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Twilight of History


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The acclaimed and controversial historian turns his critical gaze on the writing of history today

About the Author

Shlomo Sand studied history at the University of Tel Aviv and at the Ecole des hautes etudes en sciences sociales, in Paris. He currently teaches contemporary history at the University of Tel Aviv. His books include The Invention of the Jewish People, On the Nation and the Jewish People, How I Stopped Being a Jew and The Invention of the Land of Israel.


Sand makes aconvincing case against linear history, retrospectively invented continuities, anachronistic or ahistorical transpositions. He stresses the necessity of situating one's own point of view, contextualizing and historicizing events, bringing to light bifurcations, paths not taken, contradictions and possibilities. And above all, of never sticking to the views of the dominant and the victors. -- Roland Pfefferkorn * La Marseillaise *
Shlomo Sand asks ironically and seriously whether Clio's days are not numbered. In Twilight of History he retraces the broad lines of humanity's evolution and questions our relationship to antiquity and Christianity as foundations of Western civilization. Sand recalls that the discipline owes its institutionalization to the establishment of nation-states, given the task of retracing their origins and fuelling their glory, and he asks how far it can survive these. -- Maialen Berasategui * Le magazine litteraire *
After Israel, it is Clio, the muse of history, who is the object of Sand's rigorous examination, with such painful questions as whether we have to accept the impossibility of a morally neutral history. Is history not basically a 'concealed theology', as Nietzsche saw it, designed to build and maintain the foundation myths of nations? At the end of an essay illuminated by personal touches, the pillars of historical self-evidence fall one after the other: Greek 'heritage', Eurocentrism, arbitrary periodization. Venturing outside the carapace of his specialization, Shlomo Sand sees far, and brings a fresh breeze to arid certainties. -- Emmanuel Gehrig * Le temps *
The Israeli historian has a magisterial work behind him. No one has better shown how a national history is fabricated and constructed on the sands of an ideology. What Shlomo Sand now offers us generalizes this argument, and we can only salute his erudite presentation of the establishment of history as a 'science' in the service of national passions. His chapter titles, 'Undoing the myth of origins', 'Escape from politics?', 'Probing the truth of the past' are so many stimulating injunctions. -- Marc Riglet * Lire *
Sand does not just make the case against a certain historical narrative, he also rumples the historians, including such contemporary icons as the founders of the Annales school, Marc Bloch and Lucien Febvre, whom he reproaches of indifference in their studies to the great political affairs of their time, Nazism, Stalinism and Judeophobia. In this time of reform of history teaching and rehabilitation of great republican myths, Shlomo Sand's simple but indispensable message is to beware of ourselves. -- Denis Sieffert * Politis *
Eminently readable, almost entirely free of theoretical jargon, and ... of clear importance for both politics and education. -- Beverley Southgate * Reviews in History *

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