WRITTEN IN HISTORY
Letters are love, longing, life. They are pain, hurt and anguish, too. The letter embodies all human emotion, far better than a blunt electronic message so often misconstrued. A letter can start a war, build a peace and splutter with personality. They are wonderful things and in his new book Simon Sebag Montefiore explores an eclectic sample of epistolary highlights.
The book is split into sections, starting with love, family, creation and courage via blood, destruction and disaster among others, to downfall and goodbye. Each letter is introduced by Montefiore, put into historical context, edited for clarity when too long, repetitive or a dollop too much sex appears, and any intimate shorthand explained. Each letter can be approached and understood with ease, whether it be the musings of an ancient pharoah, Mozart’s babblings or Gandhi’s letter to Hitler.
The ideas expressed in this collection of letters are universal and Montefiore has done excellent work in collating the less obvious with the well known. Through them we glimpse the past, catch the essence of personalities who have shaped our history and may, perhaps, be inspired to let them illuminate the future. It’s time to put pen to paper.
By Simon Sebag Montefiore Weidenfeld & Nicolson, £15