People of the book

People of the book is a novel of the Australian author Geraldine Brooks, initially published on the 1st of January 2008 at Viking Penguin publishing house.

The novel presents the story of a Haggadah created in between 1300 and 1400 and which has passed through numerous events which only made it more valuable from a historical point of view.

With a wine stain, salt traces, a wing fragment and a white hair, the Haggadah is given to the conservative Hannah Heath, a single woman in not a very good relationship with her mother, who is recommended by her experience and the people she has worked with.

The Haggadah is a Jewish manuscript which is placed on the Easter table to remind them every time about the slavery liberation and the gratitude they have to give to God.

The Haggadah from Sarajevo was saved in real life by a Muslim librarian, called Dervis Korkut and placed to the authorities for evaluation. Haggadah’s story combines with stories about love and treason, life and death and also about the cohabitation between the people of different religions,  in peaceful periods as well as in the period of inquisition or Nazi from the Second World War. There are people who risked their lifes to save the book or people who used it for personal purposes to obtain personal benefits.

Many times the book was on the verge of being burned or destroyed, especially in the inquisition period, when one considered that the Jewish manuscripts were containing heresies which would have endangered the Christian faith.

Another important fact is the one that the Haggadah was created in the period when human painting was prohibited, in the belief that this meant creating idols which was considered one of the greatest sins.

The novel is divided in the following sections:

  • Hanna – Sarajevo, spring of 1996;
  • The wing of an insect – Sarajevo, 1940;
  • Hanna – Viena, spring of 1996;
  • Feathers and a rose – Viena, 1894;
  • Hanna – Viena, spring of 1996;
  • Wine stains – Veneția, 1609;
  • Hanna – Boston, spring of 1996;
  • Salty water – Tarragona, 1492;
  • Hanna – London, spring of 1996;
  • A white hair – Sevilla, 1480;
  • Hanna – Sarajevo, spring of 1996;
  • Lola – Jerusalim, 2002;
  • Hanna – Arnhem Land, Gunumeleng, 2002.

The novel won in 2008 the Australian prize of book industries (ABIA) for the book of the year and the best fiction book of the year.

© picnicontheshelf, January 11, 2018


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