Andreas Kluth’s book Hannibal and Me: a review

by cheri sabraw

Like a skilled Navajo weaver,  author Andreas Kluth has woven the stories of history and of those people whose lives changed it, into a marvelous storyteller’s blanket, one rich with detail, color, and emotion.

His book Hannibal and Me, published in January of this year, took me a month to read. It’s not long or complicated or boring or verbose: it’s deep and each individual story–be it of Eleanor Roosevelt’s heartbreak or Ernest Shackleton’s perilous journey to Antarctica–relates to the larger one–ours–the Me in the title.

Each story offers the reader an opportunity. We can  sit in front of the sculpture Grief, as Eleanor Roosevelt did after learning of Franklin’s infidelity to her, and cry our eyes out or sit on a ice flow and do nothing, as Shackleton determined his crew must do when his ship aptly named Endurance, could go no further.

This book is not meant to be read in one long day. Doing so risks missing the nuances in each story Kluth tells.

He tells his own story, of his search for meaning, a little word he would not find working as an investment banker in a cubicle in London.

He expands the story from himself to his Uncle Lulu, former Chancellor of West Germany Ludwig Erhard, a quietly effective economist- turned- leader whose trust in others  would lead to his retreat from public office.

Kluth  offers the reader a wide variety of personalities: from author Amy Tan to psychiatrist Carl Jung and from Tiger Woods to Albert Einstein, to name just a few of the  people  just like us in many respects, people whose life strategies either enhanced or detracted from their experiences and their historical legacies.

The umbrella sheltering all of these little stories and to which they all relate (this is the genius of this book) is the big story Kluth tells, one that captivated him as a child: the story of the magnificent Carthaginian general Hannibal who crossed the Alps with elephants! Hannibal, with all of his father’s legacy and personal courage, fails. Two Roman generals of different generations–Fabius and Scipio–employ their own tactics in finishing off Hannibal for the Romans. How did this happen? Why?

Kluth, the West Coast Correspondent for the Economist Magazine, is a natural storyteller. If his aim was to bring the story of Hannibal, Fabius, and Scipio into our historical and emotional hearts and thus, link their triumphs and disasters  to our own, he has succeeded.

About Cheri

Writer, artist, cable television host, grandmother to four!
This entry was posted in Education, Life, People, Writing and Teaching and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to Andreas Kluth’s book Hannibal and Me: a review

  1. Christopher says:

    “……Hannibal and Me………took me a month to read…….. “

    I’m glad to learn this, for it took me almost as long to read it, but I suspect I’m not otherwise as busy as you.

    Should not any book worth reading be savoured, not wolfed? Is not the greatest insulter of a book and its author the speed-reader who rushes through, at sixty miles an hour, sentences and paragraphs that the author wrote and re-wrote and re-phrased lovingly many times over, so to tease out nuance and rhythm and poetry?

    On the other hand, the speed-reader does get to devour many more books than the savourer. But then…………..

    • Richard says:

      It all depends how quick your mind is compared to the author’s. 👿

    • Cheri says:

      I don’t believe one can read a book quickly and take away what the author intended. Although Richard does make a good point! Perhaps my mind is operating on a much lower bandwidth than Andreas’.

      • Richard says:

        As I savour the work in retrospect, [ 🙂 ] I realise that its coherence owes less to narrative style than to a single idea – a good one.

        The mini-biographies were a distraction, rather. It would have been better had they been woven in more tightly with Hannibal’s story. The result is that the book reads like a blog.

        The joys of being a reader and not a writer!

  2. kempton says:

    Very nice review Cheri. I think it took me a week or so to finish the book but it is definitely a book that I will re-read again and again because I think I can learn something new from each stage of my life (plus it is on my phone so I can get to it easily).

    • Cheri says:

      Why thank you, Kempton! I saw your interview with Andreas. Well done, sir!

      You are right about rereading books during the different stages of our lives. I’ve gone back to a number of books that I dismissed as a young girl but which now speak to me.

      Thank you for commenting on my blog.

  3. Cyberquill says:

    Why Navajo? Apaches don’t weave?

    • Cheri says:

      No. Apaches took care of serious business while the weavers and basket makers were slaughtered.

      • Cyberquill says:

        I see. In the end, though, they all met the same fate, so the Apaches might as well have been weaving.

        In other news, I’m trying to figure out some sort of a system regarding capitalization in your headlines:

        All in a weekend
        Salwa’s Cinnamon Rolls
        A missing hard-boiled egg
        Franz Kafka and Me
        The task at hand in San Francisco
        Literary Criticism at LAX

        What’s going on here?

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