There is the Europe of politics. There is the Europe of ideas. But there is also the Europe of actual people, who live, love, die, and dream. How they live and how they hope is shaped by mass migration, climate change, the war in Ukraine, and any number of other disruptions. Who are they and what do their lives actually look like?
This week, British journalist Ben Judah talks toand about his outstanding new book This Is Europe, a work of heartfelt and immersive storytelling about individuals amidst the forces reshaping the continent’s landscape.
Ben eschewed coverage of superficial political debates and dedicated the book to tell 23 gripping stories of ordinary people — an ex-Muslim porn actor, a Romanian truck driver, a refugee olive production line worker — embedded in this new European life. In addition to relaying parts of these narratives, Ben discusses the unique approach he took, including removing himself from the frame and closely collaborating with subjects to add depth to their stories.
Instead of asking them what they thought, Ben chose to ask them “how did this make you feel?” Interestingly, few of them seem to have any distinct politics or ideology, something which seems to especially intrigue Shadi.
In the full episode (for paying subscribers only) the three discuss Islam’s growing footprint on a largely secular but still superstitious Europe. Ben also discusses the increasingly blurred cultural lines between Europe, Africa and Asia as well. The conversation winds down with Ben explaining the absence of Jewish stories from the book and the three circling back to a fundamental question: How do we live?
Subscribers will also receive the full video of the conversation, available below.
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This Is Europe: The Way We Live Now, by Ben Judah (Pan Macmillan).
This Is London: Life and Death in the World City, by Ben Judah (Amazon).
The Decameron, by Giovanni Boccaccio (Amazon).
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