‘I don’t trust statistics,’ Ben Judah has written. ‘I have to see everything for myself.‘ Over the last decade, Judah has set out to do just that, criss-crossing Russia interviewing mobsters and government officials for Fragile Empire, his portrait of Putin’s rise to power, and spending thousands of hours listening to everyone from the rich in Knightsbridge to the homeless sleeping in an underpass for his book This is London, which was shortlisted for the Baillie Gifford Prize.
For his new book, This is Europe, Judah took the same approach to a whole continent, travelling from Ireland to Turkey and back, listening to the stories of ordinary people. The result is an epic work of compassion that reveals a continent transformed by diversity, migration, war, climate change, Covid and the quest for freedom. For this year’s Hubert Butler Lecture, Judah shares his wealth of experiences, asking what it means to call ourselves European today.
The Hubert Butler Annual Lecture was established by the Festival in 2007 to honour the Kilkenny writer, historian and broadcaster whose remarkable consistency of vision and clarity of mind made him unique among 20th-century essayists.