‘IB was one of the great affirmers of our time.’ John Banville
In this final volume, Isaiah Berlin enters a profoundly interesting last phase in his life. He is as prolific a correspondent as ever, but the publication of new essay collections produces a striking change in tone, as readers seek clarification of his ideas. Many of these letters throw substantive new light on his thought, and deal with issues of overriding importance to today’s world.
Berlin dwells on pluralism of values and cultures, political liberalism, the defence of democracy and the challenge posed by fundamentalism. But there is also a generous leavening of gossip to close friends, reflections on music , the arts and artists, as well as a Shakespearean fascination with the variety of humankind.
He reacts, as always, to world events: the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians; the fall of Communism; the Falklands, Gulf and Bosnian wars; and he observes the leading players on the world stage – Reagan, Thatcher, Begin, Sadat, Shamir, Gorbachev, Yeltsin, Clinton and Khomeini; especially illuminating is the contrast he draws between Solzhenitsyn and Sakharov. He declines a peerage, wins the Agnelli Prize for ethics, campaigns against the ‘carbuncle’ proposed by the National Gallery, helps run Covent Garden, talks at length to his biographer, and works with his editor on new volumes of his writings.
Affirming is the crowning achievement both of Berlin’s epistolary life and of the acclaimed edition of his letters that began publication eleven years ago.Über den Autor:
Isaiah Berlin, OM, was born in Riga, now capital of Latvia, in 1909. He came to England in 1921 and was educated at St Paul's School and Corpus Christi College, Oxford. At Oxford he was a Fellow of All Souls College (1932–8, 1950–67, 1975–97), a Fellow of New College (1938–50), Chichele Professor of Social and Political Theory (1957–67), first President of Wolfson College (1966–75) and President of the British Academy (1974–78). His achievements as a philosopher and historian of ideas earned him the Erasmus, Lippincott and Agnelli Prizes, and his lifelong defence of civil liberties the Jerusalem Prize. He died in 1997.
Henry Hardy, a Fellow of Wolfson College, Oxford, is one of Isaiah Berlin’s Literary Trustees. He has (co-)edited many other books by Berlin – including this volume’s three predecessors, Flourishing, Enlightening and Building – and other authors, and is also the editor of The Book of Isaiah: Personal Impressions of Isaiah Berlin (2009).
Mark Pottle is also a Fellow of Wolfson. He has co-edited the diaries and letters of Violet Bonham Carter, has collaborated in publishing a number of original First World War documents, and was Research Associate, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2000–2. He is the co-editor with Henry Hardy of the preceding volume of Berlin's letters, Building.
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