Saturday, October 29 at 4:00 pm

Speaker Series: Ian Buruma, Author of Their Promised Land: My Grandparents in Love and War

Buruma-jacketWe are pleased to welcome Ian Buruma, author of Their Promised Land: My Grandparents in Love and War, to our speaker series on Saturday, October 29, 2016 at 4:00 p.m.

Their Promised Land: My Grandparents in Love and War is Ian Buruma’s account of his grandparents’ enduring love through the terror and separation of two world wars.  During the almost six years England was at war with Nazi Germany, Winifred and Bernard Schlesinger, Ian Buruma’s grandparents, and the film director John Schlesinger’s parents, were, like so many others, thoroughly sundered from each other. Their only recourse was to write letters back and forth. And write they did, often every day. In a way they were just picking up where they left off in 1918, at the end of their first long separation because of the Great War that swept Bernard away to some of Europe’s bloodiest battlefields. The thousands of letters between them were part of an inheritance that ultimately came into the hands of their grandson, Ian Buruma. Now, in a labor of love that is also a powerful act of artistic creation, Ian Buruma has woven his own voice in with theirs to provide the context and counterpoint necessary to bring to life, not just a remarkable marriage, but a class, and an age.

At its heart, Their Promised Land is the story of cultural assimilation. The Schlesingers were very British in the way their relatives in Germany were very German, until Hitler destroyed that option. The problems of being Jewish and facing anti-Semitism even in the country they loved were met with a kind of stoic discretion. But they showed solidarity when it mattered most. As the shadows of war lengthened again, the Schlesingers mounted a remarkable effort, which Ian Buruma describes movingly, to rescue twelve Jewish children from the Nazis and see to their upkeep in England.
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About the author: Ian Buruma was educated in Holland and Japan, where he studied history, Chinese literature, and Japanese cinema. In 1970s Tokyo, he acted in Kara Juro’s Jokyo Gekijo and participated in Maro Akaji’s butoh dancing company Dairakudakan, followed by a career in documentary filmmaking and photography. In the 1980s, he worked as a journalist, and spent much of his early writing career travelling and reporting from all over Asia.

Buruma now writes about a broad range of political and cultural subjects for major publications, most frequently for The New York Review of Books, The New Yorker, The New York Times, and The Guardian, La Repubblica, NRC Handelsblad.

He was Cultural Editor of The Far Eastern Economic Review, Hong Kong (1983-86) and Foreign Editor ofThe Spectator, London (1990-91), and has been a Fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg, Berlin, the Woodrow Wilson Center, Washington D.C., St. Antony’s College, Oxford, and Remarque Institute, NYU.

He has delivered lectures at various academic and cultural institutions world-wide, including Oxford, Princeton, and Harvard universities. He is currently Paul W. Williams Professor of Democracy, Human Rights, and Journalism at Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY.

Ian Buruma was awarded the 2008 international Erasmus Prize for making “an especially important contribution to culture, society or social science in Europe.”

He was voted as one of the Top 100 Public Intellectuals by the Foreign Policy/Prospect magazines in 2008, and in 2010.

Ian Buruma was awarded the 2008 Shorenstein Journalism Award, an annual award which “honors a journalist not only for a distinguished body of work, but also for the particular way that work has helped American readers to understand the complexities of Asia.” It is awarded jointly by the Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Center in the Freeman Spogli Institute at Stanford University, and the Shorenstein Center on Press, Politics, and Public Policy in the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

 



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