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(12/13/2007) Jacques The Fatalist by Denis Diderot. New York. 1986. Penguin Books. Introduction and Notes by Martin Hall. Translated from the French by Michael Henry. keywords: Penguin Classic Paperback France Literature Translated 18th Century. 261 pages. The cover shows a portrait of Diderot by L. M. van Loo, in the Musee du Louvre, Paris (photo: Giraudon). 0140444726.

JACQUES THE FATALIST is a long, but thoroughly entertaining conversation that is constantly interrupted by one revelatory digression after another.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   Denis Diderot is among the great writers of the Enlightenment and in Jacques the Fatalist he challenged the artificialities of the conventional French fiction of the period. The world of Jacques is not a fixed and settled one where events are easily assessed and interpreted; on the contrary, it is a world of dizzying variety and unpredictability. For nothing is quite as it seems and an alarming proliferation of anecdotes, characters and philosophical problems continues to spring up around the apparently central theme of the relationship between Jacques and his master, in a skilled and devastating assault on the supremacy of the stylized novel. ‘[A] feast of intelligence, humour and fantasy. Without Jacques le Fataliste the history of the novel remains obscure and incomplete. its true greatness is only perceptible when it is placed beside DON QUIXOTE, TOM JONES or ULYSSES’ - Milan Kundera.

DENIS DIDEROT was born at Langres in eastern France in 1713, the son of a master-cutler. He was originally destined for the Church, but rebelled and persuaded his father to allow him to complete his education in Paris. For most of his twenties and early thirties, Diderot remained nominally a law student, but in fact led a rather precarious and Bohemian existence. He read extensively during this period, and this is reflected in his early works such as the Pensées philosophiques (1746) and the Lettre sur les aveugles (1749) which show a keen interest in contemporary philosophical issues. During the early 1740s Diderot met three contemporaries of great future significance for himself and for the age: d’Alembert, Condillac and J. J. Rousseau. In 1747 Diderot embarked on the most important task of his life, the editorship of the Encyclopédie, whose publication he oversaw until its completion in 1773. Diderot’s boldest philosophical and scientific speculations are brilliantly summarized in a trilogy of dialogues collectively known as Le Réve de d’Alembert (1769). With Le Neveu de Rameau, begun in 1761, and Jacques le Fataliste, written between approximately 1755 and 1784, Diderot produced his greatest works of prose fiction, works which are highly original and daring, both in their form and in their content. Towards the end of his life, by now one of the most famous French writers, Diderot visited Saint Petersburg at the invitation of one of his most powerful admirers, the empress Catherine the Great, to whom he had promised his extensive library in return for her financial assistance. He died in 1784. This translation is based upon the text of JACQUES LE FATALISTE edited by S. Lecointre and J. Le Galliot, Editions Droz, Paris, 1977.

 

 

 

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(12/12/2007) Paul Celan: Selections by Paul Celan. Berkeley. 2005. University of California Press. Various Translators From The German. Editied & With An Introduction by Pierre Joris. Poets For The Millenium. keywords: Literature Poetry Germany Translated. 231 pages. 0520241681.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   The best introduction to the work of Paul Celan, this anthology offers a broad collection of his writing in unsurpassed English translations along with a wealth of commentaries by major writers and philosophers. The present selection is based on Celan’s own 1968 selected poems, though enlarged to include both earlier and later poems, as well as two prose works, The Meridian, Celan’s core statement on poetics, and the narrative Conversation in the Mountains. This volume also includes letters to Celan’s wife, the artist Gisèle Celan-Lestrange; to his friend Erich Einhorn; and to René Char and Jean-Paul Sartre--all appearing here for the first time in English. CONTENTS - Introduction: ‘Polysemy without mask’; Key to Translators; I. POEMS - from Romanian Prose Poems (c. 1947); from Mohn und Gedächtnis/Poppy and Memory (1952); from Von Schwelle zu Schwelle/From Threshold to Threshold (1955); from Sprachgitter/Speech-Grille (1959); from Die Niemandsrose/The Noonesrose (1963); from Atemwende/Breathturn (1967); from Fadensonnen/Threadsuns (1968); from Lichtzwang/Lightduress (1970); from Schneepart/Snowpart (1971); from Zeitgehöft/Timehalo (1976); II. PROSES - Conversation in the Mountains (1959); The Meridian (1960); III. DOCUMENTS - from the Correspondence - Letter #1: To Gisèle Celan-Lestrange (1952); Letter #2: To Gisèle Celan-Lestrange (1952); Letter #3: To René Char (unsent) (1962); Letter #4: To Erich Einhorn (1962); Letter #5: To Jean-Paul Sartre (unsent) (1962); Letter #6: To Erich Einhorn (1962); Letter #7: To Gisèle Celan-Lestrange (1965); Letter #8: To Eric Celan (1968); Letter #9: From Gisèle Celan-Lestrange to Paul (1969); Letter #10: To Gisèle Celan-Lestrange (1970); Das Stundenglass, tief (facsimile); Uber dich hinaus (facsimile; Es wird etwas sein, später (facsimile); IV. ON PAUL CELAN - Paul Celan and Language-Jacques Derrida; Encounters with Paul Celan-E.M. Cioran; For Paul Celan-Andrea Zanzotto; On Paul Celan in Neuchâtel-Friedrich Dürrenmatt; The Memory of Words-Edmond Jabès; Selected Bibliography.

Paul Celan (November 23, 1920 – approximately April 20, 1970) was the most frequently used pseudonym of Paul Antschel, one of the major poets of the post-World War II era. Celan was born in 1920 into a German-speaking Jewish family in Cernauti, Bukovina, then part of Romania (now part of Ukraine). His father, Leo Antschel, was a Zionist who advocated his son’s education in Hebrew at Safah Ivriah, an institution previously convinced of the wisdom of assimilation into Austrian culture, and one which favourably received Chaim Weizmann of the World Zionist Organization in 1927. His mother, Fritzi, was an avid reader of German literature who insisted German be the language of the house. After his Bar Mitzvah in 1933, Celan abandoned Zionism (at least to some extent) and terminated his formal Hebrew education, instead becoming active in Jewish Socialist organizations and fostering support for the Republican cause in the Spanish Civil War. His earliest known poem, titled Mother’s Day 1938 was an earnest, if sentimental, profession of love. In 1938, Celan travelled to Tours, France to study medicine (the newly-imposed Jewish quota in Romanian universities and the Anschluss precluded Bucharest and Vienna), but returned to Cernauti in 1939 to study literature and Romance languages. His journey to France took him through Berlin as the events of Kristallnacht unfolded, and also introduced him to his uncle, Bruno Schrager, who later was among the French detainees who died at Birkenau. The Soviet occupation in June 1940 deprived Celan of any lingering illusions about Stalinism and Soviet Communism stemming from his earlier socialist engagements; the Soviets quickly imposed bureaucratic reforms on the university where he was studying Romance philology, and the Red Army brought deportations to Siberia, just as Nazi Germany and Romania brought ghettos, internment, and forced labour a year later. On arrival in July 1941 the German SS Einsatzkommando and their Romanian allies burned down the city’s six-hundred-year-old Great Synagogue. In October, the Romanians deported a large number of Jews after forcing them into a ghetto, where Celan translated William Shakespeare’s Sonnets and continued to write his own poetry, all the while being exposed to traditional Yiddish songs and culture. Before the ghetto was dissolved in the fall of that year, Celan was pressed into labor, first clearing the debris of a demolished post office, and then gathering and destroying Russian books. The local mayor strove to mitigate the harsh circumstances until the governor of Bukovina had the Jews rounded up and deported, starting on a Saturday night in June 1942. Accounts of his whereabouts on that evening vary, but it is certain that Celan was not with his parents when they were taken from their home on June 21 and sent by train to an internment camp in Transnistria, where two-thirds of the deportees perished. Celan’s parents were taken across the Southern Bug and handed over to the Germans, where his father likely perished of typhus and his mother was shot dead after being exhausted by forced labour. Later on, after having himself been taken to the labour camps in the Old Kingdom, Celan would receive reports of his parents’ deaths earlier that year. Celan remained in these labour camps until February 1944, when the Red Army’s advance forced the Romanians to abandon them, whereupon he returned to Cernauti shortly before the Soviets returned to reassert their control. There, he worked briefly as a nurse in the mental hospital. Early versions of Todesfuge were circulated at this time, a poem that clearly relied on accounts coming from the now-liberated camps in Poland. Friends from this period recall expression of immense guilt over his separation from his parents, whom he had tried to convince to go into hiding prior to the deportations, shortly before their death. Considering emigration to Palestine and wary of widespread Soviet antisemitism, Celan left Soviet-occupied territory in 1945 for Bucharest, where he remained until 1947. He was active in the Jewish literary community as both a translator of Russian literature into Romanian, and as a poet, publishing his work under a variety of pseudonyms. The literary scene of the time was richly populated with surrealists — Gellu Naum, Ilarie Voronca, Gherasim Luca, Paul Paun, and Dolfi Trost —, and it was in this period that Celan developed pseudonyms both for himself and his friends, including the one he took as his pen name. A version of Todesfuge appeared as Tangoul Mortii (‘Death Tango‘) in a Romanian translation of May 1947. The surrealist ferment of the time was such that additional remarks had to be published explaining that the dancing and musical performances of the poem were realities of the extermination camp life. Night and Fog, another poem from that era, includes a description of the Auschwitz Orchestra, an institution organized by the SS to assemble and play selections of German dances and popular songs. (The SS man interviewed by Claude Lanzmann for his film Shoah, who rehearsed the songs prisoners were made to sing in the death camp, remarked that no Jews taught the song survived. As Romanian autonomy became increasingly tenuous in the course of that year, Celan fled Romania for Vienna, Austria. It was there that he befriended Ingeborg Bachmann, who had just completed a dissertation on Martin Heidegger. Facing a city divided between occupying powers and with little resemblance to the mythic city it once was, which had harboured the then-shattered Austro-Hungarian Jewish community, he moved to Paris in 1948, where he found a publisher for his first poetry collection, Der Sand aus den Urnen (‘Sand from the Urns’). His first few years in Paris were marked by intense feelings of loneliness and isolation, as expressed in letters to his colleagues, including his longtime friend from Cernauti, Petre Solomon. It was also during this time that he exchanged many letters with Diet Kloos, a Dutch chanteuse. She visited him twice in Paris between 1949 and 1951. In a published edition of these letters, near the end of the exchange, Celan seems to be entertaining an amorous interest in her. In 1952 Celan received an invitation to the semiannual meetings of Group 47. At a 1953 meeting he read his poem Todesfuge (‘Death Fugue’), a depiction of concentration camp life. His reading style, which was based on Hungarian folk poems, was off-putting to the German audience. His poetry was sharply criticized. When Ingeborg Bachmann, with whom Celan had an affair, won the Group’s prize for her collection Die gestundete Zeit (The Extended Hours), Celan (whose work had received only six votes) said ‘After the meeting, only six people remembered my name’. He was not invited again. In November 1951, he met the graphic artist Gisèle Lestrange, in Paris. He would send her many wonderful love letters, influenced by Franz Kafka’s correspondence with Milena Jesenska and Felice Bauer. They married on December 21, 1952 despite the opposition of her aristocratic family, and during the following 18 years they wrote over 700 letters, including a very active exchange with Siegfried Lenz and his wife, Hanna. He made his living as a translator and lecturer in German at the École Normale Supérieure. He was also a pen friend of Nelly Sachs, who later won the Nobel Prize for literature. Celan became a French citizen in 1955 and lived in Paris. Celan’s sense of persecution increased after the widow of his friend the French-German poet Yvan Goll accused him of plagiarising her husband’s work. Celan committed suicide by drowning in the Seine river in late April 1970.

Pierre Joris is the author of many books of poetry as well as a range of anthologies and translations; he recently published A Nomad Poetics, a volume of essays. In 2003 he was Berlin Prize fellow at the American Academy in Berlin. He is Professor of English at the State University of New York, Albany.

 

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(12/11/2007) Buddenbrooks: 2 Volumes by Thomas Mann. New York. 1924. Knopf. Translated From The German By H. T. Lowe-Porter. keywords: Literature Germany Translated. 748 pages.

BUDDENBROOKS may not always receive its proper due since it inevitably must dwell in the shadow of Mann’s masterwork, THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN. It is however an engrossing tale of the decline in fortunes of a middle-class German family in the early 20th century.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   BUDDENBROOKS, first published in Germany in 1900, when Mann was only twenty-five, has become a classic of modern literature - the story of four generations of a wealthy bourgeois family in northern Germany. With consummate skill, Mann draws a rounded picture of middle- class life: births and christenings; marriages, divorces, and deaths; successes and failures. These commonplace occurrences, intrinsically the same, vary slightly as they recur in each succeeding generation. Yet as the Buddenbrooks family eventually succumbs to the seductions of modernity - seductions that are at variance with its own traditions - its downfall becomes certain. In immensity of scope, richness of detail, and fullness of humanity, BUDDENBROOKS surpasses all other modern family chronicles; it has, indeed, proved a model for most of them. Judged as the greatest of Mann’s novels by some critics, it is ranked as among the greatest by all. THOMAS MANN was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1929.

 

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(12/10/2007) The Hills Were Joyful Together by Roger Mais. London. 1953. Jonathan Cape. keywords: Literature Caribbean Jamaica Black. 288 pages. Jacket design from a painting by the author. The Author: from a Self-Portrait in Oils.

Roger Mais writes of poor people in Jamaica. His tales are moving and unforgettable. Don’t miss THE HILLS WERE JOYFUL TOGETHER, his 1st novel.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   The author is a Jamaican and his novel is set in Jamaica. Its characters, who belong to the submerged nine-tenths of the population, are strangers to writers of books for tourists and to the tourists themselves, but not to the police nor to politicians at election times. Roger Mais, having lived and worked among them for most of his 47 years, knows them intimately; and his story, concerned with a small community of the industrious, the shiftless, the pious and the lawless, is as close to reality as art can depict it. Naive and savage, generous and cunning, sensitive and gross, their violence repels while their simple tenderness attracts. Their high spirits, their humour, their love of singing and dancing, are here contrasted with their primitive barbarity in scenes which evoke terror and pity, tears and laughter. In a style that soars into lyrical beauty and plumbs the depths of squalid tragedy, this is a novel of great power by a writer whose sincerity is not to be denied.

ROGER MAIS was born at Kingston, Jamaica, in 1905. One of his great-grandfathers was sentenced to the stocks for harbouring runaway slaves. His education was sketchy and unorthodox, but liberal. He is unmarried, and is a painter, as well as a writer, and THE HILLS WERE JOYFUL TOGETHER is his first novel. His recreations are reading, the theatre and music. He says that his most interesting experience was going to jail for six months under Defence Regulations, for writing an article which was considered adverse to the War Effort, but was really only asking for a more liberal constitution (and got it). He wrote this first novel, he says, very quickly, and because he had to; ‘it had been gestating for years.'

 

 

 

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0375405836Jesse James: Last Rebel Of The Civil War by T. J. Stiles. New York. 2002. Knopf. 511 pages. Jacket photograph courtesy of the Library of Congress. Jacket design by Steven Amsterdam. 0375405836.

Jesse James as a member of a death squad? This book gives us a totally new look at an old American legend. T. J. Stiles shows us a Jesse James who was not only a product of very intensely political times, but also the creation of a 'media-machine' by way of an ex-Confederate journalist named John Newman Edwards, who had a great deal to do with the 'Jesse James' image.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

A brilliant biography of Jesse James, and a stunning reinterpretation of an American icon. Stripped of the familiar myths surrounding him, James emerges a far more significant figure: ruthless, purposeful, intensely political; a man who, in the midst of his crimes and notoriety, made himself a spokesman for the renewal of the Confederate cause during the bitter decade that followed Appomattox. Traditionally, Jesse James has been portrayed as a Wild West bandit, a Robin Hood of sorts. But in this meticulously researched, vividly written account of his life, he emerges as far more complicated. Raised in a fiercely pro-slavery atmosphere in bitterly divided Missouri, he began at sixteen to fight alongside some of the most savage Confederate guerrillas. When the Civil War ended, his violent path led him into the brutal conflicts of Reconstruction. We follow James as he places himself squarely in the forefront of the former Confederates' bid to capture political power with his reckless daring, his visibility, his partisan pronouncements, and his alliance with a rising ex-Confederate editor, John Newman Edwards, who helped shape James's image for their common purpose. In uniting violence and the news media on behalf of a political cause, James was hardly the quaint figure of legend. Rather, as his life played out across the racial divide, the rise of the Klan, and the expansion of the railroads, he was a forerunner of what we have come to call a terrorist. T. J. Stiles has written a memorable book-a revelation of both the man and his time.

Stiles T J

Born July 29, 1964

A native of rural Minnesota, T. J. Stiles studied history at Carleton College and Columbia University. His writings about American history include articles in Smithsonian, essays in the Los Angeles Times and the Denver Post, and a five-volume series of primary-source anthologies.

 

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epitaph of a small winner noondayEpitaph Of A Small Winner by Joaquim Maria Machado De Assis. New York. 1952. Noonday Press. Drawings by Shari Frisch. Translated from the Portuguese by William L. Grossman. 223 pages. Cover: Shari Frisch. (original title: Memorias postumas de Bras Cubas).

THE POSTHUMOUS MEMOIRS OF BRAS CUBAS by Joaquim Maria Machado De Assis, also translated as EPITAPH OF A SMALL WINNER, is a Brazilian classic. The narrator of the story is Bras Cubas, who unfortunately for him, is now dead.

FROM THE PUBLISHER –

Funny and profound are these reflections and musings of a man from beyond the grave. Satirical, witty, completely human in feeling, EPITAPH OF A SMALL WINNER is that rarest of works, a book which is at the same time both profound and thoroughly delightful. It tells the story of Braz Cubas, a wealthy Carioca, or rather it is Braz, now dead, who tells his story. For EPITAPH OF A SMALL WINNER is a posthumous memoir, the memories of a ghost, a man who now beyond life can view it with dispassion - the illicit love affairs, the political ambitions, the jealousies and hatreds which comprised his sixty-four years. But though the grave has given Braz distance, it has not dampened his sense of humor. On the contrary, it has sharpened it; Braz Cubas is certainly the wittiest ghost in literature. Most ghosts take themselves far too seriously; but not Braz. If he has returned to haunt mankind, it is by means of laughter. He is the spirit of satire moving among us, pointing out our idiosyncrasies and foibles. 'Machado de Assis, son of a poor mulatto of Rio, became the most illustrious of Brazilian writers. His work brings to mind at once Anatole France and Lawrence Sterne, yet is nonetheless original. ' - Andre Maurois. 'A master of psychology and of an ironic brand of humour.' Samuel Putnam. 

 

Assis Joaquim Maria Machado De

Born June 21, 1839

Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis, often known as Machado de Assis, Machado, or Bruxo do Cosme Velho, (June 21, 1839, Rio de Janeiro-September 29, 1908, Rio de Janeiro) was a Brazilian novelist, poet and short-story writer. He is widely regarded as the most important writer of Brazilian literature. However, he did not gain widespread popularity outside Brazil in his own lifetime. Machado's works had a great influence on Brazilian literary schools of the late 19th century and 20th century. Jose Saramago, Carlos Fuentes, Susan Sontag and Harold Bloom are among his admirers and Bloom calls him 'the supreme black literary artist to date. ' Son of Francisco Jose de Assis (a mulatto housepainter, descendent of freed slaves) and Maria Leopoldina Machado de Assis (a Portuguese washerwoman), Machado de Assis lost both his mother and his only sister at an early age. Machado is said to have learned to write by himself, and he used to take classes for free will. He learned to speak French first and English later, both fluently. He started to work for newspapers in Rio de Janeiro, where he published his first works and met established writers such as Joaquim Manuel de Macedo. Machado de Assis married Carolina Xavier de Novais, a Portuguese descendant of a noble family. Soon the writer got a public job and this stability permitted him to write his best works. Machado de Assis began by writing popular novels which sold well, much in the late style of Jose de Alencar. His style changed in the 1880s, and it is for the sceptical, ironic, comedic but ultimately pessimistic works he wrote after this that he is remembered: the first novel in his 'new style' was Epitaph for a Small Winner, known in the new Gregory Rabassa translation as The Posthumous Memoirs of Bras Cubas (a literal translation of the original title, Memorias Postumas de Bras Cubas). In their brilliant comedy and ironic playfulness, these resemble in some ways the contemporary works of George Meredith in the United Kingdom, and Eca de Queiros in Portugal, but Machado de Assis' work has a far bleaker emotional undertone. Machado's work has also been compared with Laurence Sterne's Tristram Shandy. Machado de Assis could speak English fluently and translated many works of William Shakespeare and other English writers into Portuguese. His work contains numerous allusions to Shakespearean plays, John Milton and influences from Sterne and Meredith. He is also known as a master of the short story, having written classics of the genre in the Portuguese language, such as O Alienista, Missa do Galo, 'A Cartomante' and 'A Igreja do Diabo. ' Along with other writers and intellectuals, Machado de Assis founded the Brazilian Academy of Letters in 1896 and was its president from 1897 to 1908, when he died. The translator, Dr. William L. Grossman, is of all things an authority on transportation law and economics. Called to Brazil in 1948 as head of the economics department of a Brazilian college, he learned Portuguese, and, fascinated by the works of Machado de Assis, spent his academic holidays translating Epitaph of a Small Winner. Dr. Grossman has returned to this country as a transportation consultant and professor at New York University.

 

 

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(12/07/2007) Don Quixote by Miguel De Cervantes. New York. 2003. Ecco Press. Translated From The Spanish By Edith Grossman. Introduction By Harold Bloom. keywords: Literature Translated Spain. Jacket design & photograph by David High & Ralph Del Pozzo, High Design, NYC. 0060188707. November 2003.

I will admit that I made a couple of passes at DON QUIXOTE over the years before I finally acquired the stamina to tackle it in earnest. This translation became available at just the right time for me.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   Edith Grossman’s definitive English translation of the Spanish masterpiece. Widely regarded as the world’s first modern novel, and one of the funniest and most tragic books ever written, Don Quixote chronicles the famous picaresque adventures of the noble knight-errant Don Quixote of La Mancha and his faithful squire, Sancho Panza, as they travel through sixteenth-century Spain. Unless you read Spanish, you’ve never read DON QUIXOTE. ‘Though there have been many valuable English translations of Don Quixote, I would commend Edith Grossman’s version for the extraordinarily high quality of her prose. The Knight and Sancho are so eloquently rendered by Grossman that the vitality of their characterization is more clearly conveyed than ever before. There is also an astonishing contextualization of Don Quixote and Sancho in Grossman’s translation that I believe has not been achieved before. The spiritual atmosphere of a Spain already in steep decline can be felt throughout, thanks to her heightened quality of diction. Grossman might be called the Glenn Gould of translators, because she, too, articulates every note. Reading her amazing mode of finding equivalents in English for Cervantes’s darkening vision is an entrance into a further understanding of why this great book contains within itself all the novels that have followed in its sublime wake. ’ - From the Introduction by Harold Bloom.

Miguel de Cervantes was born on September 29, 1547, in Alcala de Henares, Spain. At twenty-three he enlisted in the Spanish militia and in 1571 fought against the Turks in the battle of Lepanto, where a gunshot wound permanently crippled his left hand. He spent four more years at sea and then another five as a slave after being captured by Barbary pirates. Ransomed by his family, he returned to Madrid but his disability hampered him; it was in debtor’s prison that he began to write DON QUIXOTE. Cervantes wrote many other works, including poems and plays, but he remains best known as the author of DON QUIXOTE. He died on April 23, 1616.

 

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(12/06/2007) The Pillars Of Hercules: A Grand Tour Of The Mediterranean by Paul Theroux. New York. 1995. Putnam. keywords: Travel Literature Mediterranean. 511 pages. Jacket design by One Plus One Studio. Jacket photograph by R. Kord / H. Armstrong Roberts. 0399141081.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

  The journeys of Paul Theroux are the stuff of dreams and adventure; his wonderfully observant accounts of distant lands and seas have unlocked the mysteries of China, the islands of the South Pacific, the outer reaches of Siberia, and the far corners of Patagonia. Transported by Theroux’s marvelous storytelling, readers have been carried to places they may never visit, into exotic corners of the world where travelers are few and discovery is still possible. Now Paul Theroux has ventured to one of the most traveled places on earth, and returned with his most exhilarating, revealing, and eloquent travel book. In this modern version of the Grand Tour, Theroux sets off from Gibraltar, one of the fabled Pillars of Hercules, on a glorious journey around the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. It is a long, lively, occasionally dangerous, and endlessly fascinating trip, up the coast of Spain, along the Riviera, by ferry to the islands of Corsica, Sardinia, Sicily, and beyond-way beyond. By foot, train, bus, and cruise ship, Theroux travels around Italy and the Greek islands, to Albania in a state of near anarchy and to war-torn Croatia. He sails across an old sea of myths into Istanbul, its minarets, mosque domes, and obelisks beckoning him to the Levant. After hearing of Theroux’s onward itinerary, a Turkish shipmate murmurs, ‘Gechmis olsen!’ - May it be behind you! Ahead are Damascus and the remote villages of Syria, shrouded in the cult of Assad and his martyred son; Israel, besieged by suicide bombers; Egypt, where Theroux visits with Nobel laureate Naguib Mahfouz, recovering from an assassination attempt. And past the hill that marks the southern Pillar of Hercules lie Morocco and Paul Bowles’ Tangier. Exploring coastlines as wild as anything he encountered in China or Peru, probing through layers of tradition and culture, ancient and modern tawdry and splendid, Theroux recalls the words of his predecessors - Homer, E Scott Fitzgerald, James Joyce, Evelyn Waugh, Carlo Levi, Lawrence Durrell - and weaves the legends and siren calls of civilizations as old as time into a tantalizing story about life on the Mediterranean today His magnificent Grand Tour is an irresistible invitation to discovery enlightenment, and sheer entertainment.

Paul Theroux is the internationally acclaimed author of such travel books as THE HAPPY ISLES OF OCEANIA, RIDING THE IRON ROOSTER THE KINGDOM BY THE SEA, THE 0LD PATAGONIAN EXPRESS, and THE GREAT RAILWAY BAZAAR. Among his many novels are THE MOSQUITO COAST, MY SECRET HISTORY, and MULROY THE MAGICIAN. He lives in Hawaii and on Cape Cod.

 

 

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(12/05/2007) Minty Alley by C. L. R. James. London. 1936. Secker & Warburg. keywords: Literature Caribbean Black Trinidad. 320 pages.

Reading MINTY ALLEY makes one wish that C. L. R. James had spent a little more time writing fiction.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   In this Trinidadian West Indian novel, Haynes, a young middle-class man trying to save money, moves into cheaper lodgings at No. 2 Minty Alley. He is determined to keep his distance from the other colorful inhabitants of Minty Alley, but gradually becomes part of its rich cultural life, discovering a great deal about the various lodgers and at the same time, about himself. The characters of Maisie, Haynes, Mrs. Rouse, and Benoit are unforgettable for both Haynes and the reader. The book is also an interesting exploration of the 'mutually impoverishing alienation of the educated West Indian from the mainstream. '. MINTY ALLEY is an early classic of modern Caribbean writing in English. It is the only novel written by C. L. R. James and belongs to the ‘Beacon period’ of Caribbean literature in the late 20s and 30s of this century. C. L. R. James promised another novel after MINTY ALLEY, first published in 1936, but that novel never emerged. MINTY ALLEY and James’s short stories establish the compassionate creative imagination that was to illuminate a brilliant social, political and historical analysis of the Caribbean and the world at large. They also underline a special dimension of the spirit behind his creative critical writing. C. L. R. JAMES’s works include THE BLACK JACOBINS, HISTORY OF PAN AFRICAN REVOLT, BEYOND A BOUNDARY, FACING REALITY; PARTY POLITICS IN THE WEST INDIES, MARINERS RENEGADES AND CASTAWAYS, WORLD REVOLUTION, and others.

Cyril Lionel Robert James (4 January 1901–19 May 1989) was an Afro-Trinidadian journalist, socialist theorist and writer. Born in Trinidad and Tobago, then a British Crown colony, James attended Queen’s Royal College in Port of Spain before becoming a cricket journalist, and also an author of fiction. He would later work as a school teacher, teaching among others the young Eric Williams. Together with Ralph de Boissière, Albert Gomes and Alfred Mendes, James was a member of the anti-colonialist Beacon Group, a circle of writers associated with The Beacon magazine. In 1932, he moved to Nelson in Lancashire, England in the hope of furthering his literary career. There he worked for the Manchester Guardian and helped the cricketer Learie Constantine write his autobiography. In 1933, James moved to London. James had begun to campaign for the independence of the West Indies while in Trinidad, and his Life of Captain Cipriani and the pamphlet The Case for West-Indian Self Government were his first important published works, but now he became a leading champion of Pan-African agitation and the Chair of the International African Friends of Abyssinia, formed in 1935 in response to Fascist Italy’s invasion of what is now Ethiopia. He then became a leading figure in the International African Service Bureau, led by his childhood friend George Padmore, to whom he later introduced Kwame Nkrumah. In Britain, he also became a leading Marxist theorist. He had joined the Labour Party, but in the midst of the Great Depression he became a Trotskyist. By 1934, James was a member of an entrist Trotskyist group inside the Independent Labour Party. In this period, amid his frantic political activity, James wrote a play about Toussaint L’Ouverture, which was staged in the West End in 1936 and starred Paul Robeson and Robert Adams. That same year saw the publication in London of James’s only novel, Minty Alley, which he had brought with him in manuscript from Trinidad; it was the first novel to be published by a black Caribbean author in the UK. He also wrote what are perhaps his best-known works of non-fiction: World Revolution (1937), a history of the rise and fall of the Communist International, which was critically praised by Leon Trotsky, and The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L’Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution (1938), a widely acclaimed history of the Haitian revolution, which would later be seen as a seminal text in the study of the African diaspora. In 1936, James and his Trotskyist Marxist Group left the Independent Labour Party to form an open party. In 1938, this new group took part in several mergers to form the Revolutionary Socialist League. The RSL was a highly factionalised organisation and when James was invited to tour the United States by the leadership of the Socialist Workers’ Party, then the US section of the Fourth International, in order to facilitate its work among black workers, he was encouraged to leave by one such factional opponent, John Archer, in the hope of removing a rival. James moved to the USA in late 1938, and after a tour sponsored by the SWP stayed on for over twenty years. But by 1940 he had developed severe doubts about Trotsky’s analysis of the Soviet Union as a degenerated workers state and left the SWP along with Max Shachtman, who formed the Workers’ Party. Within the WP he formed the Johnson-Forest Tendency with Raya Dunayevskaya (his pseudonym being Johnson and Dunayevskaya’s Forest) and Grace Lee (later Grace Lee Boggs) in order to spread their views within the new party. While within the WP the views of the J-F tendency underwent considerable development and by the end of the Second World War they had definitively rejected Trotsky’s theory of Russia as a degenerated workers state, instead analysing it as being state capitalist. This political evolution was shared by other Trotskyists of their generation, most notably Tony Cliff. Unlike Cliff, they were increasingly looking towards the autonomous movements of oppressed minorities, a theoretical development already visible in James’ thought in his discussions with Leon Trotsky which took place in 1939. An interest in such autonomous struggles came to take centre stage for the tendency. After 1945 the WP saw the prospects for a revolutionary upsurge as receding. The J-F Tendency, by contrast, were more enthused by prospects for mass struggles and came to the conclusion that the SWP, which they considered more proletarian than the WP, thought similarly to themselves about such prospects. Therefore, after a short few months as an independent group when they published a great deal of material for a small group, the J-F tendency joined the SWP in 1947. James would still describe himself as a Leninist, despite his rejection of Lenin’s conception of the vanguard role of the revolutionary party, and argue for socialists to support the emerging black nationalist movements. By 1949, he came to reject the idea of a vanguard party. This led his tendency to leave the Trotskyist movement and rename itself the Correspondence Publishing Committee. In 1955, nearly half the membership of Committee would leave under the leadership of Raya Dunayevskaya to form a separate tendency of Marxist-humanism and found the organization, News and Letters Committees. Whether Raya Dunayevskaya’s faction constituted a majority or minority seems to be a matter of dispute. Historian Kent Worcester claims that Dunayevskaya’s supporters formed a majority of the pre-split Correspondence Publishing Committee but Martin Glaberman has claimed in New Politics that the faction loyal to James had a majority. The Committee split again in 1962 as Grace Lee Boggs and James Boggs, two key activists, left to pursue a more Third Worldist approach. The remaining Johnsonites, including leading member Martin Glaberman reconstituted themselves as Facing Reality, which James advised from Britain until the group dissolved, against James’ advice, in 1970. James’s writings were influential in the development of Autonomist Marxism as a current within Marxist thought, though he himself saw his life’s work as developing the theory and practice of Leninism. In 1953, James was forced to leave the US under threat of deportation for having overstayed his visa by over ten years. In his attempt to remain in the USA, James wrote a study of Herman Melville, Mariners, Renegades and Castaways: The Story of Herman Melville and the World We Live In, and had copies of the privately published work sent to every member of the Senate. He wrote the book while being detained on Ellis Island. He returned back to England and then, in 1958 returned to Trinidad, where he edited The Nation newspaper for the pro-independence People’s National Movement (PNM) party. He also had become involved again in the Pan-African movement, believing that the Ghana revolution showed that decolonisation was the most important inspiration for international revolutionaries. James also advocated the West Indies Federation, and it was over this that he fell out with the PNM leadership. He returned to Britain, then to the USA in 1968, where he taught at the University of the District of Columbia. Ultimately, he returned to Britain and spent his last years in Brixton, London. In the 1970s and 1980s, a number of books by James were republished or reissued by Allison and Busby, including four volumes of selected writings: The Future In the Present, Spheres of Existence, At the Rendezvous of Victory and Cricket. In 1983, a short British film featuring James in dialogue with the famous historian E. P. Thompson was made. A public library in Hackney, London is named in his honor; in 2005 a reception there to mark its 20th anniversary was attended by his widow, Selma James. C. L. R. James is widely known as a writer on cricket, especially for his autobiographical 1963 book, Beyond a Boundary. This is considered a seminal work of cricket writing, and is often named as the best single book on cricket (or even the best book on any sport) ever written. The book’s key question, which is frequently quoted by modern journalists and essayists, is inspired by Rudyard Kipling and asks: What do they know of cricket who only cricket know? James uses this challenge as the basis for describing cricket in an historical and social context, the strong influence cricket had on his life, and how it meshed with his role in politics and his understanding of issues of class and race. The literary quality of the writing attracts cricketers of all political views. While editor of The Nation, he led the successful campaign in 1960 to have Frank Worrell appointed as the first black captain of the West Indies cricket team. In 1938, this new group took part in several mergers to form the Revolutionary Socialist League. The RSL was a highly factionalised organisation and when James was invited to tour the United States by the leadership of the Socialist Workers’ Party, then the US section of the Fourth International, in order to facilitate its work among black workers, he was encouraged to leave by one such factional opponent, John Archer, in the hope of removing a rival. James moved to the USA in late 1938, and after a tour sponsored by the SWP stayed on for over twenty years. But by 1940 he had developed severe doubts about Trotsky’s analysis of the Soviet Union as a degenerated workers state and left the SWP along with Max Shachtman, who formed the Workers’ Party. Within the WP he formed the Johnson-Forest Tendency with Raya Dunayevskaya and Grace Lee in order to spread their views within the new party. While within the WP the views of the J-F tendency underwent considerable development and by the end of the Second World War they had definitively rejected Trotsky’s theory of Russia as a degenerated workers state, instead analysing it as being state capitalist. This political evolution was shared by other Trotskyists of their generation, most notably Tony Cliff. Unlike Cliff, they were increasingly looking towards the autonomous movements of oppressed minorities, a theoretical development already visible in James’ thought in his discussions with Leon Trotsky which took place in 1939. An interest in such autonomous struggles came to take centre stage for the tendency. After 1945 the WP saw the prospects for a revolutionary upsurge as receding. The J-F Tendency, by contrast, were more enthused by prospects for mass struggles and came to the conclusion that the SWP, which they considered more proletarian than the WP, thought similarly to themselves about such prospects. Therefore, after a short few months as an independent group when they published a great deal of material for a small group, the J-F tendency joined the SWP in 1947. James would still describe himself as a Leninist, despite his rejection of Lenin’s conception of the vanguard role of the revolutionary party, and argue for socialists to support the emerging black nationalist movements by 1949, he came to reject the idea of a vanguard party. This led his tendency to leave the Trotskyist movement and rename itself the Correspondence Publishing Committee. In 1955, nearly half the membership of Committee would leave under the leadership of Raya Dunayevskaya to form a separate tendency of Marxist-humanism and found the organization, News and Letters Committees. Whether Raya Dunayevskaya’s faction constituted a majority or minority seems to be a matter of dispute. Historian Kent Worcester claims that Dunayevskaya’s supporters formed a majority of the pre-split Correspondence Publishing Committee but Martin Glaberman has claimed in New Politics that the faction loyal to James had a majority. The Committee split again in 1962 as Grace Lee Boggs and James Boggs, two key activists, left to pursue a more Third Worldist approach. The remaining Johnsonites, including leading member Martin Glaberman reconstituted themselves as Facing Reality, which James advised from Britain until the group dissolved, against James’ advice, in 1970. James’s writings were influential in the development of Autonomist Marxism as a current within Marxist thought, though he himself saw his life’s work as developing the theory and practice of Leninism. In 1953, James was forced to leave the US under threat of deportation for having overstayed his visa by over ten years. In his attempt to remain in the USA, James wrote a study of Herman Melville, Mariners, Renegades and Castaways: The Story of Herman Melville and the World We Live In, and had copies of the privately published work sent to every member of the Senate. He wrote the book while being detained on Ellis Island. He returned back to England and then, in 1958 returned to Trinidad, where he edited The Nation newspaper for the pro-independence People’s National Movement party. He also had become involved again in the Pan-African movement, believing that the Ghana revolution showed that decolonisation was the most important inspiration for international revolutionaries. James also advocated the West Indies Federation, and it was over this that he fell out with the PNM leadership. He returned to Britain, then to the USA in 1968, where he taught at the University of the District of Columbia. Ultimately, he returned to Britain and spent his last years in Brixton, London. In the 1970s and 1980s, a number of books by James were republished or reissued by Allison and Busby, including four volumes of selected writings: The Future In the Present, Spheres of Existence, At the Rendezvous of Victory and Cricket. In 1983, a short British film featuring James in dialogue with the famous historian E. P. Thompson was made. A public library in Hackney, London is named in his honor; in 2005 a reception there to mark its 20th anniversary was attended by his widow, Selma James. C. L. R. James is widely known as a writer on cricket, especially for his autobiographical 1963 book, Beyond a Boundary. This is considered a seminal work of cricket writing, and is often named as the best single book on cricket ever written. The book’s key question, which is frequently quoted by modern journalists and essayists, is inspired by Rudyard Kipling and asks: What do they know of cricket who only cricket know? James uses this challenge as the basis for describing cricket in an historical and social context, the strong influence cricket had on his life, and how it meshed with his role in politics and his understanding of issues of class and race. The literary quality of the writing attracts cricketers of all political views. While editor of The Nation, he led the successful campaign in 1960 to have Frank Worrell appointed as the first black captain of the West Indies cricket team.

 

 

 

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0807050067The Many-Headed Hydra: Sailors, Slaves, Commoners, and The Hidden History Of The Revolutionary Atlantic by Peter Linebaugh & Marcus Rediker. Boston. 2000. Beacon Press. 433 pages. Jacket design: Sara Eisenman. Jacket art, clockwise from top left: 'Many poor women imprisoned, and hanged for Witches,' 1655, Rare Books Division, New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox, and Tilden Foundations; 'A Negro hung alive by the Ribs to a Gallows. 0807050067.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

 The culture of the Atlantic in an era of rapid expansion of trade, and the influence of sailors, slaves, pirates, and others in the creation of a new global economy. The notion of pirates as a free-enterprise and somewhat democratic alternative to the indentured sailors and more-or-less captive roving workforce options of the time is truly thought provoking. I'll never see pirates in quite the same way again. The intersection of aspects of the slave trade and the growing abolitionist movement with the developing Atlantic culture is a fascinating story told well by Linebaugh and Rediker. Certainly my favorite book of 2000 and one of my all-time favorites. 'For most readers the tale told here will be completely new. For those already well acquainted with the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the image of that age which they have been so carefully taught and cultivated will be profoundly challenged. ' - David Montgomery, author of Citizen Worker. Long before the American Revolution and the Declaration of the Rights of Man, a motley crew of sailors, slaves, pirates, laborers, market women, and indentured servants had ideas about freedom and equality that would forever change history. THE MANY HEADED-HYDRA recounts their stories in a sweeping history of the role of the dispossessed in the making of the modern world. When an unprecedented expansion of trade and colonization in the early seventeenth century launched the first global economy, a vast, diverse, and landless workforce was born. These workers crossed national, ethnic, and racial boundaries, as they circulated around the Atlantic world on trade ships and slave ships, from England to Virginia, from Africa to Barbados, and from the Americas back to Europe. Marshaling an impressive range of original research from archives in the Americas and Europe, the authors show how ordinary working people led dozens of rebellions on both sides of the North Atlantic. The rulers of the day called the multiethnic rebels a 'hydra' and brutally suppressed their risings, yet some of their ideas fueled the age of revolution. Others, hidden from history and recovered here, have much to teach us about our common humanity.

 

Linebaugh Peter and Rediker Marcus

Peter Linebaugh, professor of history at the University of Toledo, is a contributing editor of ALBION'S FATAL TREE and author of THE LONDON HANGED. A member of the Midnight Notes Collective, he lives in Toledo, Ohio.

Marcus Rediker, associate professor of history at the University of Pittsburgh, is author of Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, winner of the American Studies Association's John Hope Franklin Prize and the Organization of American Historians' Merle Curti Social History Award. He is a contributing author of WHO BUILT AMERICA? and lives in Pittsburgh.

 

 

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(12/03/2007) The Marriage by Witold Gombrowicz. New York. 1969. Grove Press. Translated from the Polish by Louis Iribarne. Introduction by Jan Kott. Paperback Original. keywords: Literature Translated Poland Eastern Europe Drama. E-482. 158 pages.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   This is a play about the shifting relationship between reality and imagination. Henry, a soldier stationed in northern France during World War II, has a dream about his father, mother, sweetheart, and best friend; the dream constitutes the action of the play. In the dream, Henry’s imagination transforms himself and the other characters into players of multiple roles — Father and King, Mother and Queen, Servant and Princess, Son and Prince, Friend and Courtier. The author explores the kind of transformations which occur in human relationships and which allow a father to be elevated to kingship and then deposed, the lost chastity of a young woman to be restored by a respectable marriage, and one’s character and relationship to others to be built totally through one’s individual perception. To some extent, THE MARRIAGE parodies Shakespearean convention, for the type of complication of plot and character provides a plausible and flexible context for Gombrowicz’s ideas, and a dramatic exploration of the nature of the absolute reality of form in relation to the always changing reality of self and imagination.

Witold Marian Gombrowicz (August 4, 1904 in Maloszyce, near Kielce, Congress Poland, Russian Empire - July 24, 1969 in Vence, near Nice, France) was a Polish novelist and dramatist. His works are characterized by deep psychological analysis, a certain sense of paradox and an absurd, anti-nationalist flavor. In 1937 he published his first novel, Ferdydurke, which presented many of his usual themes: the problems of immaturity and youth, the creation of identity in interactions with others, and an ironic, critical examination of class roles in Polish society and culture. He gained fame only during the last years of his life but is now considered one of the foremost figures of Polish literature. Gombrowicz was born in Maloszyce, in Congress Poland, Russian Empire to a wealthy gentry family. He was the youngest of four children of Jan and Antonina (née Kotkowska.) In 1911 his family moved to Warsaw. After completing his education at Saint Stanislaus Kostka’s Gymnasium in 1922, he studied law at Warsaw University (in 1927 he obtained a master’s degree in law.) He spent a year in Paris where, he studied at the Institut des Hautes Etudes Internationales. He was less than diligent in his studies, but his time in France brought him in constant contact with other young intellectuals. He also visited the Mediterranean. When he returned to Poland he began applying for legal positions with little success. In the 1920s he started writing, but soon rejected the legendary novel, whose form and subject matter were supposed to manifest his ‘worse’ and darker side of nature. Similarly, his attempt to write a popular novel in collaboration with Tadeusz Kepinski turned out to be a failure. At the turn of the 20’s and 30’s he started to write short stories, which were later printed under the title Memoirs Of A Time Of Immaturity. From the moment of this literary debut, his reviews and columns started appearing in the press, mainly in the ‘Kurier Poranny (Morning Courier). He met with other young writers and intellectuals forming an artistic café society in ‘Zodiak’ and ‘Ziemianska’, both in Warsaw. The publication of Ferdydurke, his first novel, brought him acclaim in literary circles. Just before the outbreak of the Second World War, Gombrowicz took part in the maiden voyage of the famous Polish cruise liner, Chrobry, to South America. When he found out about the outbreak of war in Europe, he decided to wait in Buenos Aires till the war was over but was actually to stay there until 1963 - often, especially during the war, in great poverty. At the end of the 40s Gombrowicz was trying to gain a position among Argentine literary circles by publishing articles, giving lectures in Fray Mocho café, and finally, by publishing in 1947, a Spanish translation of Ferdydurke written with the help of Gombrowicz’s friends. Today, this version of the novel is considered to be a significant literary event in the history of Argentine literature; however, when published it did not bring any great renown to the author, nor did the publication of Gombrowicz’s drama ‘Slub’ in Spanish (‘The Wedding’, ‘El Casamiento’) in 1948. From December 1947 to May 1955 Gombrowicz worked as a bank clerk in Banco Polaco, the Argentine branch of PeKaO SA Bank. In 1950 he started exchanging letters with Jerzy Giedroyc and from 1951 he started having works published in the Parisian journal ‘Culture,’ where, in 1953, fragments of ‘Dziennik’ (‘Diaries’) appeared. In the same year he published a volume of work which included the drama ‘Slub’ (‘The Wedding’) and the novel ‘Trans-Atlantyk’, where the subject of national identity on emigration was controversially raised. After October 1956 four books written by Gombrowicz appeared in Poland and they brought him great renown despite the fact that the authorities did not allow the publication of ‘Dziennik’ (‘Diaries’), and later organized a slanderous campaign against Gombrowicz in 1963 who was then staying in West Berlin. In the 1960s Gombrowicz became recognized globally and many of his works were translated, including ‘Pornografia’ (‘Pornography’) and ‘Kosmos’ (‘Cosmos’.) His dramas were staged in many theatres all around the world, especially in France, Germany and Sweden. In 1963 he returned to Europe, where he received a scholarship from the Ford Foundation during his stay in Berlin, and in 1964 he spent three months in Royaumont abbey near Paris, where he employed Rita Labrosse, a Canadian from Montreal who studied contemporary literature, as his secretary. In 1964 he moved to Vence near Nice in the south of France, where he spent the rest of his life. There he enjoyed the fame which culminated in May 1967 with the International Publishers Prize (Prix Formentor) and six months before his death, married Rita Labrosse. Gombrowicz wrote in Polish, however, in view of his decision not to allow his works to be published in his native country until the ban on the unabridged version of ‘Dziennik’, in which he described the Polish authorities slanderous attacks on him, was lifted he remained a largely unknown figure to the general reading public until the first half of the 1970s. Despite this, his works were printed in Polish by the Paris Literary Institute of Jerzy Giedroyc and translated into more than 30 languages. Morover, his dramas were repeatedly staged in the most important theatres in the whole world by the prominent directors such as: Jorge Lavelli, Alf Sjoeberg, Ingmar Bergman along with Jerzy Jarocki and Jerzy Grzegorzewski in Poland.

 

 

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(12/02/2007) Vanity Fair - 3 Volumes by William Makepeace Thackeray. New York. 1865. Harper & Brothers. There are 40 plates and numerous text illustrations, all done by Thackeray himself. keywords: Literature England 19th Century. 350 pages, 354 pages, 346 pages.

VANITY FAIR follows the adventures of Becky Sharp, beautiful, resourceful, driven, and completely amoral. Becky makes full use of her connections after leaving finishing-school to secure a job as a governess in a seedy household with an established family. She goes on to win the hearts of young and old, provided of course that they have something to offer her. Ultimately, Becky becomes a courtesan on the Continent, living well beyond her means. This, Thackeray's greatest novel, is a delightful journey through the world of early nineteenth-century English manners. Thackeray is a master at pointing out the folly of the good-at-heart and the evil of those with grace and wit. The novels of Thackeray, particularly VANITY FAIR, were great obsessions of C. L. R. James, the Trinidadian author, who was reportedly reading Thackeray at eight years old. I love Thackeray for his sharp satire of the petty pretensions of middle-class British society at the time. A good, sound, vintage set, containing a great treasure on the inside - There are 40 plates and numerous text illustrations, all done by Thackeray himself.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   VANITY FAIR is the story of Becky Sharp, one of the most beautiful, willful, and resourcefully charming pleasure-seekers in literature. With finishing- school credentials and proper connections, Becky begins as a governess, wins the hearts of the moneyed young and old, and, in the light of presentation at court and calculated scandals, emerges a full-fledged courtesan on the Continent, living surprisingly well beyond her means. Thackeray’s greatest novel is a moral tapestry of early nineteenth-century English manners, and his persistent theme is the folly of the good-at-heart, the evil of those endowed with grace and wit. Anthony Trollope called Thackeray ‘. one of the recognized stars of the literary heaven. ’ V. S. Pritchett finds Thackeray ‘. the first of our novelists to catch life visually and actually as it passes in fragments before us. he is above all a superb impressionist-perhaps our greatest.’

 

 

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(12/01/2007) Against The Current by Isaiah Berlin. New York. 1980. Viking Press. Edited By Henry Hardy. keywords: Philosophy History. 394 pages. Jacket design by Tony Pollicino. 0670109444. February 1980.

Isaiah Berlin was a master of the philosophical essay. In fact, nearly all of his literary output comes to us in this form. His essays are timeless, mentally stimulating, and simply a pleasure to read. He is one of those authors whose works inevitably lead one to other authors, usually the classics. His point of view is fresh and his writing is engaging. Don’t miss out on the experience of reading Isaiah Berlin.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   For most of Sir Isaiah Berlin’s life, the history of ideas has been the focal point of his interest and work and the background against which he has forged his own eloquent and deeply felt opposition to the fanaticism of the singleminded. His main theme in Against the Current is the importance in the history of thought of dissenters whose ideas still challenge conventional wisdom; Machiavelli, Vico, Montesquieu, Hamann, Herzen, and Georges Sorel are central examples. He is especially concerned with the phenomenon of originality, with the unpredictable capacity of men with exceptional minds to battle against the current of their times and contribute something entirely new to our intellectual heritage. This book is a celebration of some of the most original and influential, misunderstood, or neglected thinkers of the Western world. It is essential reading for anyone responsive to the force of ideas in history. ‘Berlin expounds the ideas of half-forgotten thinkers with luminous clarity and imaginative empathy. [These essays] are exhilarating to read. ’ - The Observer.

ISAIAH BERLIN, O. M. , B. C. E. , president of Wolfson College, Oxford from 1966 to 1975, is a Fellow of All Souls. He was a Fellow of New College from 1938 to 1950 and professor of social and political theory in Oxford from 1957 to 1967. He was president of the British Academy from 1974 to 1978 and is an Honorary Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the National Institute of Arts and Letters. For his writings on the freedom of the individual in society he was awarded the 1979 Jerusalem Prize.

HENRY HARDY, editor of the four-volume series of Sir Isaiah’s collected essays, took his B. Phil, and D. Phil, from Wolfson College, and is now an editor and publisher. His edition of selected writings by Arnold Mallinson, Quinquagesimo Anno, was published under his own imprint in 1974. ROGER HAUSHEER is a member of Wolfson College, Oxford, and is studying the philosophy of J. G. Fichte. At present he is also Lecturer in British Studies at the University of Giessen, West Germany.

 

 

 

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(11/30/2007) The Known World by Edward P. Jones. New York. 2003. Amistad Press. keywords: Literature America Black History Slavery. 389 pages. JACKET PHOTOGRAPH (c) 1989 BY EUDORA WELTY. PATCHWORK (c) COLLIER CAMPBELL LIFEWORKS/CORBIS. AUTHOR PHOTOGRAPH BY JERRY BAUER. JACKET DESIGN BY LAURA BLOST. 0060557540. September 2003.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   Henry Townsend, a black farmer, bootmaker, and former slave, has a fondness for Paradise Lost and an unusual mentor - William Robbins, perhaps the most powerful man in antebellum Virginia’s Manchester County. Under Robbins’s Tutelage, Henry becomes proprietor of his own plantation - as well as of his own slaves. When he dies, his widow, Caldonia, succumbs to profound grief, and things begin to fall apart at their plantation: slaves take to escaping under the cover of night, and families who had once found love beneath the weight of slavery begin to betray one another. Beyond the Townsend estate, the known world also unravels: low-paid white patrollers stand watch as slave ‘speculators’ sell free black people into slavery, and rumors of slave rebellions set white families against slaves who have served them for years. An ambitious, luminously written novel that ranges seamlessly between the past and future and back again to the present. THE KNOWN WORLD weaves together the lives of freed and enslaved blacks, whites, and Indians - and all of us a deeper understanding of the enduring multidimensional world created by the institution of slavery.

EDWARD P. JONES won the PEN/Hemingway Award and was a finalist for the national Book Award for his debut collection of stories, LOST IN THE CITY. A recipient of the Lannan Foundation Grant, Mr. Jones currently resides in Arlington, Virginia. THE KNOWN WORLD is his first novel.

 

 

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demonsDemons by Fyodor Dostoevsky. New York. July 1994. Knopf. Newly Translated From The Russian By Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. 733 pages. Jacket illustration from GODS' MAN by Lynd Ward. Jacket design by Archie Ferguson. 0679423141.

My favorite Dostoevsky novel . Dostoevsky has been blasted by both the left and the right for this book, a prophetic novel of the impact of revolutionary nihilism in Russia shortly before the time of the Russian Revolution. Lenin even makes a brief appearance.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

 Completed in 1872, DEMONS is rivaled only by THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV for the place of Dostoevsky’s greatest work. Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, whose acclaimed translations of THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV, CRIME AND PUNISHMENT, and NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND have become the standard versions in English, now give us a brilliant new rendering of this towering masterpiece, previously translated as THE POSSESSED. Dostoevsky first conceived of the book as a ‘novel-pamphlet’ in which he intended to ‘say everything’ about the new Russian nihilists, the growing group of anti-czarist political terrorists. The present novel grew out of an actual event in the winter of 1869: Ivan Ivanov, a student at the Petrov Agricultural Academy in Moscow and a man of strong character, had broken with his fellow young revolutionaries and was subsequently murdered by a small group of them headed by Sergei Nechaev. Around this crime and the ensuing trial of the Nechaevists in the summer of 1871, Dostoevsky constructed this superbly nuanced work, inexhaustibly rich in character and circumstance, which he also intended as a broad condemnation of the legion of ideas, or ‘demons,’ that had migrated from the West and were threatening the soul of the Russian nation. His magnificent achievement has, proven to be one of the most powerfully prophetic statements about Russia’s political destiny, not only in his own day but in ours as well. Like all of Dostoevsky’s great novels, Demons is also a ‘philosophical tale. ’ As it reveals its many faces-comic, satirical, symbolic, and tragic-it enacts the drama of the promethean revolt of modern humanity against the institutions and values of tradition, and offers a brilliant investigation into the workings of the human will and the nature of evil. With this glorious new version all the stunning idiosyncrasies of the Russian original are available to English readers for the first time. RICHARD PEVEAR and LARISSA VOLOKHONSKY were awarded the PEN Book-of-the-Month Club Translation Prize for their version of THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV. They are married and live in France. This translation has been made from the Russian text of the Soviet Academy of Sciences edition, volumes ten and eleven. This translation has been made from the Russian text of the Soviet Academy of Sciences edition, volumes ten and eleven.

Dostoevsky Fyodor

Born November 11, 1821

Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky (11 November 1821 – 9 February 1881), sometimes transliterated Dostoevsky, was a Russian novelist, short story writer, essayist and philosopher. Dostoyevsky's literary works explore human psychology in the context of the troubled political, social, and spiritual atmosphere of 19th-century Russia. He began writing in his 20s, and his first novel, Poor Folk, was published in 1846 when he was 25. His major works include Crime and Punishment (1866), The Idiot (1869), and The Brothers Karamazov (1880). His output consists of eleven novels, three novellas, seventeen short novels and numerous other works. Many literary critics rate him as one of the greatest and most prominent psychologists in world literature. RICHARD PEVEAR and LARISSA VOLOKHONSKY were awarded the PEN Book-of-the-Month Club Translation Prize for their version of THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV. They are married and live in France. . (original title: Besy, 1872). This translation has been made from the Russian text of the Soviet Academy of Sciences edition, volumes ten and eleven.

 

 

 

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037542248xWizard Of The Crow by Ngugi wa Thiong'o. New York. 2006. Pantheon Books. Translated from the Gikuyu by The Author. 771 pages. Jacket illustration & design by Peter Mendelsund. 037542248x. August 2006.

Ngugi's most important novel since PETALS OF BLOOD, WIZARD OF THE CROW is an extraordinary novel of twentieth-century Africa, that is by turns spiritual, funny, historical, fantastical, harrowing, and ultimately deeply human.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

From the exiled Kenyan novelist, playwright, poet, and literary critic-a magisterial comic novel that is certain to take its place as a landmark of postcolonial African literature. In exile now for more than twenty years, Ngugi wa Thiong'o has become one of the most widely read African writers of our time, the power and scope of his work garnering him international attention and praise. His aim in WIZARD OF THE CROW is, in his own words, nothing less than 'to sum up Africa of the twentieth century in the context of two thousand years of world history. ' Commencing in 'our times' and set in the 'Free Republic of Aburlria,' the novel dramatizes with corrosive humor and keenness of observation a battle for control of the souls of the Aburlrian people. Among the contenders: His High Mighty Excellency; the eponymous Wizard, an avatar of folklore and wisdom; the corrupt Christian Ministry; and the nefarious Global Bank. Fashioning the stories of the powerful and the ordinary into a dazzling mosaic, WIZARD OF THE CROW reveals humanity in all its endlessly surprising complexity. Informed by richly enigmatic traditional African storytelling, WIZARD OF THE CROW is a masterpiece, the crowning achievement in Ngugi wa Thiong'o's career thus far.

Ngugi wa Thiongo

Born January 5, 1938

Ngugi wa Thiong'o has taught at Amherst College, Yale University, and New York University. He is Distinguished Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Irvine, and is director of the university's International Center for Writing and Translation. His books include PETALS OF BLOOD, for which he was imprisoned by the Kenyan government in 1977. He lives in Irvine, California.

 

 

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short account of greek philosophy perennial p138A Short Account of Greek Philosophy by G. F. Parker. New York. 1969. Harper Perennial. P138. 194 pages. Cover design by Ted Bernstein.

A readable summary of Greek philosophy.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   ‘Each year sees an increased number of students entering the upper forms of our schools, our colleges and our universities. Most are not only studying some subject or subjects in depth but are also following a course of General or Liberal Studies. Many have no first-hand or formal acquaintance with Classical thought and are constantly meeting references to Greek philosophers and common philosophical terms. They are also discovering that, however important and interesting their particular subjects, there is a great deal of truth in the words of Sir Karl Popper: ‘We are not students of some subject matter but students of problems. And problems cut right across the borders of any subject matter or discipline. ’ The history of man’s thought recognizes no arbitrarily erected barriers. There are, too, the ‘students’ who are not formally enrolled in any educational establishment and who are traveling each year to Greece in unprecedented numbers to explore at first hand the more palpable remains of Classical and pre-Classical ages. Excellent guide books for the traveler are already numerous and continue to multiply. But however good the guide books, one cannot easily capture the spirit o, say, Heracleitus or Democritus or Plato as one wanders round an ancient temple site or modern museum. It has been my intention to provide information and some common ground for students, whatever their subjects of study or interests may be. Plato and Aristotle cannot be ignored; nor can they be understood except in relation to their times and their predecessors, the pre-Socratic philosophers. And the pre-Socratics are not merely important; they are intellectually exciting and have a certain affinity with our present age. ' – From the Preface by the author.

 

 

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locosLocos: A Comedy Of Gestures by Felipe Alfau. New York. 1936. Farrar & Rinehart. 307 pages

Talk about an unappreciated classic. Written in English by a Spaniard living in New York, this book languished in limbo from 1936 until it was reissued by The Dalkey Archive in 1988. From a cafe in Madrid to the pickpocket convention this book is a real gem and was way ahead of its time.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

The interconnected stories that form this novel take place in a Madrid as exotic as the Baghdad of the 1001 Arabian Nights and feature unforgettable characters in revolt against their young ‘author. ’ ‘For them,’ he complains, ‘reality is what fiction is to real people; they simply love it and make for it against my almost heroic opposition. By the end of this book my characters are no longer a tool for my expression, but I am a helpless instrument of their whims and absurd contretemps. In short, my characters have taken seriously the saying that ‘truth is stranger than fiction’ and I have failed in my attempts to convince them of the contrary. ’ These fables of identity are enchanting despite Alfau’s frequent reminders that these are mere puppets, figures of the imagination; nor can the reader fail to find, despite Alfau’ s mock warning, ‘beneath a more or less entertaining comedy of meaningless gestures, the vulgar aspects of a common tragedy. ’ First published in 1936 and undeservedly neglected for the last fifty years, LOCOS anticipated the ‘magic realism’ of the Latin Americans as well as the inventions of such later writers as Jorge Luis Borges, Flann O’Brien, John Barth, and Donald Barthelme. Modern readers are now in a better position to appreciate Alfau’s ingenuity and art, and to wonder how such a book, whose place in modem fiction is now so clear, could have gone unrecognized for so many years.

Alfau Felipe

Born August 24, 1902

Felipe Alfau (1902–1999), was a Spanish American (Catalan American) novelist and poet. Like his contemporaries Luigi Pirandello and Flann O'Brien, Alfau is considered a forerunner of later postmodern writers such as Vladimir Nabokov, Thomas Pynchon, Donald Barthelme, and Gilbert Sorrentino. Born in Barcelona, Alfau emigrated with his family at the age of fourteen to the United States, where he lived the remainder of his life. Alfau earned a living as a translator; his sparse fictional and poetic output remained obscure throughout most of his life. Alfau wrote two novels in English: LOCOS: A COMEDY OF GESTURES and CHROMOS. LOCOS — a metafictive collection of related short stories set in Toledo and Madrid, involving several characters that defy the wishes of the author, write their own stories, and even assume each others' roles — was published by Farrar and Rinehart in 1936. The novel, for which Alfau was paid $250, received some critical acclaim, but little popular attention. The novel was republished in 1987 after an editor for the small publisher Dalkey Archive Press found the book at a barn sale in Massachusetts, read it, and contacted Alfau after finding his telephone number in the Manhattan phone book. The novel's second incarnation was modestly successful, but Alfau refused payment, instructing the publisher to use the earnings from LOCOS to fund some other unpublished work. When asked if he had written any other books, Alfau provided the manuscript for CHROMOS, which had been resting in a drawer since 1948. CHROMOS, a comic story of Spanish immigrants to the United States contending with their two cultures, went on to be nominated for the National Book Award in 1990. Alfau also wrote a book of poetry in Spanish, SENTIMENTAL SONGS (La poesia cursi), written between 1923 and 1987 and published in 1992, and a book of children's stories, OLD TALES FROM SPAIN, written in 1929.

 

 

 

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0618134247Dark Star Safari: Overland From Cairo To Cape Town by Paul Theroux. Boston. 2003. Houghton Mifflin. 472 pages. Jacket photograph by Raymond Depardon/Magnum Photos, Inc. 0618134247. March 2003.

Paul Theroux is a national treasure. Publishers should be offering him huge advances, although I know that they don’t. I would take a trip with him just about anywhere, and what I mean by taking a trip with him is that I would read anything he chooses to write. His travel books are particularly interesting. Theroux understands that travel is struggle, inconvenience, boredom, and hardship, the essential elements of ‘adventure’. Don't pick up any of his travel books if you want to read about local cuisines, ruins, and churches. But if you are up for an adventure with a companion who truly engages creatively with his surroundings and likes to reflect on what he is reading while he is traveling, then Paul Theroux is for you. Consider the opening sentence from DARK STAR SAFARI - ‘All news out of Africa is bad. It made me want to go there, though not for the horror, the hot spots, the massacre-and-earthquake stories you read in the newspaper; I wanted the pleasure of being in Africa again. ’ Theroux often avoids doing it the easy way. His observations on the questionable value of paternalistic foreign aid are particularly interesting, and his picture of Africa, while as personal as one can get, feels true on a universal level at the same time. Once again, a thought-provoking and truly enjoyable book from Paul Theroux.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

 Widely acclaimed as one of the world’s best travel writers, Paul Theroux takes us on the ultimate journey through the world’s most complex and mysterious continent. In the travel-writing tradition that made Paul Theroux’s reputation, DARK STAR SAFARI is a rich and insightful book whose itinerary is Africa, from Cairo to Cape Town: down the Nile, through Sudan and Ethiopia, to Kenya, Uganda, and ultimately to the tip of South Africa. Going by train, dugout canoe, ‘chicken bus,’ and cattle truck, Theroux passes through some of the most beautiful - and often life-threatening - landscapes on earth. This is travel as discovery and also, in part, a sentimental journey. Almost forty years ago, Theroux first went to Africa as a teacher in the Malawi bush. Now he stops at his old school, sees former students, revisits his African friends. He finds astonishing, devastating changes wherever he goes. ‘Africa is materially more decrepit than it was when I first knew it,’ he writes, ‘hungrier, poorer, less educated, more pessimistic, more corrupt, and you can’t tell the politicians from the witch doctors. Not that Africa is one place. It is an assortment of motley republics and seedy chiefdoms. I got sick, I got stranded, but I was never bored. In fact, my trip was a delight and a revelation. ’ Seeing firsthand what is happening across Africa, Theroux is as obsessively curious and wittily observant as always, and his readers will find themselves on an epic and enlightening journey. DARK STAR SAFARI is one of his bravest and best books.

Theroux Paul 

Born: April 10, 1941

PAUL THEROUX is the internationally acclaimed author of such travel books as THE GREAT RAILWAY BAZAAR, THE OLD PATAGONIAN EXPRESS, SUNRISE WITH SEAMONSTERS, and THE KINGDOM BY THE SEA. His many novels include HOTEL HONOLULU, KOWLOON TONG, MY OTHER LIFE, and MILLROY THE MAGICIAN. His novels SAINT JACK, THE MOSQUITO COAST, and HALF MOON STREET have been made into successful feature films. Theroux resides in Hawaii and on Cape Cod.

 

 

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0195160282Thinking It Through: An Introduction To Contemporary Philosophy by Kwame Anthony Appiah. Oxford/New York. 2003. Oxford University Press. 412 pages. Jacket design by Mary Belibasakis. 0195160282.

Kwame Anthony Appiah is one of our most articulate public intellectuals. This book came out a couple of years ago and it provides a clearly-written and jargon-free introduction to modern philosophy.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

THINKING IT THROUGH is a thorough, vividly written introduction to contemporary philosophy and some of the most crucial questions of human existence, including the nature of mind and knowledge, the status of moral claims, the existence of God, the role of science, and the mysteries of language. Noted philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah shows us what it means to 'do' philosophy in our time and why it should matter to anyone who wishes to live a more thoughtful life. Opposing the common misconceptions that being a philosopher means espousing a set of philosophical beliefs--or being a follower of a particular thinker--Appiah argues that 'the result of philosophical exploration is not the end of inquiry in a settled opinion, but a mind resting more comfortably among many possibilities, or else the reframing of the question, and a new inquiry. ' Ideal for introductory philosophy courses, THINKING IT THROUGH is organized around eight central topics--mind, knowledge, language, science, morality, politics, law, and metaphysics. It traces how philosophers in the past have considered each subject and then explores some of the major questions that still engage philosophers today. More importantly, Appiah not only explains what philosophers have thought but how they think, giving students examples that they can use in their own attempts to navigate the complex issues confronting any reflective person in the twenty-first century. Filled with concrete examples of how philosophers work, THINKING IT THROUGH guides students through the process of philosophical reflection and enlarges their understanding of the central questions of human life. REVIEWS - 'The distinguishing mark of this work, which will set it clearly apart from all the best introductory books of this kind, is the way it makes deep and insightful connections among the various topics. It introduces the reader to all the main problems of contemporary philosophy, and makes philosophical concepts come alive in systematic exploration of the deep thoughts and difficult arguments to which Appiah gives lucid access. '--Neil Tennant, The Ohio State University. 'An extraordinarily successful introduction to philosophy: wise, witty and deeply engaging. '--Paul Boghossian, New York University. 'This book is excellent, one of the best of its kind that I've seen. It accomplishes what few general introductions to philosophy even attempt: to integrate contemporary discussion and argument into a treatment of our perennial problems without losing sight of their roots. '--David Sosa, University of Texas at Austin.

Appiah Kwame Anthony

Born May 8, 1954

Kwame Anthony Akroma-Ampim Kusi Appiah was born in London but moved as an infant to Ghana, where he grew up. His father, Joseph Emmanuel Appiah, a lawyer and politician, was also, at various times, a Member of Parliament, an Ambassador and a President of the Ghana Bar Association; his mother, the novelist and children's writer, Peggy Appiah, whose family was English, was active in the social, philanthropic and cultural life of Kumasi, where they lived. His three younger sisters Isobel, Adwoa and Abena, were born in Ghana. As a child, he spent a good deal of time in England, staying with his grandmother, Dame Isobel Cripps, widow of the English statesman Sir Stafford Cripps. Kwame Appiah was educated at the University Primary School at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi; at Ullenwood Manor, in Gloucestershire, and Port Regis and Bryanston Schools, in Dorset; and, finally, at Clare College, Cambridge University, in England, where he took both B. A. and Ph. D. degrees in the philosophy department. His Cambridge dissertation explored the foundations of probabilistic semantics; once revised, these arguments were published by Cambridge University Press as Assertion and Conditionals. Out of that first monograph grew a second book, For Truth in Semantics, which dealt with Michael Dummett's defenses of semantic anti-realism. Since Cambridge, he has taught at Yale, Cornell, Duke, and Harvard universities and lectured at many other institutions in the United States, Germany, Ghana and South Africa, as well as at the ?cole des Hautes ?tudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris; and he is now a member of the Princeton University faculty, where he is a member of the Philosophy Department and the University Center for Human Values. Professor Appiah has also published widely in African and African-American literary and cultural studies. In 1992, Oxford University Press published In My Father's House, which deals, in part, with the role of African and African-American intellectuals in shaping contemporary African cultural life. His current interests range over African and African-American intellectual history and literary studies, ethics and philosophy of mind and language; and he has also taught regularly about African traditional religions; but his major current work has to do with the philosophical foundations of liberalism and with questions of method in arriving at knowledge about values. Professor Appiah joined the Princeton faculty in 2002 as Laurance S. Rockefeller University Professor of Philosophy and the University Center for Human Values. In 1996, he published Color Conscious: The Political Morality of Race with Amy Gutmann; in 1997 the Dictionary of Global Culture, co-edited with Henry Louis Gates Jr. Along with Professor Gates he has also edited the Encarta Africana CD-ROM encyclopedia, published by Microsoft, which became the Perseus Africana encyclopedia in book form. This is now available in a revised multi-volume edition from Oxford University Press. In 2003, he coauthored Bu Me B?: Proverbs of the Akan, an annotated edition of 7,500 proverbs in Twi, the language of Asante. He is also the author of three novels, of which the first, Avenging Angel, was largely set at Clare College, Cambridge, and he reviews regulalry for the New York Review of Books. In 2004, Oxford University Press published his introduction to contemporary philosophy entitled Thinking It Through. In January 2005, Princeton University Press published The Ethics of Identity and in February 2006 Norton published Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers, which won the 2007 Arthur Ross Award of the Council on Foreign Relations. In January 2008, Harvard University Press will publish his Experiments in Ethics, based on his 2005 Flexner lectures at Bryn Mawr. Professor Appiah has homes in New York city and near Pennington, in New Jersey, which he shares with his partner, Henry Finder, Editorial Director of the New Yorker magazine. In 2007, he is the President of the Eastern Division of the American Philosophical Association and he will take on the task of Chairing the Executive Board of the American Philosophical Association in 2008. He is also currently Chair of the Board of the American Council of Learned Societies.

 

 

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