Letters for the ages: the past at the end of a pen
'Written in History' celebrates the written letter and the importance of words and ideas, says author Simon Sebag Montefiore
A written letter conjures up a feeling of nostalgia. It is a raw form of communication, demanding far more effort than typing out a WhatsApp with the swoop of your thumb. It posits the writer in a space to ponder and craft, demanding thought and planning and a very real understanding of emotion. “Letters are the literary antidote to the ephemerality of life,” as Simon Seabag Montefiore writes in the introduction of his latest contribution to the world of books, Written in History: Letters that Changed the World.
An avid writer and, by default, reader of letters, the historian and award-winning author’s anthology of letters immediately enthralled me. The fruit of a lifetime of reading, Written in History is a selection of 103 letters from across the ages.
I meet Montefiore at Glenda’s in Hyde Park during his trip to SA to promote his book ahead of the Kingsmead Book Fair. Wearing a dark-blue shirt adorned with tiny white polka dots, he has an assured calmness about him, coupled with an energetic enthusiasm. I ask him how his latest book links to his previous books...