Time and Place: Monday, 23 March 2015 from 17:30 to 18:30, Martin Hall, New College, Mound Place, Edinburgh EH1 2LX.

This is a public lecture, and will be followed by a Reception in Rainy Hall, New College at 18.30. Please register at http://bit.ly/DivSelf.


In Muriel Spark’s papers it is evident that her journey to Jerusalem in 1961 – then a city divided between Israel and Jordan and the setting of the Eichmann trial – and the book to grow out of this experience, The Mandelbaum Gate, were of great importance to her. In what she calls “half-Jewish novel,” entitled after the only crossing point between the two parts of Jerusalem, she explores the divided city from the perspectives of her protagonists. Among the characters, who are Israelis, Arabs, and different British visitors, some choose to see only one perspective, while some see many, even in themselves. For example, Barbara, a British-Jewish convert to Catholicism is enabled to reconcile the two parts of her self, and Freddy, a diplomat ends up seeing much more than the “delightful English atmosphere” he initially longed for. In this talk I want to propose that Spark uses the characters’ divisions to take a stance against orthodoxies, whether they are religious or national, and instead points to the advantages of seeing a complex, challenging, and yet, richer world. The Mandelbaum Gate suggests that seeing more than one story in and of Jerusalem might be a way of overcoming division, a suggestion that is as wise today as it was in 1961.

Nina Fischer is currently the Edgar Astaire Fellow in Jewish Studies and a visiting fellow at IASH. Previously she has held fellowships at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and at the Australian National University. She has also served as the project manager of the ‘History & Memory’ research group at the University of Konstanz.

Nina’s research areas include Memory, Holocaust, and Middle Eastern Studies and she is currently writing a book on cultural representations of Jerusalem from the 19th century until today. Her recent publications on the subject include “Landscapes of Scripture and Conflict: Cultural Memories and the Israeli West Bank Barrier.” Landscapes 15, No. 2 (2014): 143-155 and “Graphic Novels Explore an (Un-)Holy Land.” Quest: Issues in Contemporary Jewish History, 6 (2013): 73-107.