Conceived and written by Peter Greenaway, The Historians is a project of 100 books to be published in its entirety over the next ten years, a sort of encyclopedic summary that creates and examines in exhausting detail the 100 year history of a great continent.
It may be that items and events that have already occurred in the history of the world in the last five thousand years might be perceived and recognised, though seemingly distorted, retold, re-imagined, viewed through a mirror or a mist, indeed entirely reset with different outcomes; and it might be that among the historians themselves, we might recognise a fictionalised Carlo Ginzburg, a Macaulay, a Carlyle, and a Gibbon or a Raleigh, if not perhaps a Tacitus or a Livy.
Book 39: The Rise & Fall of Gestures Drama is the first of the series of The Historians. Here Peter Greenaway evokes the history of the silent language that is the gesture in the theatre, the pretext to the creation of a narrative that calls for the imaginative participation of the reader while playing on the mute representation of the language that is the text in the process of reading.
Others will see the critical and political dimension of the work of Greenaway where history fragments mix and question the borders between history and fiction according to the idea that “there is no such thing as history, there are only historians”.