Sunday, June 23, 2013

Lazare on Sand

Catch of the day: Daniel Lazare's LRB deconstruction of Shlomo Sand's deconstruction of the history of the Jewish "People"  and "Land"--the terms Sand uses, though he describes each not as a history but as an "invention"   Lazare's account seems to have been long in the baking: Sand's "people" book came out in English in 2010, in Hebrew two years earlier.   Fashioning it as an attack on Jewish "essentialism," Sand certainly understood his book to be contentious, although in many ways it builds on the work of earlier inquirers, notably Israel Finkelstein.  He cannot have been disappointed: his book has already generated a subgenre all its own (a Wiki does a pretty good job of summarizing criticism of Sand's earlier book). 

Lazare is ideally equipped to carry the inquiry forward.  He's been a sympathetic student of the general topic for more than a decade now: here is a 2002 article that offers a superb introduction to the inquiry in an earlier manifestation.  He says that as a line of inquiry,  "Sand's investigation is more than justified," but he calls the earlier book "a messy polemic" (he says the new one is "better").  Whatever: if you read Sands, you will want to read this.  If you don't read Sands but feel you should, this might  be a good place to staat. 

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