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A Conversation with: Orlando Figes

If salons, travel guides, print books, opera houses and an emerging train network brought Europeans closer together in the 19th century, what cultural forces drive the same dynamic in our present day?

In his internationally lauded work The Europeans, historian Orlando Figes narrates the birth of a shared European cultural sensibility in the rapidly modernizing European society of the 19th century. Considering literature, the arts and also the early train network as a unifying, democratizing and barrier-breaking force on the continent, what lessons can we learn for European society today? Can we take lessons for a new basis for a European demos, or is there no such thing at all, as populists like to claim? Figes explores the central theme of this year’s Forum on European Culture “We, the People”, with an essay specially written for this festival edition, followed by a conversation with the author.

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