Jewish Book Week through the year: Rebecca Solnit

Rebecca Solnit


In a one-off Jewish Book Week event with Kings Place during the year, we helped American public intellectual Rebecca Solnit launch a new book, The Faraway Nearby.

The book opens with the puzzle of what to do with a massive load of apricots, 100lbs of ripening fruit filling her bedroom floor. It moves into a meditation on empathy, loss and inheritance, taking in a trip to Iceland, Che Guevara and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein along the way.

“This book is about storytelling, empathy, illness,” Solnit said in the event. “It’s also about all of us as artists. We make stories. They shape and direct what we value, what we see and what we are blind to.

“I came to recognise that you are telling the stories…[you often have] a loop tape running about a past event, or about how awful a person is. But you can pause the tape, and to do so is a spiritual and psychological task.”

Other ideas Solnit shared during the event:

“Reading and writing is very solitary. The life of a writer is sometimes about how much solitude you can stand.”

About the design and form of The Faraway Nearby: “I wanted to make a really beautiful book. If trees are going to die they might as well die for beauty.”

“A book is a space you travel through. If the text of my book on walking was laid out in a single line it would have to be 3,500 miles long. It makes the narrative space literal.”

Rebecca Solnit

Rebecca Solnit is author of 13 books, including A Field Guide to Getting Lost and Wanderlust , in which she writes about art, landscape, public life, politics and memory. She has been compared to Joan Didion and, in the words of the New York Times, possesses \"a rare gift\".A contributing editor to Harper\'s, she also writes regularly for the London Review of Books and the Los Angeles Times.

Jane Shilling

Jane Shilling is a journalist and author of a 2011 memoir The Stranger in the Mirror.