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Simon Schama, America in Primetime, Here Lies Love, Basti

Presented by Anne McElvoy. Including an interview with Simon Schama, who discusses the relationship between history and fiction following the reissue of his book Dead Certainities.

With Anne McElvoy.

Good historical writing is a matter of evidence, interpretation - and imagination. Simon Schama's collection of novellas Dead Certainties: Unwarranted Speculations explores the relationship between history and imagination by recreating the various stories surrounding two historical and much discussed deaths. Simon Schama joins Anne to discuss his foray into literature, and the controversy it caused amongst historians.

As a new series starts on BBC 2 looking at American Primetime TV, Simon Schama and Alan Yentob discuss how popular American TV series from I Love Lucy through to The Cosby Show and Sex and the City have reflected American social history. They are joined by American TV Executive Caryn Mandabach who helped create many of the biggest Primetime hits, including The Cosby Show, to question how far these TV dramas are reliable social documents.

Kamila Shamsie, one of Granta's Best Young Novelists, reflects on Intizar Husain and his masterpiece, Basti, a vivid fictional account of Pakistan from partition to the present that has made its author one of the frontrunners for this year's Man Booker International Prize.

The musician and artist David Byrne has written a musical about the life of Imelda Marcos, the former first lady of the Philippines. Its being staged in New York as an immersive theatre event set in a disco. David Darcy reviews.

Available now

45 minutes

Last on

Thu 25 Apr 2013 22:00



  • Simon Schama

    Simon Schama and Anne McElvoy dicuss the relationship between history and imagination.

    Duration: 12:11

  • America in Primetime

    Experts discuss how popular American TV series have reflected American social history.

    Duration: 18:00

  • Basti

    Kamila Shamsie reflects on Intizar Husain's masterpiece Basti.

    Duration: 08:20

  • Here Lies Love

    David Darcy reviews the musical about the life of Imelda Marcos.

    Duration: 06:13

Here Lies Love

Here Lies Love, with concept and lyrics by David Byrne is on at The Public Theater, New York, USA until Sunday 2 June 2013.

The United States of Television

The United States of Television: America in Primetime started on Saturday 20 April available now on the iPlayer and continues this Saturday 27 April at 10:30pm on BBC Two.

Simon Schama

Dead Certainties: Unwarranted Speculations writton by Simon Schama is published by Granta Books.


Basti by Intizar Husain translated by Frances W. Pritchett is published by The New York Review of Books Classics.


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