insight into the mind of psychopathic tyrants that makes you wish he were working for the U.S. secretary of state.”
Newsweek 


Détails sur le produit

  • Format : Format Kindle
  • Taille du fichier : 4591 KB
  • Nombre de pages de l'édition imprimée : 768 pages
  • Editeur : Weidenfeld & Nicolson (27 janvier 2011)
  • Vendu par : Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ASIN: B004KA9VCE
  • Synthèse vocale : Activée
  • X-Ray :
  • Word Wise: Non activé
  • Moyenne des commentaires client : 5.0 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (1 commentaire client)
  • Classement des meilleures ventes d'Amazon: n°36.021 dans la Boutique Kindle (Voir le Top 100 dans la Boutique Kindle)
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Commentaires client les plus utiles
5.0 étoiles sur 5 An amazing book! 3 août 2013
Par Meufapolo
Format:Broché|Achat vérifié
I'm headed to Jerusalem for my best friend's birthday, and I'm happy to know the history of the city. It's a true biography: Jerusalem as a ... person! Still at the very beginning,and while it's not your usual beach blanket book, I am HOOKED. I've already visited the author's website and planned a reading course for myself on Ancient History and Old Religions.

FYI: I bought the paperback so I could carry it easily on vacation... However, the exhaustive notes are not reprinted in the paperback for convenience, weight and ease of binding. So... I guess I will be buying the hardcover as well.
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Amazon.com: 4.1 étoiles sur 5  276 commentaires
309 internautes sur 321 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Most fascinating and enjoyable read of a history 16 mai 2011
Par Asmahan - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Format Kindle
I came to this book as an Arab reader, growing up with songs, poems, and books written about beloved Jerusalem, but never have I come across a book offering such a luxurious detailed and honest view and at such a scale! Written with remarkable neutrality and taking us through the diverse and rich history of the most disputed and news making region in the world! This comprehensive, and unpatronising treatment of Jerusalem's past is neither overwhelmingly scholarly to gloss over the gory (and fascinating) details, nor too hurried as to miss out important facts. Simon Sebag Montefiore combines the rare talent of total political and cultural understanding with a great and most eloquent narrating skill!

"Jerusalem, the Biography" is a new sort of History, written as a biography, through the people who made Jerusalem, starting with King David and ending with Barrack Obama, over a span of 3000 years. Each section is about a person who, made, destroyed, believed in, or fought for Jerusalem, some are ordinary people, some are monsters and dictators. There is massacre, siege, blood, violence, but also beautiful poetry.

The story of Jerusalem, is truly (as the author expressed) the story of the world, as well, of the Middle East, of religion, of holiness, of empire! I was thrilled to read about one of the greatest philosophers, the Arab historiographer "Ibn Khaldoon", about Suleiman the Magnificent, Caliph Muawiya, Saladin Dynasty, Druze princess and angelic voiced Singer "Asmahan", the Hashemite (Sherifian) Dynasty, and most exciting to read was some poignant poetry by Nizar Qabbani.

One can read it as an adventure story, or as an explanation of why the Middle East is what it is today, I felt infused with great knowledge, one that I could never acquire if I read a thousand books. The book offers correct answers and honest background of many of the issues of the region today such as, Israel vs. Palestine, America vs. Iran, written without an agenda, and with remarkable impartiality. And I must not forget the most fascinating details over the Apocalypse-the End of Days.

To fit such a swathe of history into a 650-page-turner is a bit of an art form in itself. The book also offers wonderfully informative illustrations and photographs, family trees, and even maps.

I thoroughly enjoyed three of Simon Sebag Montefiore's previous books (or rather masterpieces), but this has to be my most enjoyable read of a history, I have no words to do the author nor the book justice, well-paced and absolutely gripping, this book is a treasure -trove, and I highly recommend it for all readers of different faiths, political, cultural backgrounds, well versed in the Middle East or not.
100 internautes sur 106 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Jerusalem - a true masterpiece 22 juin 2011
Par N_Doll - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Format Kindle
Simon Montefiore has already proven himself as a superb biography writer in his works on Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsarand Catherine the Great and Potemkinamong others, he then made the very difficult transition of writing a novel - Sashenka: A Novel which once again impressed with a beautiful story and yes, the attention to historical detail that only a true expert is capable of.

In Jerusalem he surpassed himself. This was a true masterpiece - a biography of a city yet so much more. This isn't just a retelling of facts - through stories, anecdotes, and pages and pages of researched history you really feel as if you are stepping back through time and experiencing Jerusalem's history first hand.

Jerusalem is never boring, like the city itself it is vibrant, mysterious, and occasionally controversial. Yet even as I found myself disagreeing with the author - I was still enjoying the book. I could not put it down.

When discussing Jerusalem there will always be more than one voice, and more often than not those voices are raised, but Montefiore's Jerusalem tries to bring as many voices as possible and include them in the narrative. That is just one of the things that make Jerusalem unique.

I cannot recommend Jerusalem enough, it is a 'Must Read' - absolutely brilliant, I feel privileged to have read it and as always, wait impatiently to read what Simon Montefiore has in store.

For more reviews go to [...]
79 internautes sur 87 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 A work of erudite analysis 24 avril 2011
Par Amazon Customer - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Format Kindle
When I first started to read this book I was often quite irritated. The author clearly knew so much about the pre 19th century world of and around Jerusalem that I was frustrated that he did not go into more detail. The long succession of characters, the leaping over large gaps in time, all led me to put aside the book repeatedly. Yet I persevered and thank goodness I did. As it ran into the 19th and 20th centuries and the detail seemed to come more into view (or possibly I could see it just as one reads a book, identifying the shapes without having to recognise each letter).

And the object of the book began to become clearer (maybe I am none too bright and should have seen this earlier). It became more and more apparent that Jerusalem is almost a metaphor for human kind's frailties, faiths and prejudices. While many of the characters throughout history have been wise enough to realise that compromises and accommodation are possible without necessarily sacrificing all the principles they adhere to, regrettably there are others who can only see the world in a binary black and white, whether they be fundamentalist Christians, Islamists or Jews or whatever. These often use a very selective view of history to justify prejudice and religiously inspired mayhem.

I am in admiration of this remarkable work and wish to thank the author for providing many hours of enjoyable stimulation.
83 internautes sur 99 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 Little better editing please 18 novembre 2011
Par J. Stewart Schneider - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Format Kindle|Achat vérifié
I'd be happier with closer proof reading. The Mediterranean isn't eastward of Jerusalem, Nebuchadnezzar didn't take Jerusalem 100 years before he was born, and Jesus isn't the Aramaic for Joshua. Yes, it's a well written book, but these clinkers make me unwilling to accept it as authoritative.
23 internautes sur 27 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
2.0 étoiles sur 5 Oddity 11 mars 2013
Par David A. Thomas - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Broché
This is a remarkable book in several ways, and I have rarely been so truly ambivalent when writing a review. The fact that the author foretells such reactions in his introduction does little to mitigate these feelings or justify his work.

On the one hand, the book is well-written and contains some fascinating detail. Montefiore knows how to do research and convey it in a readable and hence enjoyable fashion. I never find him tiresome, and I learn things constantly as I read. He has a way of incorporating details and then allowing the reader to see the bigger picture in a way that is truly admirable.

On the other hand, Montefiore is a rare combination of incredulity and naive, uncritical acceptance when it comes to the sacred. For example, he tersely declares that Herod's massacre of the innocents "never happened" (when even the most liberal scholars grudgingly admit such an act would be most like Herod, and since erstwhile historians would have little reason to record the death of a dozen peasant children in a sleepy village, silence is hardly an argument), while on the other hand speculating in almost tabloid fashion about Mary the mother of Jesus remarrying one Clopas (when different Marys are as common in the Gospel accounts as squirrels in an oak forest). In some cases, he makes absurd assertions that no self-respecting New Testament scholar would even think (such as Jesus' brother, James, being one of his original twelve apostles--that James only rose to prominence after the birth of the church). It is also odd that Montefiore tries to handle the Gospels critically (as he should), but elsewhere accepts their word at face value with no sense of a particular evangelist's redaction (Montefiore is seduced by Luke's details about Jesus' interaction with the Temple--apparently because it serves his narrative purpose--but seems entirely oblivious to the fact that the Temple is a major theological theme for Luke).

The book has value. But when dealing with the biblical accounts, especially vis-a-vis Josephus and other sources, Montefiore needs to be taken with not just a grain of salt but a salt shaker. He clearly does not understand those texts, and (for a historian) depends on them too much or too little as the case may, utilizing them clumsily and perhaps a bit fantastically in order to tell a story. This makes the whole suspect, I'm afraid, and seriously in need of cross-checking.
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