The epic story of Jerusalem told through the lives of the men and women who created, ruled and inhabited it.
Jerusalem is the universal city, the capital of two peoples, the shrine of three faiths; it is the prize of empires, the site of Judgement Day and the battlefield of today's clash of civilisations. From King David to Barack Obama, from the birth of Judaism, Christianity and Islam to the Israel-Palestine conflict, this is the epic history of 3,000 years of faith, slaughter, fanaticism and coexistence. How did this small, remote town become the Holy City, the 'centre of the world' and now the key to peace in the Middle East? In a gripping narrative, Simon Sebag Montefiore reveals this ever-changing city in its many incarnations, bringing every epoch and character blazingly to life.
Jerusalem's biography is told through the wars, love affairs and revelations of the men and women - kings, empresses, prophets, poets, saints, conquerors and whores - who created, destroyed, chronicled and believed in Jerusalem. As well as the many ordinary Jerusalemites who have left their mark on the city, its cast varies from Solomon, Saladin and Suleiman the Magnificent to Cleopatra, Caligula and Churchill; from Abraham to Jesus and Muhammad; from the ancient world of Jezebel, Nebuchadnezzar, Herod and Nero to the modern times of the Kaiser, Disraeli, Mark Twain, Rasputin and Lawrence of Arabia. Drawing on new archives, current scholarship, his own family papers and a lifetime's study, Montefiore illuminates the essence of sanctity and mysticism, identity and empire in a unique story of the city that many believe will be the setting for the Apocalypse.
About the Author
Born in 1965 Simon Sebag Montefiore is a biographer, novelist and journalist. He contributes to The Sunday Times, The Spectator and The New York Republic and New York Times in the USA. In the early nineties he travelled through the turbulent ex-Soviet Caucasus and Central Asia and in 1996 presented a Channel 4 documentary on his 2000 mile desert quest for slavery in Mauritania. He now lives in London with his wife, Santa, nee Palmer-Tomkinson, and two children. His two biographies, PRINCE OF PRINCES: the Life of Potemkin and STALIN: COURT OF THE RED TSAR were huge successes in hardback and paperback, and have been published all over the world. In 2007 YOUNG STALIN will be published.
This is how Jerusalem became Jerusalem: the only city that exists twice - in heaven and on earth.
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Jerusalem: The Biography was my constant companion for a fortnight during a recent visit to that most inspiring, maddening and perplexing of cities and I couldn't have asked for a better book to read.
First things first - this is a brick of a book. Don't be put off. It is meticulously researched and enormously detailed. More importantly, Montefiore could give Bryce Courtney or Ken Follett a run for their money when it comes to historical drama, tales of derring-do, rape and pillage, sweeping saga and brilliant characterisation.
This is the perfect platform for Montefiore, who has already won critical acclaim for his Stalin and Catherine the Great among others. However, his pedigree for this assignment is ideal. Having gone backwards and forwards between the UK and Jerusalem all of his life, he is himself descendant from the famous Rothschild and Montefiore families who played key roles in both European finance and the re-population of Jewry to what was then an outpost of the Ottoman empire in the nineteenth century.
Montefiore's take on Jerusalem is both a physical and spiritual chronology. And what a subject! Could there be any place on earth that has been so fought over, so prized by so many different people's across three millennia? I don't think so.
In many ways, Jerusalem: The Biography is a history of the western world. All the names are there - from the Hebrew Bible, from the Christian Bible, from Islam, from just about every empire that has ever risen and fallen from before the Egyptians to the Crusades, to Napoleon, the Czars, the Ottomans, the competing colonial powers to the present day not to mention the famous and the infamous - Cleopatra to Herod, Sulemein the Magnificent to Rasputin. But the author's peculiar skill is to bring it all so alive with the detail of characters and their particular traits - and let me tell you, if you like to trawl through the depths of human behaviour, you only need read this to get your fill of just about everything. That city has witnessed more varieties of violence and depravity that most of us could ever imagine.
A fittingly vast and dazzling portrait of Jerusalem, utterly compelling from start to finish. -- Christopher Hart THE SUNDAY TIMES Astoundingly ambitious and triumphantly epic history...His achievement, in fashioning a fluent narrative out of such daunting material can hardly be praised enough. There are few themes as demanding as the history of Jerusalem...tautly gripping...a book with its gaze fixed on the stars [but] also with its feet firmly in the gutter... A heavenly city Jerusalem may be; but it is also a relentlessly terrestrial one. The achievement of this marvellous book is to fuse them into one biography. -- Tom Holland THE DAILY TELEGRAPH as one turns the pages of Simon Sebag Montefiore's absorbing book...[one] becomes gripped by the rich, pungent detail of the lives of Jerusalem's rulers and the ruled. Montefiore has a great novelist's eye for detail, a great journalist's nose for human frailty, and a great historian's touch... judicious, nuanced, balanced and sensitive... when a history is written this way one can never have too much. -- Michael Gove THE TIMES Outstanding, superbly objective, elegantly written and highly entertaining -- Saul David MAIL ON SUNDAY Simon Sebag Montefiore's history of Jerusalem is a labour of love and scholarship... a considerable achievement... he has a wonderful ear for the absurdities and adventurers of the past... totally gripping... vivid compelling, engaged, engrossing, knowledgeable -- Barnaby Rogerson THE INDEPENDENT Compelling and thought-provoking...Working on an immense chronological and thematic canvas Sebag Montefiore does his subject more than justice. He narrates the terrible history of Jerusalem vividly and graphically... fascinating but ghastly. -- Munro Price THE SUNDAY TELEGRAPH Montefiore's book, packed with fascinating and often grisly detail, is a gripping account of war, betrayal, rape, massacre, sadistic torture, fanaticism, feuds, persecution, corruption, hypocrisy and spirituality...Montefiore's narrative is remarkably objective...A reliable and compelling account -- Antony Beevor THE GUARDIAN masterly, vastly entertaining and timely... Sebag Montefiore has an unerring eye for the vivid detail to illustrate his point and the telling quote to place it in context... a compelling narrative and an important book. -- Victor Sebestyen EVENING STANDARD Jerusalem is an extraordinary achievement, written with imagination and energy that threatens to mesmerize and exhaust the reader at the same time...the resulting impression is of a unique borderline personality, with an irrepressible capacity for love and hatred; an aptitude for poetry, prophecy and the sacred; with no lack of the grotesquely profane...Read this book. -- Financial Times John Cornwell To write a "biography" of Jerusalem is a formidable undertaking. Simon Sebag Montefiore has risen to the challenge. His book can be commended to anyone who is planning a trip to Jerusalem, or who wants background on the Palestinian question - or who just enjoys a good read. PROSPECT Jerusalem is as a big as its gets... brilliantly accomplished -- Dan Jones INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY This is [a] compendious and fleet-footed history of a city -- Jonathan Beckman THE OBSERVER A riveting account of the eternal battle to prove whose God is best. WORD magazine an enormous and enthralling epic, the prose equivalent of those sprawling Hollywood films such as The Ten Commandments, Ben-Hur or The Fall Of The Roman Empire. Here are dashing warrior kings, feuding prophets and priests, beautiful and dangerous women, spectacular battles and a potent mix of piety and profanity. All human life was there. All human life is here...this magnificent history gives the general reader a vivid insight into a conflict that seems without resolution. -- Peter Burton DAILY EXPRESS a tour de force -- Philip Mansel SPECTATOR Montefiore has constructed a narrative that has a pleasing flow and more than does justice to his subject...his history is remarkably clear-eyed and even-handed whether recounting tales of Jewish, Persian, Greek, Roman, Arab, Crusader, Ottoman or British rulers of the city. SUNDAY HERALD, GLASGOW Religion is not an abstract theory...It involves the story of people's actual encounters with God. Simon Sebag Montefiore understands this...his lack of theological training... makes him exceptionally sympathetic to the city whose story he tells. He is not trying to impose some theory upon it. He just wants to tell the tale of its terrible, beautiful, God-intoxicated, squalid (and surprisingly louche) life...There is never a dull page. -- Charles Moore DAILY TELEGRAPH superb -- Paul Levy WALL STREET JOURNAL compelling...it is a tribute to the author's skill that he has been able to make 672 pages highly readable. CATHOLIC HERALD As a writer, Mr Montefiore has an elegant turn of phrase and an unerring ear for the anecdote that will cut to the heart of a story. When Queen Victoria's son, the 20-year-old Prince of Wales and future King Edward VII, rode into Jerusalem in 1862, escorted by 100 Ottoman cavalrymen, the plump princeling could think of little else but getting a Crusader tattoo on his arm... It is this kind of detail that makes "Jerusalem" a particular joy to read. THE ECONOMIST authoritative and illuminating...Cantering through 3,000 years of dramatic history at a lively pace and with never a dull moment in the 500-odd pages... I found the chapters about the British rule in the region especially fascinating...[a] commendable analysis THE OLDIE Sebag Montefiore made a judicious choice in privileging the modern era while not neglecting any important chapter in the city's history. This reviewer... was impressed by Sebag Montefiore's ability to find the right tone, and to retain a fair approach to Jerusalem's history. TLS Anyone with an interest in history should read this, if only to be reminded of just how much history has rolled back and forth over this pile of stones between 1458 and today. In fact, when compared with the carnage visited on it by the Romans, Crusaders, Albanians and, in the 12th century, the teenage King of Norway, the last 100 years there have been relatively peaceful. -- David Hepworth THE WORD MAGAZINE - 10 Best Books of 2011
Number Of Pages: 672
Published: 1st March 2011
Dimensions (cm): 24.0 x 16.1 x 4.8
Weight (kg): 1.08