Romantics and Diversity in the Booker

I don’t know if any of you have seen Simon Schama’s series on the Romantics, but if you haven’t, you should. Romanticism is one of the defining literary and cultural movements in European history and its effects are certainly still with us today. We have all been shaped by the Romantic sensibility, as Schama explains in his excellent programmes. Here’s what a review had to say about the first episode:

What an inspired wheeze is Simon Schama’s latest outing, The Romantics and Us. What might have seemed a relatively dry idea on paper – a trawl through 200-year-old art – turned out to be thumpingly relevant to almost every aspect of modern life, even down to last week’s Extinction Rebellion protests and migrant landings.Because what the Romantics did was nothing less than change our way of thinking about the world. For good and, sometimes, for ill. Blake, Shelley, Delacroix, Wollstonecraft, Chopin and the rest of the gang, Schama argued with cogency, persuasion and some great phrasemaking, gave us little less than the very ideas of democracy, of national belonging (something of a double-edged sword), of obsession with the self, even interest in nature… and “we still think with their mind, we feel with their emotional heartbeat”.

The final episode screens tonight, but you can catch it on iPlayer. Here is the link to the first episode, from which you will have access to the whole series of three.

The Romantics and Us with Simon Schama. From popular revolt to the obsession with the self, even to modern nationalism, Simon Schama explores the enduring and powerful legacy the romantics have …

You may be aware of the Booker Prize controversy – well, not really controversy, but it had been the widespread expectation that Hilary Mantel would walk away with it for the third time with The Mirror and the Light, the final part of her Thomas Cromwell trilogy, after both previous books won the award. Yet she wasn’t even shortlisted. Instead, we have the most diverse shortlist ever. Read about it here, and perhaps grab one of the books to get a taste of the latest in contemporary fiction:

Four debut novels have been included on the shortlist for this year’s Booker Prize, but two-time winner Hilary Mantel has missed out. Mantel had been tipped for a record third win for The Mirror …

Here is a review of the Mantel novel, assuming that it will be a Booker winner. Never mind.