Brown Professor David I. Kertzer won a Pulitzer Prize for his book The Pope and Mussolini: The Secret History of Pius XI and the Rise of Fascism in Europe (Random House 2014), and on June 7 his new book will be published: The Pope at War: The Secret History of Pius XII, Mussolini, and Hitler (Random House). His new book is already (as of May 29) ranked as #90 of all books on Amazon.com.
David will be our guest at a Casual Conversation on Sunday, October 9 at 3 pm Eastern Time, sponsored by the Jewish Culture Group (Bruce Alpert as Chair). At that time we, and I emphasize the word “we,” will discuss The Pope and Mussolini, and for those adventurous enough also his new book. The “we” is used because this will not be David talking at us, but, rather, discussing his book (or books) with us: All of us will have read The Pope and Mussolini. For those who want to participate, you have plenty of time to borrow or buy ($11.45 new on Amazon Prime as of May 29) the book and read it. Although about 400 pages long, The Pope and Mussolini is written for the general reader interested in history. The writing is clear and the story is well-told. Think of your favorite Civil War author, or your favorite writer about the major figures of the American Revolution. It is a fast and engaging read. The only hitch is the names of the many figures in the book (think Cardinals), but David provides a detailed Cast of Characters at the front to make it easy to gain your bearings.
For those of you who want to learn more about David, the NYTs published a full-page profile of him on May 28, 2022. You can find it online or at your library. It is worth reading, especially if you have any doubts about participating in this Casual Conversation-cum-Book Club. Further, The Atlantic is publishing a long excerpt from his new book, which excerpt you can also read so long as you are a subscriber or haven’t used up your quota of free articles for next month.
In order to feel confident to set a date with David, we needed to obtain some reasonable minimum number of people who promised to read The Pope and Mussolini. So far, the following have agreed to read it and attend: Bruce Alpert, Bruce Gale, Steven Horwitz, Tim & Judith Means, Nanalee Raphael, John Leavitt, Norman Ellman, Ray Saginur, Greg Saue, Richard & Anne Saunders, Peter Schaeffer, David Abbott, Larry Wiseman, Tex Talmadge, Sandy Benney (who connected us with Professor Robert Freedman), and Susan Allen (from Arthur’s shul).
David and Arthur were in the same grade at Mamaroneck (NY) high school, and David’s father, Morris Kertzer (who is discussed in the NYTs profile), was Arthur’s Rabbi at Larchmont (NY) Temple. Further, Arthur and Shirley attended a session with David at Sixth & I Synagogue (DC) on his book tour for the Pope and Mussolini. He is very good at discussing his work. (And David autographed Arthur’s First Edition copy which he bought and read before session.)
This announcement is being sent out four months before the Casual Conversation to allow anyone interested to read the book beforehand. The usual rules apply: If you plan to attend (and intend to read The Pope and Mussolini), please send Arthur an email to that effect at email@example.com by close of business the Friday before the Casual Conversation, i.e., October 7. Friends are welcome, including lovers of history and those interested in one of the most important eras of the last century.
Bruce and Arthur