The consciousness… the depredations of both the Nazi and Soviet era, is central to Philippe Sands’ moving account of his journeys to the newly Ukranian Lviv… he finds a city… stripped of its former variety and, seemingly, of its memory… His quest is to penetrate the dark absences and understand what was once within them. – Eva Hoffman
Lviv, Lwow, Lvov, Lemberg. A city of lost names with a past all but gone.
Known by a variety of names, the City of Lions is now in western Ukraine. Situated in different countries during its history, it is a city located along the fault-lines of Europe's history. In City of Lions Philippe Sands presents two extraordinary and illuminating essays, written more than half a century apart - but united by one city.
The first is Jozef Wittlin's sensual and lyrical paean to his Lwow, written in exile, is a deep cry of love and pain for his city, most of whose familiar faces have fled or been killed. It is an account full of a nostalgia for a people and a time he will never see again and is account ‘brims with the sensuality of lush hills and the beauty of grand architecture; with nooks of intimacy and madeleines of local tastes’.
The second is Sands own account is partly an attempt to follow in Wittlin’s footsteps, although all but the topography is vastly changed as well as a more personal journey to uncover the history of the genocide in which his own family was wiped out.
To both of these account, Sands layers a lawyer’s eye for interconnecting strands and an ethical and moral overview grounded in the history of international law. Philippe Sands' finely honed exploration of what has been lost and what remains interweaves a lawyer's love of evidence with the emotional heft of a descendant of Lviv.
With an illuminating preface by Eva Hoffman and stunning new photographs by Diana Matar which as Hoffman credits ‘reinforce the sense of pastness in the present… a compelling darkness’, City of Lions is a powerful and melancholy evocation of central Europe in the Twentieth Century, with a special resonance for today's troubled continent.
A Professor of Law at University College London, Philippe Sands QC has written widely on the subject of international law as well as participating in major legal cases with global implications, including taking part in the 1992 Climate Change Convention and legal cases concerning the Belmarsh and Guantánamo detainees.
Philippe Sands 2016 book EastWest Street won the 2016 Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction an account of how an invitation to deliver a lecture in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv began a profound quest to unearth the origins of international law and fill the terrible gaps in his own family’s decimated history.
‘I found myself caught between pillars of love and hate, walking a tightrope that connected extreme and apparently unshakeable sentiments. I could understand the human instincts that drove each son in his own direction, the love of the father, the cruelty of the facts… In these bloody places, submerged into the experiences of those whose lives had been destroyed… I was no longer able to resist the pull of becoming their representative.’ – Philippe Sands, FT
Publisher: Pushkin Press
Number of pages: 160
Weight: 159 g
Dimensions: 165 x 120 x 18 mm