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Personal Impressions

Selected writings

By (author) Isaiah Berlin
Volume editor Henry Hardy
Genres: Social groups
Format: Hardback
Publisher: Vintage, London, United Kingdom
Imprint: The Hogarth Press Ltd
Published: 30th Sep 1980
Dimensions: w 140mm h 220mm
Weight: 452g
ISBN-10: 0701205105
ISBN-13: 9780701205102
Barcode No: 9780701205102

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Kirkus UK
This edition is the one to have and to hold for years to come. To its glittering and constantly amusing feast of personalities has now been added the bonne bouche of some observations by the author of himself. These also now have their poignancy, since Isaiah Berlin died. Although he was approaching 90, his was an untimely death. The end of the 20th century finds Britain totally lacking in intellectuals with even a tenth of his mental range, clarity of intellect and concomitant humour - never mind his astonishing charity of outlook. But in this most personal of his books, the man vigorously lives on, frankly of greater fascination than some of the people he chose or agreed to celebrate. Those fortunate enough to have known him, however slightly, will find in the very shape of the sentences, hurtling on unhindered by adverbs, his voice returning with undiminished energy. Review by MICHAEL LEVEY (Kirkus UK)
Kirkus US
The fourth and final volume of the Oxford philosopher/historian's collected essays consists of appreciations of persons he has admired and in most cases known: Churchill and Roosevelt; Chaim Weizmann; distinguished fellow-dons; and, from stays in his native Russia in 1945 and 1956, Pasternak and Akhmatova. A galaxy of unlikes, reflecting Berlin's pluralism - "the acceptance of a multitude of ideals appropriate in different circumstances and for men of different callings," as Noel Annan notes in a discerning introduction. So Berlin defends Churchill's archaic, highly colored prose as the expression of an all-encompassing, all-fusing historical imagination; and stirringly contrasts Churchill's internalized "sense of the past" with Roosevelt's sensitivity to "the smallest oscillations" of the external present. They represent two types of statesman, the visionary and the intuitive (reminiscent of Berlin's division of historians into "The Hedgehog and the Fox"). Chaim Weizmann, to Berlin, is the great man who makes "what seemed highly improbable happen" - in this case, of course, creation of the state of Israel. Berlin himself, we learn, became a Zionist as a schoolboy at St. Paul's c. 1910; he is acutely aware of the discomfiture of "assimilationist" West-European Jews, then and later, and attributes the very possibility of Israel to the Yiddish-speaking Jews of the Pale of Settlement - who "developed a certain independence of outlook" from their "involuntary confinement." Weizmann, for all his Anglomania, eminence, and authority, remained "flesh of their flesh," down to his gestures and inflections. Among the scholars apotheosized, some will be merely names, if that, to most American readers (Richard Pares, Hubert Henderson, John Henry Plamenatz); headnotes might valuably have been provided for pieces that, moreover, are in several instances literally eulogies. But one need have no special knowledge to appreciate Berlin's recall of historian - and Zionist - Lewis Namier, fulminating again Marx ("a typical Jewish half-charlatan, who got hold of quite a good idea and then ran it to the ground just to spite the Gentiles"); or his tributes to Maurice Bowra, a limited critic but "a major liberating force" or the latter-day, paranormally-preoccupied, still-prophetic Aldous Huxley. Apropos of his meetings with the hounded, uncompromising Pasternak and Akhmatova, Berlin is content to convey their overwhelming presence - plus Pasternak's anger at Berlin's solicitous attempt to dissuade him from publishing Doctor Zhivago abroad, and Akhmatova's embrace (commemorated in "Poet without a Hero") of the first Westerner to Bring her news of the outside world in 30 years. Memorable reading for persons, too, of many sympathies and interests. (Kirkus Reviews)