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A History of Disappointment

Jackson Lears: Obama’s Parents, 5 January 2012

The Other Barack: The Bold and Reckless Life of President Obama’s Father 
by Sally Jacobs.
Public Affairs, 336 pp., £20, July 2011, 978 1 58648 793 5
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A Singular Woman: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mother 
by Janny Scott.
Riverhead, 384 pp., £18.99, May 2011, 978 1 59448 797 2
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... war against tyranny that culminated in the battle for Afghanistan. Apart from the echoes of Reinhold Niebuhr – the furrowed brow, the feigned reluctance to use force – the words could have been spoken by George W. Bush. Among his apologists, Obama’s capitulation to convention has two main explanations. One emphasises the regimented hostility ...

Maximum Assistance from Good Cooking, Good Clothes, Good Drink

Frank Kermode: Auden’s Shakespeare, 22 February 2001

Lectures on Shakespeare 
by W.H. Auden, edited by Arthur Kirsch.
Faber, 398 pp., £30, February 2001, 9780571207121
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... listen to lectures that might quite often have been mistaken for sermons. Under the influence of Reinhold and Ursula Niebuhr he had been trying to come to terms with Christianity, and from his reading of Pascal (instructive concerning doubt), Augustine (authoritative concerning sin), Buber, Tillich and above all ...

Devoted to Terror

Thomas Laqueur: How the Camps Were Run, 24 September 2015

KL: A History of the Nazi Concentration Camps 
by Nikolaus Wachsmann.
Little Brown, 865 pp., £25, April 2015, 978 0 316 72967 3
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... Kogon’s book was received in the context of a humanistic universalism. The concentration camps, Reinhold Niebuhr wrote in his review, were ‘the closest thing to hell in human history’; ‘the moral sloth and inhumanity’ Kogon’s book reveals, he added, proves ‘that it is possible for mankind to fall to a lower level than anyone would have ...

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