Just published yesterday - Bethlehem: Biography of a Town, by Nicholas Blincoe - has already been praised by President Jimmy Carter and Peter Frankopan, author of Silk Roads among others and looks set to be a Christmas bestseller. Review coming soon on ICN.
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. It lives vividly in everyone's imagination and has over 2.5 million tourists visiting every year. Yet there has been no social or cultural history that explores the many layers of meaning and that speaks to everyone from Christians to foreign policy readers.
Nicholas Blincoe tells its history, 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. The town could light the way to a better future, but if it is lost then the chances of an end to the Israel-Palestine conflict will be lost with it.
'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
'[Bethlehem] illuminates both the past and the present of the Middle East with countless instances of fantastic achievement and equally terrible human folly' YOTAM OTTOLENGHI, co-author of Jerusalem
'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 with real flair' PETER FRANKOPAN, author of Silk Roads
'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
As a child Nicholas Blincoe sang about Bethlehem in church and went on to marry into a Palestinian family from the city, making it his home. He is uniquely positioned to balance the fascination with Bethlehem with the reality of this city. Blincoe is a best-selling, award-winning novelist, playwright and screenwriter and is currently a critic and leader writer for the Daily Telegraph.
Bethlehem: Biography of a Town can be bought from Amazon here: www.amazon.co.uk/Bethlehem-Biography-Town-Nicholas-Blincoe/dp/1568585837