John Lukacs

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The Reduction of Certainty
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The Reduction of Certainty

[This review first appeared in the June 2009 edition of Chronicles.]

One should begin a review with a summation of a book and then of its author.  The reverse is warranted in this case.  James Grant is an extraordinary

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Grand Designs

This piece first appeared in the December 1985 issue of Chronicles.

“Liberty, the daughter of oppression, after having brought forth several fair children, as Riches, Arts, Learning, Trade, and many others, was at last delivered of her youngest daughter,

Letters From Tocqueville
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Letters From Tocqueville

From the September 1986 issue of Chronicles.

“I am rich in letters. . . . “
—Horace Walpole

Alexis de Tocqueville was an immensely prolific writer. His friend Gustave de Beaumont wrote that “for one volume he published he wrote

Clap & Trap
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Clap & Trap

From the December 1992 issue of Chronicles.

I had heard about, but not read, “The End of History?” Francis Fukuyama’s star-burst essay published in 1989; but I felt a twinge of sympathy for him as his critics chortled and pointed

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To Hell With Culture

Lukacs_09-1994

From the September 1994 issue of Chronicles.

“The corruption of man,” Emerson wrote, “is followed by X the corruption of language.” The reverse is true, and a century later Georges Bernanos had it right: “The worst, the most corrupting lies

Surrounded by Books
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Surrounded by Books

Surrounded by books has been a main circumstance of my long life.  So it is now, near the end of my 94th year, when I am in my large library of perhaps 18,000 books in the western wing of my

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The Condottiere

Lukacs_Review

From the October 1997 issue of Chronicles.

We live in an age when biography flourishes, contrary to earlier expectations. The reason for this is the decline of the novel and the rise of popular interest in all kinds of history,

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Dwight Macdonald

Nov_1998_pic_2

A Rebel in Defense of Tradition is the title of Michael Wreszin’s 1994 biography of Dwight Macdonald (1906-1982). It is a very good title, by which I mean something more than a “handle”; it is a precise phrase, a summary

The Crucial Years
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The Crucial Years

The evidence of the end of the Cold War around 1990 was clearer than evidence of its beginning had been around, say, 1947.  By “Cold War” we mean the conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union—not that between

Between Fear and Conceit
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Between Fear and Conceit

H.M. Maisky was the Soviet ambassador to Britain from 1932 to 1943.  In June 1943 Stalin ordered him to quit London.  After returning to Moscow, Maisky was posted henceforth to unimportant positions.  In 1953 he was imprisoned; two years later

End of the World of Books
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End of the World of Books

The morning after Thanksgiving I completed the manuscript of my last book, which will be published by Harvard University Press—a short book, and I still had some work on it.  But I had a sense of accomplishment and a day

Parallel Lives
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Parallel Lives

Nicholas Thompson, the grandson of Paul Nitze, chose to write a biography of his grandfather, but with a restriction.  Thompson thought it best to describe and compare his grandfather’s public career together with that of another public personage, George Kennan. 

The Reduction of Certainty
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The Reduction of Certainty

One should begin a review with a summation of a book and then of its author.  The reverse is warranted in this case.  James Grant is an extraordinary American, a financial expert whose mind is enriched by his knowledge of

Diplomacy Before the Fall
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Diplomacy Before the Fall

The first two sentences of this fine book tell it all.  “This is a text for our times.  It is a celebration of diplomacy and diplomats—of an essentially extinct profession.”  I shall return to this summa summarum; but first,

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The End of the American Middle Class

We have now entered a new age which will not have a name or a designation until, I think, at least one or two centuries from now: But then, such is the evolution of historical terminology.  Yet we should be

Thoughts on Socialism
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Thoughts on Socialism

One day, perhaps, a great history of socialism will be written.  A daunting task, but not impossible, since socialism, the “ism,” is not very old—a relatively new phenomenon, during the last 200 years or even less.  A history of social

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George Frost Kennan, R.I.P.

George Frost Kennan died on March 17 in his home—one year and one month and one day after his 100th birthday.  I am now 81 years old.  He was the greatest American I have known.

He was (and remains) A

Education, Schooling, Learning
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Education, Schooling, Learning

I do not like the word education—especially when it is not only confused with but mistaken for learning.  Originally, education in English meant “bringing up.”  That is not identical with schooling.  A man or woman who “has

Against the Horticulturalists
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Against the Horticulturalists

Dwight Macdonald died in December 1982, almost 20 years ago.  I went up to New York for his funeral.  There were few New York intellectuals, prominent or not, at that gathering—which, properly and decently, had something like a family atmosphere. 

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To Hell With Culture

“The corruption of man,” Emerson wrote, “is followed by the corruption of language.” The reverse is true, and a century later Georges Bernanos had it right: “The worst, the most corrupting lies are problems wrongly stated.” How pertinent this is

The Two Faces of American Isolationism
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The Two Faces of American Isolationism

A Republic, Not an Empire: Reclaiming America’s Destiny is a pamphlet and a history. Some of the greatest compositions of the human mind were cast in the form of pamphlets, even when they were thrown at a public for immediate

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New People, New Century

During the 19th century, the United States fought five wars, of which it won three, the Indian, the Mexican, and the Spanish-American ones; the War of 1812 was a draw; and then there was the Civil War, the bloodiest war

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The Reality of Written Words

In the beginning was the Word. (Not the picture. Or the number.) We are now at the cusp of a movement into a new age when, for large masses of people, verbal images and verbal imagination seem gradually to be

Dwight Macdonald
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Dwight Macdonald

A Rebel in Defense of Tradition is the title of Michael Wreszin’s 1994 biography of Dwight Macdonald (1906- 1982). It is a very good title, by which I mean something more than a “handle”; it is a precise phrase, a

The Condottiere
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The Condottiere

We live in an age when biography flourishes, contrary to earlier expectations. The reason for this is the decline of the novel and the rise of popular interest in all kinds of history, and biography belongs within history. The problem

To Hell With College
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To Hell With College

I ask my readers not to be shocked by the title of this essay. “To Hell With Culture” was the title of my last essay published in Chronicles, in September 1994. Readers of it saw that I was not

Freedom of Access
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Freedom of Access

Though the “opening” of the Russian archives is supposed to be a blessing for historians, there are plenty of reasons for skepticism. To begin with, “open” is an inaccurate term. What is available is selective, for so much remains closed,

To Hell With Culture
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To Hell With Culture

“The corruption of man,” Emerson wrote, “is followed by X the corruption of language.” The reverse is true, and a century later Georges Bernanos had it right: “The worst, the most corrupting lies are problems wrongly stated.” How pertinent this

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Tiger, Tigre: The Perils of Translation

In November 1875, in a gas-lit flat over a rain-soaked street in Tours, a law student sat together with a young Portuguese widow. They were rifling through her letters. She had been a minor actress in Bordeaux and had played

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Cold Comfort

Ambling through the Museum of the History of the City of Helsinki I find myself in a small projection room where a film about the history of Helsinki during the last 70 years is shown. It is poignant and telling.

Clap & Trap
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Clap & Trap

I had heard about, but not read, “The End of History?” Francis Fukuyama’s star-burst essay published in 1989; but I felt a twinge of sympathy for him as his critics chortled and pointed at history rumbling anew: people dancing atop

The Patriotic Impulse
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The Patriotic Impulse

I must now, in public, repeat what I privately expressed to the directors of the Ingersoll Foundation: my gratitude for their having chosen me as the present recipient of this honorific award. And I must add another source of my

The Pros and Cons of Immigration: A Debate
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The Pros and Cons of Immigration: A Debate

Jacob Neusner, Graduate Research Professor of Humanities and Religious Studies, University of South Florida Martin Buber Professor of Judaic Studies, University of Frankfurt

Immigration nourishes America, affirming the power of its national ideal: a society capable of remaking the

American Manners
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American Manners

“Nothing, at first sight, seems less important than the external formalities of human behavior,” wrote Alexis de Tocqueville in Democracy in America, “yet there is nothing to which men attach more importance. They can get used to anything except

Letters From Tocqueville
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Letters From Tocqueville

“I am rich in letters. . . . “
—Horace Walpole

Alexis de Tocqueville was an immensely prolific writer. His friend Gustave de Beaumont wrote that “for one volume he published he wrote ten; and the notes he cast aside

Broken Eggshells & Winged Seeds
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Broken Eggshells & Winged Seeds

“Imaging . . . is properly the work of a poet; the
[rest] he borrows horn the historian.”

—John Dryden

Here is an unAmerican story. A young man writes a successful novel. Thousands of Americans, in the oddest places, esteem

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Grand Designs

“Liberty, the daughter of oppression, after having brought forth several fair children, as Riches, Arts, Learning, Trade, and many others, was at last delivered of her youngest daughter, called FACTION.”
—Jonathan Swift

There are many things wrong with this book,