Reviews of Books

Sunday Times

Sunday 26 November 2017 Bryan Appleyard
Beneath Another Sky: A Global Journey into History

Vanished Kingdoms drew attention to the fact that nations, like people, are mortal. But, while alive, they all claim some kind of immortality. (…) Beneath Another Sky is effectively a follow-up. But this time it is about the whole world. (…)

Stops along [the Davieses’] way produced chapters – on Delhi, Tasmania, Texas, Mauritius, Manhattan and so on – which were combinations of present observations and more or less conventional histories. Again he tackles the transience of nations, the temporary, accidental quality of their existence. The United Arab Emirates, for example, seem to be on their deathbed because of their hopelessly unbalanced societies. (…)

The sweep of the book, the sense of the comedy, tragedy and infinitive variety of human affairs, and the odd interpolations, make it feel more like a magical-realist novel than history. (…)

Davies writes history like nobody else. He thinks like nobody else. He is a one-man refutation of the old idea that history is always written by the victors. He writes from a perspective that certainly takes in the victors, but also the foolish, the wicked,  the marginal, the defeated, the disappeared and the forgotten. He sees the world as a whole, with its limitless fund of stories. He sees the accidental nature of human lives and the infinite variety of the delusion by which we survive. (…) 

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