Posted by: jbwuk | January 26, 2012

Jewish Book Week interviews Eliane Glaser

Eliane Glaser is  a writer, radio producer, and an honorary research fellow at Birkbeck, University of London. She writes on a wide range of aspects of politics and culture. She has written for the Guardian, the London Review of Books, and the Times Literary Supplement, among other publications, and she speaks at academic and non-academic conferences and in the media about her ideas and research.

Her book Judaism without Jews: Philosemitism and Christian Polemic in Early Modern England was published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2007. It explores the various ways in which Judaism was employed pragmatically as an argumentative token in the context of religious and political debates in 16th and 17th century England. The book questions the teleological narrative still present in Anglo-Jewish history, which posits Christian interest in Judaism as a precursor for Cromwell’s ‘readmission’ of the Jews to England in 1656. Judaism without Jews was one of the Jewish Chronicle’s ‘Books of the Year’. I still remember her in a very heated debate with David Cesarani at the time of the celebrations of the disputed readmission.

She is coming to Jewish Book Week to talk about her new book Get Real: How to Tell it Like it is in a World of Illusions which will be published by Fourth Estate in March 2012. It is a passionate and entertaining guide to spotting and decoding the delusions we live under – from ‘revolutionary’ plus-size models to ‘world-saving’ organic vegetables; from heavily scripted and edited ‘reality’ TV to ‘life-changing’ iPhone apps. Busting the jargon and unravelling the spin, Get Real reveals the secrets about modern life that we were never supposed to know. It’s an insider’s guide to understanding the present which puts the truth and the power to choose firmly in our hands. Only by telling it like it is can we improve – and maybe even save – our world for real.

She will discuss it with PR guru Julia Hobsbawm. Their conversation promises to be very lively! And of course we are not putting any spin on either her book or her talk!

-          If you could escape to another world, what would there be that is missing here?

Idealism, and readily available good Korean food.

-          What is the book you “inherited” from a parent or teacher that made a profound impression on you?

Middlemarch, by George Eliot. It taught me the importance of that underrated virtue, reasonableness.

-          What is the book you would like to pass on to the future generation?

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

-          What is the most Jewish thing you have ever done?

Studying at a (relatively liberal and trendy) yeshiva summer school in Jerusalem. Except that I spent the whole time internally ranting about how the apparent open-endedness of the ‘discussions’ was a sham.

-          What is the most important Jewish book of the last 60 years?

Hannah Arendt, The Jewish Writings

-          When did you know you would become a writer?

When I realised you were allowed to write using your real voice

-          If you were not a writer, what would you be?

Aside from attempting to save the world from political, social and environmental destruction, I’ve always fantasised about becoming a geologist, and was obsessed with collecting rocks as a child. Although at a certain point I realised that geology was actually about oil extraction and plate tectonics rather than sparkly gemstones.

-          What is the best piece of advice you ever received?

If you are anxious about something, don’t fight it. Being anxious is part of the experience. Miraculously, it stops you being anxious.

-          What would your superpower be?

The ability to relax.

-          Who (living or dead) would you invite to your ideal Friday night dinner?

Oh, the usual German-Jewish intellectual suspects: Freud, Marx, Benjamin, Arendt. And Larry David to lighten things up a bit.

-          On the very distant day when you will make it to the other side, what would you like God (assuming there is one) to say to you?

Yes, you were a good enough mother. This way to the unlimited spa facilities.

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