Can anyone really own a culture? This magnificent account argues that the story of global civilisations is one of mixing, sharing, and borrowing.
It shows how art forms have crisscrossed continents over centuries to produce masterpieces. From Nefertiti's lost city and the Islamic Golden Age to twentieth century Nigerian theatre and Modernist poetry, Martin Puchner explores how contact between different peoples has driven artistic innovation in every era - whilst cultural policing and purism have more often undermined the very societies they tried to protect.
Travelling through Classical Greece, Ashoka's India, Tang dynasty China, and many other epochs, this triumphal new history reveals the crossing points which have not only inspired the humanities, but which have made us human.
'A forceful rebuke to those who argue that culture can be owned by groups, nations, religions or races. . . . [by] an adept storyteller.' -- Ismail Muhammad ― New York Times
'Jaunty and readable but never lacking in depth, Culture hops through countries and eras to deliver a resonant argument.' -- Lauren Puckett-Pope ― Elle
'A breakneck, utterly captivating survey of threads of cultural transmission-how ideas, stories, and songs-survive, change, vanish, get borrowed, refined, coopted, and grafted through time ... I underlined sentences on every page.' -- Anthony Doerr
'A remarkable book.' -- Kwame Anthony Appiah
'Eminently readable ... The book's great strength lies in its ability to swoop deftly and lightly between things that may be familiar to us in themselves, but which we might be tempted to separate out in our attempts to form a picture of the world.' -- Edward Wilson-Lee ― The Times Literary Supplement
'Martin Puchner has exceptional and invaluable gifts: intellectual fearlessness, dazzling erudition, trenchancy tempered by breadth of mind, and a humanist's eye for minute evidence that illumines huge problems.' -- Felipe Fernandez-Armesto
'Fearless and exhilaratingly erudite, Martin Puchner's panoramic tour of human culture across the millennia is a riveting page-turner.' -- Amy Chua
'A writer of genius' -- William Dalrymple
'Elegantly written and full of erudite lore, this vibrant history illuminates the inveterate human yearning for expression.' ― Publishers Weekly
'A thoughtful, generous vision of human creativity across centuries of culture.' ― Kirkus
'Fluent and engaging.' -- Boyd Tonkin ― Wall Street Journal
'A mighty, polymathic work . . . [by] a master storyteller -- Chris Vognar ― Boston Globe
About the Author
Martin Puchner, the Byron and Anita Wien Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Harvard University, is an award-winning author, educator, public speaker, and institution builder in the arts and humanities. His writings, which include a dozen books and anthologies and over seventy articles and essays, range from philosophy and theatre to world literature and have been translated into many languages. Through his best-selling Norton Anthology of World Literature and his HarvardX MOOC Masterpieces of World Literature, he has brought four thousand years of literature to audiences across the globe. He is a permanent member of the European Academy.