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On and off the page

Thomas Nagel, 25 July 1991

Isaiah Berlin: A Celebration 
by Edna Margalit and Avishai Margalit.
Hogarth, 224 pp., £25, June 1991, 0 7012 0925 9
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... There are writers and artists who dislike themselves – who attempt through their work to unearth, refine and then extrude something better than they are, something detached, pure and free-standing. I was put in mind of this recently while reading Ray Monk’s painful biography of Wittgenstein, who succeeded in creating a body of philosophical work so much finer and nobler than himself that for someone who has developed a strong attachment to the work, the contrast is very disturbing ...

Arafat’s Camel

Avi Shlaim, 21 October 1993

... not accepted by Yitzhak Shamir, the Likud leader and Israel’s prime minister. ‘Shamir’, as Avishai Margalit presciently observed, ‘is not a bargainer. Shamir is a two-dimensional man. One dimension is the length of the Land of Israel, the second, its width. Since Shamir’s historical vision is measured in inches, he won’t give an ...

Getting on with each other

Thomas Nagel, 22 September 1994

Ethics in the Public Domain: Essays in the Morality of Law and Politics 
by Joseph Raz.
Oxford, 374 pp., £40, June 1994, 0 19 825837 2
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... as multiculturalism, free speech, national self-determination (in an essay jointly written with Avishai Margalit), and on the nature of law and its relation to morality (a subject on which he is in the positivist tradition of H.L.A. Hart). The essays use and develop ideas set out in his earlier books, particularly The Authority of Law (1979) and The ...

Deadly Embrace

Jacqueline Rose: Suicide bombers, 4 November 2004

My Life Is a Weapon: A Modern History of Suicide Bombing 
by Christoph Reuter, translated by Helena Ragg-Kirkby.
Princeton, 246 pp., £15.95, May 2004, 0 691 11759 4
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Army of Roses: Inside the World of Palestinian Women Suicide Bombers 
by Barbara Victor.
Robinson, 321 pp., £8.99, April 2004, 1 84119 937 0
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... humanity of the enemy?’ How, then, should you write about suicide bombing? It is not just, as Avishai Margalit puts it, that every statement about it is liable to be contested. Nor is it just that the vocabulary is disputed (describing these attacks as ‘suicide bombing’, as the term appears in the title of each of these books, is already to beg ...

Moderation or Death

Christopher Hitchens: Isaiah Berlin, 26 November 1998

Isaiah Berlin: A Life 
by Michael Ignatieff.
Chatto, 386 pp., £20, October 1998, 0 7011 6325 9
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The Guest from the Future: Anna Akhmatova and Isaiah Berlin 
by György Dalos.
Murray, 250 pp., £17.95, September 2002, 0 7195 5476 4
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... of a utilitarian two-state partition. The letter, I was recently told by its Israeli recipient Avishai Margalit, contained, as he drily put it, ‘nothing to write home about’. Coming well after the Oslo Agreement, and stressing Muslim holy places in Jerusalem rather than the actual Arab inhabitants of many denominations, it was little more than a ...

We Are All Victims Now

Thomas Laqueur: Trauma, 8 July 2010

The Empire of Trauma: An Inquiry into the Condition of Victimhood 
by Didier Fassin and Richard Rechtman, translated by Rachel Gomme.
Princeton, 305 pp., £44.95, July 2009, 978 0 691 13752 0
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... in the way we understand psychic wounds. They are better seen as part of the expansion of what Avishai Margalit has called the ‘ethics of memory’, which holds that communities are made and remade through shared memories and obligations to remember. We live in an age in which claims and counter-claims to collective memory abound: in memorials, in ...

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