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Bethlehem: Biography of a Town

Nicholas Blincoe

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Nation Books
07 November 2017
History; Middle Eastern history; History: earliest times to present day; Religious intolerance, persecution & conflict; Cultural studies; Places & peoples: pictorial works
The town of Bethlehem carries so many layers of meaning--some ancient, some mythical, some religious--that it feels like an unreal city, even to the people who call it home. Today, the city is hemmed in by a wall and surrounded by forty-one Israeli settlements and hostile settlers and soldiers. The population is undergoing such enormous strains it is close to falling apart. Any town with an eleven-thousand-year history has to be robust, but Bethlehem may soon go the way of Salonica or Constantinople: the physical site might survive, but the long thread winding back to the ancient past will have snapped, and the city risks losing everything that makes it unique.

Still, for many, Bethlehem remains the little town of the Christmas song. Nicholas Blincoe will tell the history of the famous little town, through the visceral experience of living there, taking readers through its stone streets and desert wadis, its monasteries, aqueducts and orchards, showing the city from every angle and era. Inevitably, a portrait of Bethlehem will shed light on one of the world's most intractable political problems. Bethlehem is a much-loved Palestinian city, a source of pride and wealth but also a beacon of co-existence in a region where hopelessness, poverty and violence has become the norm. Bethlehem could light the way to a better future, but if the city is lost then the chances of an end to the Israel-Palestine conflict will be lost with it.
By:   Nicholas Blincoe
Imprint:   Nation Books
Country of Publication:   United States
Dimensions:   Height: 240mm,  Width: 156mm, 
ISBN:   9781568585833
ISBN 10:   1568585837
Pages:   272
Publication Date:   07 November 2017
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Hardback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Nicholas Blincoe lived in in Bethlehem for over twenty years. He is a best-selling, award-winning novelist, playwright and screenwriter and is currently a critic and leader writer for the Daily Telegraph.

Reviews for Bethlehem: Biography of a Town

Bethlehem is no straightforward account of this extraordinary little town. Part history, part travelogue and memoir, it reads like an extended love letter to a place on the brink... Blincoe gives himself free rein to share memories, travels, interviews and assorted experiences along the way in a highly discursive, frequently amusing, often tragic but always accessible history. --The Guardian Blincoe weaves a tapestry of history, geography, and politics that illuminates this most famous of areas, here seen through the eyes of one who knows the place intimately. --Library Journal, Starred Review All will leave these pages with a richer understanding of an iconic city. --Booklist A delightful and informative read. --The Sunderland Echo Having lived in Bethlehem for a number of years, Nicholas Blincoe knows the area intimately. His masterful biography traces humankind's steps from the caves and carvings of the 9th century BCE to the complicated politics of the present day... A powerful and passionate plea for understanding. --The Spectator That [Blincoe] manages to cover so much with an engaging, even jocular, tone is a credit to [his] writing skill... For readers who want to dig deep into the founding of this little town of legend, [Bethlehem} makes for happy reading. --National Catholic Reporter Blincoe's thoroughness is nothing short of impressive... [Bethlehem] offers a biography so vividly imagined that I jumped when my phone buzzed, interrupting my reverie of Nabatean temples... The reward is in the lush prose and personal accounts. Blincoe is a joyful writer, well suited to the task of evoking place with passages...transporting the reader with mouthwatering specificity. ...More than anything, his love for the place leaps off the page; for all its chronicling of incursions and defeat, this is ultimately a book about hope. --New York Times Book Review This companionable and sprightly book captures the political drama and human passion of that extraordinary story. --Library Journal, Starred Review Weaving up-close personal experience into an extensively researched narrative, Blincoe limns the developments that transformed Bethlehem... As he peels away the layers of culture this succession of overlords has given Bethlehem, Blincoe illuminates the continuing relevance of each fascinating layer... All will leave these pages with a richer understanding of an iconic city. --Booklist A history of the town of Bethlehem, both sweeping and personal in scope. --Kirkus Reviews This is a learned, trenchant and badly-needed history of one of the most famous and symbolically-laden, yet woefully misunderstood, cities on earth. Millions believe they care deeply about Bethlehem without knowing the first thing about its history or lived reality. The next time someone feels like singing about this 'little town, ' perhaps they should spend some time with Mr. Blincoe's illuminating book first. --Hussein Ibish, Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington An exuberant and erudite journey into the real Bethlehem. Each page leads the reader down new and fascinating tangents of history, cuisine, and personal anecdote, each time somehow finding its way back to Bethlehem and its habit of standing at the center of world affairs. --Jacob Norris, author of Land of Progress: Palestine in the Age of Colonial Development A remarkable and important history with fascinating insights round every corner. --Charlie English, author of The Storied City Blincoe's remarkable account is stunning in scope and draws on absorbing sources. Interweaving his years of personal familiarity with Bethlehem, he reveals the town as 'the fulcrum of world history.' His gifted writing and nuanced humor makes this a must-read, as he sweeps across millennia. --Mary Elizabeth King, author of A Quiet Revolution This sensitive and human history of Bethlehem from ancient time to our day is the most original and powerful guide you will ever read about this important city. The book succeeds in fusing together the history of more than a millennium with personal recollections, archaeological and morphological insights, as well [as] wonderfully written descriptions of human and geographical landscapes. Relics and stories of the past are used as entry points for uncovering the various chapters in this holy city's history through personal anecdotes and the most recent scholarship, with constant attention to human suffering and hopes. --Ilan Pappe A lovely personal adventure through the history of Bethlehem from its origins up to the present day. Blincoe captures the continuities and contradictions, the myths and the history of one of the world's most famous towns. --Peter Frankopan, author of Silk Roads Blincoe's book is as multifaceted as the city about which he writes. With great skill he accomplishes the daunting task of providing a highly readable account covering the long history of Bethlehem from the Stone Age to modern times. But it is not only a work of scholarship. It's a book by a talented chronicler who lovingly paints the city's many contradictions and bewildering complexity. Highly readable and informative it leaves the reader not only with a profound admiration for this city of extremes and its resilient inhabitants who have endured such hardships but also with a deep lament at the current suffering of the people of Bethlehem. --Raja Shehadeh, author of Where The Line Is Drawn Stories about places, unlike the stories of individuals, tend to be shifty. Yes, some evidence is there but the connecting human threads have to be imagined. In the clever hands of Nicholas Blincoe, Bethlehem emerges as a wholesome 11,000-year-old, ancient yet lucidly defined with a gripping tale to tell about herself and about the entire region. This tale illuminates both the past and the present of the Middle East with countless instances of fantastic achievement and equally terrible human folly. --Yotam Ottolenghi, coauthor of Jerusalem [Bethlehem] brings within reach 11,000 years of history, centering on the beloved town's unique place in the world. Blincoe's love of Bethlehem is compelling, even as he does not shy away from the complexities of its chronicle. --President Jimmy Carter


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