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Jerusalem: The Biography Hardcover – Deckle Edge, Oct 25 2011

4.2 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 688 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf (Oct. 25 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307266516
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307266514
  • Product Dimensions: 16.9 x 5.6 x 24.4 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 Kg
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #179,233 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


“It's a wonderful book . . . [Montefiore] really tries to tell you what the life of the city has been like . . . why it means so much to everyone and why it’s so spectacular. You fall in love with the city and it breaks your heart that people can’t make peace over it, because it’s a treasure.” 
 —President Bill Clinton, #1 holiday book pick on the Today Show
“Magnificent . . . The city’s first ‘biography’—a panoptic narrative of its rulers and citizens, heroes and villains, harlots and saints . . . Montefiore barely misses a trick or a character in taking us through the city’s story with compelling, breathless tension.”
—Norman Lebrecht, Wall Street Journal
“Impossible to put down . . . A vastly enjoyable chronicle [with] many fascinating asides . . . Montefiore has a fine eye for the telling detail, and also a powerful feel for a good story.”
—Jonathan Rosen, New York Times Book Review
“This is a fittingly vast and dazzling portrait of Jerusalem, utterly compelling from start to finish.”
—Christopher Hart, Sunday Times (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.”
—Philip Kerr, Newsweek

“Ambitious and arresting . . . A powerful achievement, erudite without pedantry, and intimate with the complex archaeology of the city on the ground. In the matter of competing faiths, it is all but pitch-perfect . . . Jerusalem: The Biography is a double-headed book: at once a scholarly record and an exuberantly written popular tour de force.”
—Colin Thubron, New York Review of Books

“Sweeping and absorbing . . . Montefiore is a master of colorful and telling details and anecdotes . . . His account is admirably dispassionate and balanced.”
—Jackson Diehl, Washington Post Book World

“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 . . . It is this kind of detail that makes Jerusalem a particular joy to read.”
The Economist 
“Simon Sebag Montefiore’s magnificent biography of Jerusalem has all the grandeur and sweep of her 3,000-year history. His masterful research and his gift for bringing it all to life make this fascinating work a treasure-trove for scholars and laymen alike.”
—Henry Kissinger

“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.”
—Imre Lake, Newark Star-Ledger

“A Meisterwerk . . . As one becomes gripped by the rich, pungent detail of the lives of Jerusalem’s rulers and the ruled, it becomes clear why this work was conceived as a biography. It provides a perfect, almost providentially designed, opportunity for one of our greatest biographers to display every one of his skills. Montefiore has a novelist’s eye, a great journalist’s nose and a great historian’s touch . . . He manages to construct a history that no fair-minded reader can conclude is anything other than judicious, nuanced, balanced, and sensitive . . . When history is written this way one can never have too much.” 
—Michael Gove, Times (UK)

“Already a classic—a gripping and thought-provoking study of the city whose modern religious, political and ethnic rivalries can be understood only in the context of its preceding 3,000 years of history. Montefiore writes with verve, sensitivity and a keen eye for the entertaining historical detail.” 
Financial Times
“A masterly, vastly entertaining, and timely book . . . Montefiore succeeds because of the power of his storytelling. [He] has an unerring eye for the vivid detail to illustrate his point and the telling quote to place it in context . . . Some fascinating sources are entirely new to English readers . . . This is a compelling narrative and an important book.” 
—Victor Sebestyen, Evening Standard 
“An astoundingly ambitious, triumphantly epic history of the city . . . Montefiore’s achievement, in fashioning a fluent narrative out of such daunting material, can hardly be praised enough . . . A marvellous book.”
—Tom Holland, The Sunday Telegraph
“Montefiore’s book, packed with fascinating and often grisly detail, is a gripping account of war, betrayal, looting, rape, massacre, sadistic torture, fanaticism, feuds, persecution, corruption, hypocrisy, and spirituality.”  
—Antony Beevor, Guardian 
“An outstanding work . . . Anyone who has a role to play [in the future of Jerusalem] would do well to read this superbly objective, elegantly written, and highly entertaining book.” 
—Saul David, Mail on Sunday 

 “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.”
—Jay Freeman, 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)
“Jerusalem has been the subject [of] surprisingly few single-authored books aimed at retracing her uniquely varied, long and rich history. Simon Sebag Montefiore, to whom we already owe a debt for his magisterial biography of Stalin, has daringly attempted just that . . . He has both read voraciously, and made excellent use of family archives . . . This reviewer, resident in the Jewish part of Jerusalem, was impressed by Sebag Montefiore’s ability to find the right tone, and to retain a fair approach to Jerusalem’s history . . . A lively book.”
—Guy G. Stroumsa, Times Literary Supplement (UK)

“Totally gripping . . . Montefiore’s history of Jerusalem is a labour of love and scholarship. It is a considerable achievement to have created a sense of pace and variety throughout his 3,000-year narrative. He has a wonderful ear for the absurdities and the adventurers of the past.”    
—Barnaby Rogerson, Independent 

About the Author

Simon Sebag Montefiore read history at Cambridge University. His books have been published in more than thirty-five languages. Potemkin: Catherine the Great’s Imperial Partner was short-listed for the Samuel Johnson, Duff Cooper and Marsh Biography prizes in Britain. Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar was awarded the History Book of the Year Prize at the British Book Awards. Young Stalin won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Biography, the Costa Biography Award (U.K.), le Grand Prix de la biographie politique (France) and the Bruno Kreisky Prize for Political Literature (Austria). A Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, Montefiore lives in London with his wife, the novelist Santa Montefiore, and their two children.

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By Vlad Thelad TOP 1000 REVIEWER on Nov. 21 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was already a fan of Simon Sebag Montefiore, as I consider his biographies of Potemkin and Stalin outstanding works of scholarship and great writing. Consequently, it would have been an understatement to say that my expectations regarding "Jerusalem: The Biography" were anything but huge. Yet, the book overwhelmingly surpassed them.
This is an "opus magna."
No one, secular or religious, can be indifferent to Jerusalem, the city at the epicentre of humankind and its relationship with God. This is what makes Montefiore's such a remarkable feat: he manages to navigate Jerusalem's history with objectivity, extraordinary lucidity and compelling writing, without losing an ounce of passion for his subject. This is History at its best, to be read, discussed, treasured, and imbibed by all.
Bravo, bravissimo!
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One of the criticisms of this book is that it is written on too narrow a gauge, that it tends to ignore the motivation and behaviour of masses of people. Most of us, understand that history is not just about the actions of kings and queens. However, a story told from the point of view of great people has its place. No one book can address, in all of its dimensions, the history of Jerusalem and its peoples and I do not think that book is touted as work of definitive proportions. Having said all of that, the book yields up a large amount of information and gives readers a sense of the unbroken chain of hostility that has characterized the history of Jerusalem. We are still, many of us, captive to the notion that Jerusalem belongs to one side or another in the centuries old fratricidal war between adherents to the Abrahamic traditions. This book represents a challenge to those whose views about the Middle East start and stop in the most recent sixty-year time frame. In my view, the indivisibility of Jerusalem seems clear and the city stands as a taunting challenge to create one state within which Jews and Arabs can live in peace.
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Simon Sebag Montefiore writes the history of Jerusalem from its beginnings as a fortified village through successive conquests or occupations: Canaanite, Israelite, Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian, Macedonian, Seleucid, Roman, Byzantine, Ummayad, Abassid, Fatimid, Seljuk, Crusader, Saracen, Tartar, Mamluk, Ottoman, British, Jordanian and finally Israeli. As different religious groups occupied Jerusalem, earlier (and rival) places of worship were destroyed or taken apart and rebuilt into new places of worship. From an archaeological perspective, this makes Jerusalem a very complicated site. And what happened to the people through these successive conquests or occupations? Some populations were slaughtered, others were sold into slavery, and each dispossessed population was replaced by new waves of immigration.

`The story of Jerusalem is the story of the world.'

Jerusalem's story involves accounts of massacre, rape and war; of persecution, fanaticism and feuds; of corruption, betrayal and hypocrisy; and of spirituality. Trying to make sense of it all is difficult; although reading a chronological account of events makes it easier to understand the significance and ongoing importance of this city to the three monotheistic religions that hold it sacred.

`It is only by chronological narrative that one avoids the temptation to see the past through the obsessions of the present.'

There's a lot of history covered in this book: Jerusalem was exclusively Jewish for 1,000 years, Christian for about 400 years and Islamic for 1,300 years: `not one of the three faiths ever gained Jerusalem without the sword, the mangonel or the howitzer.
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Jerusalem: The BiographyI ordered this book with great anticipation prior to a trip to Jerusalem... only to be disappointed by its sloppiness. It seems to have badly needed a strong editor - the writing and grammer are weak at times. Worse is the lack of care in the presentation of history, some of which seems to originate in a kind of arrogance in the author. For example, he attributes thoughts and motivations to Jesus, that he cannot know and that others would not necessarily agree with. We know so little about Jesus that it comes across as arrogant to so knowingly state his views. For example, "The city and the Temple were central to his vision of himself."... "He was obsessional about the fate of Jerusalem."... "Jesus, realizing that he was in danger, escaped..."... and later, "He knew what a visit to Jerusalem would mean." While in some places scorning the gospels as history, in other places he relies on them in possibly dubious ways - for example, writing without any qualifications that the Jewish crowd shouted of Jesus, "His blood be upon us and our children" - which most historians consider highly unlikely to have happened: why would the Jews curse themselves? He gives us the story of Judas straight from the gospels - but presents it as history - again without qualification, and without noting that many historians question the existence or role or Judas, who, like the above quote from the Jewish crowd, may have been added later to shift blame from Romans to Jews. There are similar issues in other chapters.

These are just examples from the first part of the book - I am only half way through and I do plan to finish it.
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