"Why do you falsify history"? When Simon Sebag-Montefiore kicked off the London History Festival yesterday night, that was probably the last thing he expected to be asked.
Acclaimed for his books on Russian history, particularly on Stalin, award-winning historian and novelist Sebag-Montefiore smiled politely as a small man from the crowd accused him of writing only historical fiction, picking juicy bits of stories and historicizing it. Sebag-Montefiore, not batting an eyelash, thanked him for his contribution and surfed the audience for questions on his favourite subjects, Russian dictators and their long-suffering wives.
The most interesting thing he learned whilst researching Stalin? He was a fantastic falsetto singer, in high demand for bar mitzvahs and parties because of his incredible voice. What does he think about Lenin and Trosky? In many ways, they are more comparable to Al-Qaeda in their totalitarian fervor, than any western politicians today.
For his next book Sebag-Montefiore is tackling a lighter subject: Jerusalem - 3000 years of history condensed into a few hundred pages. For this book he says, his subject will be about holiness and how, "holiness is infectious, religions borrow from each other and competition breeds even more holiness". A lighter subject indeed.
By Abby Chau