September 13th 2023 in Cundill history hub

Partnership Focus: Paragraphe

The Cundill History Prize partners with leading media organisations to bring the best history writing to international audiences.

We talk to Andreas Kessaris, Events Coordinator at our partner Paragraphe Bookstore, a cornerstone of Montréal's literary scene since it opened in 1981.

111Para Andreas Cundill1

Paragraphe is collaborating with the Cundill History Prize to give a platform to the best history writing being produced today. Why does this matter to you?

It is important, especially in this day and age of instant misinformation over social media, to have well-written and thoroughly-researched history writing to ensure that future generations have a better understanding of the events that made world history.

Tell us a bit more about your own role at Paragraphe. What does a day in your working life look like?

As Events Coordinator there is no such thing as regular day. One evening I am hauling books to a coffee shop for a poetry reading, the next day I am on the phone or computer trying to find a venue for a large author event, and all of this in-between my regular duties as a manager at a book store.

How has the space for history writing developed over the last few years? What role can prizes such as the Cundill History Prize play in this?

History writing has evolved over the years from laborious, bland and distant volumes with limited popular appeal to dynamic, exciting and relatable page-turners. The Cundill History Prize can serve to draw attention to titles that might not get enough promotion or publicity; the books that your average reader, or the public in general, would not ordinarily notice because they feel they are “too academic” or inaccessible.

The prize has just published its 2023 longlist. What’s your take on the jurors’ selection?

The jurors' selection is exceptional and reflects a wide variety of subjects, eras, and diverse authors; precisely the way a prestigious history prize should.

Which longlisted book are you most looking forward to reading, and why?

I enjoy reading about the events, people and policies that shaped the times we occupy. That is why Against the World: Anti-Globalism and Mass Politics Between the Two World Wars by Tara Zahra catches my attention. So much of the cold-war era I grew up in, and the entire latter half of the 20th century in which Gen-Xers lived, was formed by what happened in the first half of the 20th century during, in between, and as a result of, the First and Second World War.

If you could visit anywhere in the world, at any point in history, where would you go, and why?

That question is a real poser. As a huge music fan at first I thought about being on the rooftop of Abbey Road Studios as The Beatles made what was their last public performance. Afterwards I considered, as a World War II buff, being on the deck of the Battleship Missouri as Japan formally surrendered. In the end my Greek heritage won: I would want to be at the Battle of Salamis as the Greek triremes stood victorious over the Persian invasion fleet, just to be able to say I was there.

Andreas Kessaris is Events Coordinator at Paragraphe.