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Landscape and Memory

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  1,055 ratings  ·  94 reviews
One of Time Magazine's Best Books of the Year

In Landscape and Memory Schama ranges over continents and centuries to reveal the psychic claims that human beings have made on nature. He tells of the Nazi cult of the primeval German forest; the play of Christian and pagan myth in Bernini's Fountain of the Four Rivers; and the duel between a monumental sculptor and a feminist
Paperback, 672 pages
Published November 5th 1996 by Vintage (first published April 4th 1995)
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Average rating 4.18  · 
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 ·  1,055 ratings  ·  94 reviews

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A big book, well illustrated and rich in anecdote (I particularly like the one about Whitebait in 18th century British politics). It is lovely to have a lengthy discussion of Pan Tadeusz, but the whole thing screams 'TV series' rather than book, rambling with discussions in passing on the sights and significances of the forest (view spoiler)but lacking in great analysis, I find it doubtful I will ever read it again, except perh ...more
Jul 05, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I read this a long time ago, and didn't find it easy to read, but oh! so very worthwhile when I finally made it to Europe and could see the places he was writing about. It really makes a difference when you are tramping through all those palaces when you understand the political purpose and symbolism behind the architecture and gardens.
I summarised each chapter as I read, but I'm not going to regurgitate that here. What I remember is all sorts of odd things - here's just one example: how the Br
Jul 23, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: history-europe
This is rich and dense, displaying a breadth of scholarship that is humbling. Bits of the book are outstanding, but my principal concern is that Schama does not seem to effectively distinguish representations of the landscape as things to be looked at (visual and plastic arts) from repesentations of the landscape made to be occupied (such as garden design). Whereas both are representations, the difficulty I find with not making this distinction clear is that we experience them differently - this ...more
Lyn Elliott
Jan 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is one of my all time favourite books. Schama's book is bursting with ideas about the meanings of different types of landscape in different places, and the ways these meanings are reflected in stories (legends, myths, folk stories etc) and the visual arts. It changed the way I see the world and enriched my life as a consequence.
No matter how cluttered our bookshelves get, this will always be in my collection.
Dec 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I've been ruminating away on this beautiful masterpiece of a book for a month now. Schama is a genius-- connecting with perfect clarity random bright historical moments into something sensical and lovely. Nazis and polish buffalo? Yes. Roman explorers and celtic heroes? Of course. Art, history, politics, and the small importance of every day life-- Schama illuminates the meaningfulness of it all so that it seems obvious and beautiful. This book is a complete education. ...more
Feb 22, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: dorks
Landscape and Memory is a long book. It is hard not to be impressed by the shear number of pages Simon Schama can put out. And his subject matter - the cultural perception of landscape and its use in national discourses - is one I enjoy. This is an incredibly broad-brush view of the subject, meandering through Lithuanian forests to Bernini's fountains and the gardens at Versaille, then on to Mount Rushmore, to name a small sampling of the locations he grazes. There are wonderful passages in this ...more
About a year ago, I was watching Animal Plant or the National Geographic channel. I can't remember which one. Anyhow, there was this American, you know the kind that makes all Americans cringe. He was going in some cave filled with water and bat poop to look at snakes. He made this poor snake barf up its meal of bat to prove that snakes kill bats in the dark. He let the snake back in the murk, and a couple minutes got bite by a snake (if there is any justice, the same snake). The snake wasn't po ...more
Apr 09, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2013, non-fiction, mrp
This book brought out a lot of things for me: issues of anthropocentrism, how do we get out of it? Can we get out of it? Can we talk about the experiences of creatures or things that are not human without anthropocentrising them? Can we anthropocentrisize them and be aware that we are doing so? To what degree is this self awareness acceptable?

Schama focused more on the memory than the landscape, which is fine, but his thesis was lost and not resolved. This was a book about men on land, not man a
Jun 09, 2017 added it
Shelves: nonfiction
This is a fantastic book. The doorstop size of it daunted me at first, but Simon Schama is such a brilliant, effervescent writer, I was caught up immediately. If you’re looking for an erudite page-turner endlessly conversant with art, architecture, history, and literature, not to mention forestry, horticulture, natural history, and more, Landscape and Memory is the doorstop for you! Schama looks at the way nature has shaped western culture: the way mountains, rivers, woods and forests have, in t ...more
Dinah Steveni
Aug 14, 2010 rated it really liked it
I have the first edition... and as a plein air painter, I especially found Ch 9 Arcadia Redesigned informative. It's a go back to book in my library. ...more
John Caviglia
Jul 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
A wonderfully compendious, leisurely, ultimately compelling ramble through art, literature and intellectual history, making the point that we see “Nature” through “Culture” (or, in Schama’s word, “Memory”). Having read and much admired Marjorie Hope Nicholson’s brilliant book, Mountain Gloom, Mountain Glory years ago, I was led to read Schama as a much larger but related take on the subject of culture seeing nature, and I was not disappointed. That is, though his general argument was no surprise ...more
Jul 16, 2007 rated it liked it
A fully engrossing, but very long book. I like art, I like history, and I really like Simon Schama, so using the transitive property, I guess I really liked this book. I would caution potential readers, however, that it is not a book that can be read lightly. After finishing it, I have decided to treat myself to the softer ramblings of Chuck Klosterman.

By the way, I have shelved this in the american history shelf because there are some references to the United States and its landcape and history
Feb 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: artists, dabblers, arcana addicts.
Historian, Simon Schama's book on the psychology we invest upon landscape (and vice versa) is a profound book that makes my personal imagination seem withered and dry - it also encouraged me to keep reading. If you are interested in history, myth, art, culture, and psychology this book will be a permanent addition to your library. It is unlike any book I have ever read, and Schama is a master of prose. Filled with many fine color illustrations, art, maps, photographs. ...more
Tom Wolfe
Sep 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
Man creates myths around which political, religious and social activities cohere. Many of these deal with the relationship of a people to nature; for example the English and the sea, the Germans and the forest, Romany (gypsies) and the road. Schama uses art and artists as the media through which he explores these myths.
Feb 28, 2013 rated it it was ok
Lacks focus - Schama can and will use any bit of history or tangent to illustrate broad themes which could have been condensed into a long article. This is entertaining at times, like watching a talented college professor that's very stoned riff on history for hour after hour. But it's a 672 page book. ...more
Jul 19, 2007 rated it it was amazing
This book is for avid consumers of a delicious, witty, educated read about topics you never thought you'd find interesting. ...more
Satyros Brucato
Jan 02, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: cultural-history
A sweeping exploration of the effects of the natural world on human culture. One of my favorite books!
Stuart Aken
Aug 03, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Art historian, philosopher, raconteur, academic, or proselyte? Simon Schama’s great tome carries elements of all these. One reviewer, quoted on the cover, adds ‘self-indulgent and perverse’, and I’ve no argument with those.
There are undoubted instances of the self-congratulatory, ‘I know a lot more than you’, and the academic show-off in this extraordinarily dense piece of erudition and scholarship.
I suppose I should declare how I came to read this book, which isn’t a volume I’d have normally ac
Oct 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
A work of startling ambition, executed in brief vignettes of anecdote, history, and art scholarship. I had had my eye on Landscape and Memory ever since I first saw it on the shelf at the Mudd, but never quite got around to lugging it home and spending the five weeks it ended up taking me to get through it. I was intrigued by the dark, dense, symbolic forest pictures I saw flipping through, and what I inferred to be its premise.

Having read it, I'm still not really sure what the thesis of this bo
Jun 07, 2009 rated it liked it
Landscape and Memory provides a way of looking at the culture-laden landscape from the forests of Lithuania to the sequoias of California, from the early and proto-Renaissance (and even further in Classical myth) into the American western frontier. The aim of Schama is to rediscover our approach to the earth through woods, water, and rock, and how layers of myth inform this relationship with the earth. Yet, it has a twist that many environmentalists may take issue with. This is a highly anthropo ...more
Bobby Thym
Nov 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
Charlton Heston in his forced interview with Michael Moore reminded us all that Europe had a frontier, too. It's easy to forget this simple point. Schama looks at the art of the 18th and 19th centuries and shows how romanticism emerges from the art of this period. He argues that we are have been taught to look at nature in a certain way, and he then asks all of us where our feeling and thoughts about nature came from. I think the most ardent tree hugger or environmentalist has to return to the R ...more
Avis Black
Mar 02, 2008 rated it it was ok
Schama approaches his topic from the historian's perspective, and the problem with this is that there's a great deal of history in this book but not much about landscapes. I would prefer a much more intense focus on artists, their individual works, and the artistic world and mindset than Schama provides. The book may be useful for those who have never taken any courses about the history of landscapes. Those who have will already be familiar with much of his subject matter. ...more
Sep 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a long and rambling book, but that’s okay. He explores the notion of myth and culture relating to landscape, that in turn reoccurs through time in different forms. Divided into broad sections on wood, rock and water this is a very rich and varied account from the dark forests of Germany to Italian fountains. Packed with anecdote and stories of both the eccentric and sublime I would strongly recommend this book.

May 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mark Levison
Jan 31, 2013 rated it liked it
I really wanted to like this book, instead it wore me down. Others have covered well what is great about it. I will say only that Schama seemed to have been missing an editor. It took over two years to read, in the end I finished it out of shear doggedness.

Great ideas buried inside alot of extra writing.
Jul 11, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-partially
didn't actually read it cover to cover. used passages for research. the passages that supported my thesis. ...more
Aug 15, 2009 rated it really liked it
A very deep read. This book restitches the fabric of many various regions by wandering through history to better understand and appreciate those specific landscapes.
Barbara Guttman
May 03, 2010 rated it it was amazing
The more important book, in history and history of art, for the 21e century
gorgoeous and unique history of time and place
Mar 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
I bought a copy of Landscape and Memory with the first money I earned writing fiction. I felt like I should mark the occasion by buying a rather expensive book and as I had just been awestruck by some of Simon Schama’s supremely insightful and eloquent BBC programmes, I wanted to give one of his books a try too. It did take me a while to get around to reading it though.

Landscape and Memory is a behemoth both in size and the quantity of information packed within its pages. Its stories are eclecti
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Simon Schama was born in 1945. The son of a textile merchant with Lithuanian and Turkish grandparents, he spent his early years in Leigh-on-Sea in Essex. When his parents moved to London he won a scholarship to Haberdashers’ Aske’s School where his two great loves were English and History. Forced to choose between the two he opted to read history at Christ’s College, Cambridge. Here he was taught ...more

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