Notes on a Century is a great historian's vivid and insightful episodic reflections on his life, from his childhood as a confident, clever little boy to his energetic old age in the present day. He is always at pains to explain the importance of the role of a historian: in contrast to other academic disciplines he unwittingly breaks his own mold, being a diplomat, spy, polyglot and philosopher in addition to his historical calling. Coming from a relatively secular anglicised Jewish family, Bernard Lewis's interest in the Middle East seemed to be innate rather than a reflection of his own personal history. His insistence on the importance of the primary source was one of his motivating factors in learning so many languages fluently. His academic life was interrupted by the Second World War, but his language skills and knowledge base were put to good use in the Secret Service. Although his primary historical focus is on the Ottoman Empire, his expertise and language knowledge led to his involvement in the modern-day Middle Eastern conflict. His list of contacts and connections is truly impressive, and he has - at some time - been in touch with most of the main political players of the region. There is also a considerable human dimension to his narrative. He cites a Japanese woman exclaiming at his knowledge of Japanese in Israel, but commenting in perfect Hebrew. Notes on a Century is not only a fascinating memoir but addresses the uniquely difficult recent history of the Middle East from a wise and superbly well-informed perspective - that of the region's finest historian.
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"Bernard Lewis, a prominent and sometimes controversial historian, provides an engaging account of his very long life. Ralph Lister's performance is absolutely perfect. The account begins with a narrative of Lewis's early years in England during WWII and the years after. After his migration to the U.S., the narrative turns into a series of fragments and scenes that are interesting but not always clearly delineated with respect to time. Lewis enjoys humor, particularly one-liners--some are quite good. Lister's reading is always well paced, and his British accent works wonderfully. He captures the perceptive and occasionally irascible scholar and his changing views over a lifetime. F.C. (c) AudioFile 2012, Portland, Maine"