Journalist, member of the American think tank Atlantic Council, Ben Judah has just published This is Europe. The Way We Live Now (Picador, untranslated), a long report produced over five years across the continent, which tells the transformations of Europe through the history of its inhabitants. In twenty-three chapters and as many individual destinies are expressed a Tunisian immigrant who became an imam in Avignon, a Burgundy winegrower faced with climate change, a Turkish-Austrian couple who met during an Erasmus exchange… There is neither comment nor great lesson, simply observations on a human level by a Franco-British who grew up in Bucharest, Belgrade and London, spent a few years in Moscow and now lives between New York and London.
Why did a Franco-British living in the United States want to write a book on Europe?
Initially, I wanted to write a book on France, which I crossed for a few months, going to the Alps, Burgundy, Avignon… I had written several pages of a very classic book, which I was the narrator. But I realized that it was limited to the borders of France, whereas what interested me was not really Franco-French phenomena, but European ones: immigration and the ethnic transformation of the continent , climate change, globalisation… I was really witnessing a transformation of European life. So I decided to leave the framework of France.
You started this book after the Brexit vote, in June 2016. Although you don’t talk about it, did you write it in reaction to this event?
In a way, yes, but not only. I realized that we all have a mental image of Europe filled with memories, vacations, visits to the great cathedrals, Italian cinema… There is also a political Europe, that of Emmanuel Macron, d ‘Ursula von der Leyen, by Mario Draghi. In both cases, it is a Europe of the spirit, more and more distant from the lived, real Europe where we live. In the UK, Brexiters tend to see Europe only as a political system instead of seeing it as a continent linked by human flows, loves… I wanted to write a book that could serve as an antidote to that . I try to tell the transformations of Europe at the height of a human being, to humanize this reality.
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What image of Europe is emerging through the twenty-three testimonies that you relate?
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