A family history of surpassing beauty and power, Ian Buruma’s new family memoir is an 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, were thoroughly sundered from each other. Their only recourse was to write letters back and forth. 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.
Winifred and Bernard inherited the high European cultural ideals and attitudes that came of being born into prosperous German-Jewish émigré families. To young Ian, who would visit from Holland every Christmas, they seemed the very essence of England, their spacious Berkshire estate the model of genteel English country life at its most pleasant and refined. It wasn’t until years later that he discovered how much more there was to the story.
At its heart, “Their Promised Land” is the story of cultural assimilation.
Click here for more info about the presentation at Columbia’s European Institute.
Ian Buruma was educated in Holland and Japan. He has spent many years in Asia, which he has written about in “God’s Dust,” “A Japanese Mirror,” and “Behind the Mask.” He has also written “Playing the Game,” “The Wages of Guilt,” and “Anglomania.” Buruma is currently a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Institute for the Humanities in Washington, D.C. and a professor at Bard.