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Simon Schama: The book that changed my life

"It’s one of the great documents of the wilder shores of the Jewish mind, but this is great writing for everyone"

By Simon Schama  

Illustration by Bill McConkey

Belle de Seigneur by Albert Cohen 

A dozen years ago it fell at my feet from a display carousel in the bookshop at Jewish Book Week, all one thousand pages of it, barely held together by Penguin covers. Since I hadn’t so much as touched it, or the carousel, this was obviously an other-worldly summons to make the acquaintance of a writer I’d never heard of: Albert Cohen, Romaniote-Corfiote Jew, educated in France, Jewish Agency representative to the French government before the…

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