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... Professor Aarsleff kindly sent me a copy of his article before publication; his courtesy enables me to provide an immediate rejoinder. I read it with mounting astonishment. Since I know Professor Aarsleff to be an erudite and scrupulous scholar, I find it difficult to understand what moved him to protest so vehemently that Vico’s view of language, which lies at the heart of his system, is wholly lacking in originality ...

Dream of the Seventh Dominion

Stefan Collini, 4 December 1980

Lewis Namier and Zionism 
by Norman Rose.
Oxford, 182 pp., £9.95, October 1980, 0 19 822621 7
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Personal Impressions 
by Isaiah Berlin.
Hogarth, 219 pp., £9.50, October 1980, 0 7012 0510 5
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... At All Souls in 1932, Lewis Namier provoked Isaiah Berlin by scornfully dismissing the history of ideas – dismissing it in German, though the rest of the conversation (or rather harangue) was conducted in English – as ‘what one Jew cribs from another’. But for some unpredictable migrations and a few world-historical hiccups in the previous decades, this exchange might have been taking place – quite possibly in French – in, say, Warsaw or St Petersburg ...

The trouble with the Enlightenment

Mark Lilla, 6 January 1994

The Magus of the North: J.G. Hamann and the Origins of Modern Irrationalism 
by Isaiah Berlin, edited by Henry Hardy.
Murray, 144 pp., £14.99, October 1993, 0 7195 5312 1
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... In his distinguished career as an intellectual historian, Isaiah Berlin has established himself as our foremost collector of stray philosophical puppies. Vico, Herder, Maistre, and now Hamann: these are not household names, not even in the upper reaches of what used to be called the Ivory Tower. Berlin’s interest in them is anything but pedantic, however ...

Moderation or Death

Christopher Hitchens: Isaiah Berlin, 26 November 1998

Isaiah BerlinA 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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... in the less fastidious quarters of Washington DC. Another player made up an occasional fourth man. Isaiah Berlin was happy, at least when Charles (Chip) Bohlen was unavailable, to furnish an urbane ditto to their ruthlessness. Almost as if to show that academics and intellectuals may be tough guys, too – the most lethal temptation to which the ...

On and off the page

Thomas Nagel, 25 July 1991

Isaiah BerlinA Celebration 
by Edna Margalit and Avishai Margalit.
Hogarth, 224 pp., £25, June 1991, 0 7012 0925 9
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... outside of time. No one could be more opposed in character to this Platonic temperament than Sir Isaiah Berlin, whose love of the present – and of the presentness of other times and persons in their time – is the true love of life, and whose writings, to the inevitably limited extent that this is possible, attempt to express rather than to rise ...

The Trouble with Trott

Gabriele Annan, 22 February 1990

A Good German: Adam von Trott zu Solz 
by Giles MacDonogh.
Quartet, 358 pp., £17.95, January 1990, 0 7043 2730 9
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... be, what the Germans call prominente. Among them were Richard Crossman, A.L. Rowse, Maurice Bowra, Isaiah Berlin, David Astor and the journalist Shiela Grant Duff, who, in 1982, published a book about their relationship, and followed it up with a volume of their correspondence. At opposite ends of the political spectrum he impressed Lord Lothian and won ...

England’s Isaiah

Perry Anderson, 20 December 1990

The Crooked Timber of Humanity: Chapters in the History of Ideas 
by Isaiah Berlin, edited by Henry Hardy.
Murray, 276 pp., £18.95, October 1990, 9780719547898
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... Intellectual hero to Noel Annan, whose political heroine is Margaret Thatcher, should Isaiah Berlin be left to the – ‘unfashionable’ – enthusiasms of Our Age? Or consigned to the plaudits that have broken out for his latest volume from the Spectator to the New Statesman? He himself strikes a more modest note ...

Self-Amused

Adam Phillips: Isaiah Berlin, 23 July 2009

Isaiah Berlin, Enlightening: Letters 1946-60 
edited by Henry Hardy and Jennifer Holmes.
Chatto, 844 pp., £35, June 2009, 978 0 7011 7889 5
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... Isaiah Berlin was returning from Paris in 1952 when the aeroplane – ‘it was an Air France: Air Chance is a better name’ – ‘caught fire and scenes of extraordinary panic occurred’. Berlin mentions this, jokily and in passing, in several letters, but Alice James, the wife of William James’s son Billy, gets the full story of the disaster that didn’t happen, at least to Berlin ...

This Trying Time

A.N. Wilson: John Sparrow, 1 October 1998

The Warden 
by John Lowe.
HarperCollins, 258 pp., £19.99, August 1998, 0 00 215392 0
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... The fact that it was a club more than a college was the ruin of many of the fellows. Think of Isaiah Berlin, who early in life settled for the career of an essayist, of a middlebrow giving the Establishment potted versions of philosophers whom it was too lazy to read for itself. Berlin told these British clubmen ...

At Miss Whitehead’s

Edward Said, 7 July 1994

The Sixties: The Last Journal, 1960-1972 
by Edmund Wilson, edited by Lewis Dabney.
Farrar, Straus, 968 pp., $35, July 1993, 0 374 26554 2
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... the fact that many people I admired then – Martin Luther King, Reinhold Neibuhr, the Kennedys, Isaiah Berlin and Wilson himself – were also dedicated Zionists, totally opposed to anything like a Palestinian side. Wilson himself was a philo-semite, and particularly enthusiastic about scholar-warriors like Yigal Yadin, the Israeli general and ...

The Writer and the Valet

Frances Stonor Saunders, 25 September 2014

... Isaiah Berlin​ was on his honeymoon – he married late – when he first read Dr Zhivago. It was the evening of Saturday, 18 August 1956, and he had just made the short journey back to Moscow from the village of Peredelkino, where he had spent the day with Boris Pasternak. Pasternak’s dacha was part of a complex set up on Stalin’s orders in 1934 to reward the Soviet Union’s most prominent writers ...

Stop the war

Penelope Lively, 1 April 1982

The Parting of Ways: A Personal Account of the Thirties 
by Shiela Grant Duff.
Peter Owen, 223 pp., £10.50, March 1982, 0 7206 0586 5
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From Middle England: A Memory of the Thirties 
by Philip Oakes.
Deutsch, 185 pp., £5.95, May 1980, 0 233 97232 3
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Dwellers All in Time and Space: A Memory of the 1940s 
by Philip Oakes.
Deutsch, 227 pp., £8.50, March 1982, 0 233 97434 2
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... the plot against Hitler. They were part of a circle of young people – Goronwy Rees, Douglas Jay, Isaiah Berlin and others – deeply involved in observation and anguished discussion of what was happening in Europe. Shiela Grant Duff became a journalist – foreign correspondent, virtually unpaid, of the Observer, whose arrangements seem to have been ...

On the Feast of Stephen

Karl Miller: Spender’s Journals, 30 August 2012

New Selected Journals, 1939-95 
by Stephen Spender and Lara Feigel, edited by John Sutherland.
Faber, 792 pp., £45, July 2012, 978 0 571 23757 9
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... for the hardest knocks in the book. The stories come in various sizes. Virginia Woolf called Isaiah Berlin a ‘violent Jew’ (I throw in a further story here, to the effect that at his funeral or synagogue memorial service an earwitness friend of mine heard two old Oxford panjandrums agree that the service had gone well – ‘but what was all ...

History Man

John Robertson, 4 November 1993

G.B. Vico: The Making of an Anti-Modern 
by Mark Lilla.
Harvard, 225 pp., £29.95, April 1993, 0 674 33962 2
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The Rehabilitation of Myth: Vico’s ‘New Science’ 
by Joseph Mali.
Cambridge, 275 pp., £35, September 1992, 0 521 41952 2
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... Vico in the English-speaking world owes almost everything to the attention he has received from Isaiah Berlin. Before Berlin, Vico was the obscure Neapolitan philosopher who had been ‘discovered’ a hundred years after his death by Michelet and the Romantics, and was subsequently made much of by Italian ...

In the field

Nigel Hamilton, 5 November 1981

Washington Despatches, 1941-45: Weekly Political Reports from the British Embassy 
edited by H.G. Nicholas.
Weidenfeld, 700 pp., £20, August 1981, 0 297 77920 6
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British Intelligence and the Second World War. Vol. II 
by F.H. Hinsley, E.E. Thomas, C.F.G. Ransom and R.C. Knight.
HMSO, 850 pp., £15.95, September 1981, 0 11 630934 2
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Mars without Venus: A Study of Some Homosexual Generals 
by Frank Richardson.
William Blackwood, 188 pp., £5.95, September 1981, 9780851581484
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Soldiering on: An Unofficial Portrait of the British Army 
by Dennis Barker.
Deutsch, 236 pp., £8.50, October 1981, 0 233 97391 5
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A Breed of Heroes 
by Alan Judd.
Hodder, 288 pp., £6.95, September 1981, 0 340 26334 2
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War in Peace: An Analysis of Warfare Since 1945 
edited by Robert Thompson.
Orbis, 312 pp., £9.95, September 1981, 0 85613 341 8
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... Some weeks ago Sir Isaiah Berlin gave a broadcast in which he described his first visit to the legendary Russian poet Anna Akhmatova in Moscow in 1945 – a visit cut short in its prime by the bellowing of Randolph Churchill in the courtyard outside, hotly pursued by the Russian Secret Police. Alas, such humorous anecdotes will not be found by Berlin devotees in his latest book, Washington Despatches ...

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