“The library is a gathering pool of narratives and of the people who come to find them. It is where we can glimpse immortality; in the library, we can live forever.”
― Susan Orlean, The Library Book.
Benjamin Balint and Merav Mack's Jerusalem: City of the Book (Yale University Press, 2019) is a fascinating journey through Jerusalem’s libraries which tells the story of this city as a place where some of the world’s most enduring ideas were put into words. The writers of Jerusalem, although renowned the world over, are not usually thought of as a distinct school; their stories as Jerusalemites have never before been woven into a single narrative. For the first time ever the stories are told of the custodians, past and present, who safeguard Jerusalem’s literary legacies. By showing how Jerusalem has been imagined by its writers and shelved by its librarians, Mack and Balint tell the untold history of how the peoples of the book have populated the city with texts. In these authors’ hands, Jerusalem itself—perched between East and West, antiquity and modernity, violence and piety—comes alive as a kind of labyrinthine library.
Renee Garfinkel is a psychologist, writer, and Middle East commentator for the nationally syndicated TV program, The Armstrong Williams Show.. Write her at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet @embracingwisdom.
Renee Garfinkel, Ph.D. is a psychologist, writer, Middle East television commentator and host of The New Books Network’s Van Leer Jerusalem Series on Ideas. Write her at email@example.com.