Michael Ignatieff Isaiah Berlin: a Life

ISBN 13: 9780805055207

Isaiah Berlin: a Life

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9780805055207: Isaiah Berlin: a Life
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A landmark biography of one of the twentieth century's most important liberal philosophers follows the life of Isaiah Berlin from his birth in czarist Russia to his death in 1997 and examines the seminal influence of his thinking on the evolution of liberalism.

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Review:

Isaiah Berlin was one of the leading liberal thinkers of the 20th century, and one of its fastest talkers. Born in the Latvian port of Riga in 1909, his family survived the Russian Revolution, but its chilly aftermath forced his Anglophile father to resettle them in Surbiton in 1921. Isaiah assimilated quickly, becoming in his mind equal parts Russian, English and Jewish, and subsequently he became the first Jew to be elected a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford. He was to spend most of his life studying and lecturing at Oxford, developing his concept of "negative liberty"; but although he longed to know one big thing, to be a "hedgehog" in his own famous definition, instead he felt more naturally a "fox", knowing many smaller things. This Reynard instinct, however, made him wonderful company, and he became that rarity: a British public intellectual, who made learning attractive. Michael Ignatieff has written a book that stands somewhere between a biography and a ghost-written autobiography, relying mostly on Berlin's own recollections gathered from conversations between them over a 10-year period. Berlin had his detractors, including himself ("superficial"), and a more critical evaluation of his contribution to philosophy will be written, but Ignatieff captures the human side of this wise and cosmopolitan man, whose deceptive "lightness of being" concealed a soul that stared at the horrors of his century. --David Vincent

Review:

"A work of literature and an eloquent portrait...an explanation of this most remarkable twentieth-century figure...Though Berlin will be the subject of many future studies, one cannot imagine anyone feeling the need to improve on this biography" (Observer)

"Enthralling...More than an authorised biography...An affectionate and admiring, but none the less independently-minded portrait...A serious book, but also a vivid, lively and uplifting one" (Evening Standard)

"Reading Ignatieff's Isaiah Berlin, you feel you are understanding not only Isaiah Berlin, but the history...I do not see how there could be a more insightful, more erudite, biography of this remarkable man" (Doris Lessing Times Literary Supplement)

"A rare gem of a book...It will add a new dimension to the afterlife of the philosopher" (Sunday Times)

"Brings off the near-impossible - a lifelike portrait of a man who was loved by his friends not for what he wrote, but what he said" (Humphrey Carpenter Sunday Times Books of the Year)

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Other Popular Editions of the Same Title

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