Everything is Connected
Daniel Barenboim
Weidenfeld and Nicolson. 216 pages.

Photo credit:ANTONI BOFILL
In 1999, Daniel Barenboim, together with the Palestinian-American literary scholar Edward Said (1935-2003), formed the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra. The name 'Divan', used in Persian to describe an assembly of people, was taken from the collection of poems West-östlicher Divan by J W Goethe, published in 1819. Goethe wrote the poems after seeing a page of the Koran, and discovering Islam.

The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra consists of young people from Palestine and the occupied territories: Palestinians from Israel, Syrians, Lebanese, Jordanians, Egyptians and Israelis. Barenboim himself possesses both an Israeli and a Palestinian passport. He claims to be the only Israeli in the world who can also show a Palestinian passport at an Israeli border crossing.

In this compact collection of well-written essays Barenboim argues that music can illuminate the path to peace and reconciliation in the Middle East. He describes Everything is Connected as being for one who wishes to discover the parallels between music, life, and the 'wisdom that becomes audible to the thinking ear'. Believing that indifference and music making cannot coexist, Barenboim states the fundamental principal of the orchestra as being quite simple: once the young musicians agree on how to play even just one note together they will not be able to look at each other in the same way again.

Israel was founded sixty years ago this year. 'Today, many Israelis have no idea what it must feel like to be a Palestinian', says Barenboim. 'How is it to live in a city like Nablus, a prison for 180,000 people. There are no restaurants there, no cafés, no cinemas. What has become of our Jewish intelligence?'

Although there is much about music here, this is not merely a book about music. And while Barenboim has lived a long and fascinating life at the very top of the classical music world, Everything is Connected is only incidentally autobiographical. And it is certainly not a book that blindly advances an Israeli viewpoint, being boldly even-handed. Indeed, at times Barenboim is highly critical of Israeli behaviour. Here is a cogent, concisely argued and - yes - daring book, in which music and a way forward for the Arab-Israeli conflict are connected brilliantly. Daniel Barenboim displays a reassuring abundance of the Jewish intelligence that he sees as missing in many Israeli governments, soldiers and extremists.

John Robert Brown
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