Kaufmann’s own self-requiem says it all: “There was nothing left in him; he did not spare himself; he put everything he had...

WALTER KAUFMANN

PHILOSOPHER, HUMANIST, HERETIC

Luminous biography of the noted philosopher and intellectual historian best known for his work on Friedrich Nietzsche.

Walter Kaufmann (1921-1980) died too young, but not before having written numerous books that shifted the landscape of the humanities. Corngold (Lambent Traces, 2004, etc.), a noted interpreter and translator of the work of Franz Kafka, takes on Kaufmann’s books one after the other, “mainly keeping to one side the foreknowledge of what he was still to write.” The most influential of them was his first, in which Kaufmann, a German Jew, rehabilitated the reputation of Nietzsche, badly marred through association with Nazism. His 1950 book Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist not only helped rescue Nietzsche from that guilty stain, but also spurred a postwar renaissance in studies of Nietzsche; no book in the time since, Corngold ventures, has appeared that has not in some way reckoned with Kaufmann’s. Corngold is not uncritical. He notes that Kaufmann’s own Nietzschean devotion to self-mastery colored his perception of Nietzsche’s “will to power” and in turn “sanitizes Nietzsche”; Kaufmann’s view may have been overly apolitical, but it also helps restore the idea of the Germany “that Jews dreamt of in their assimilationist craving, the dream of the haskalah.” Kaufmann would emerge as a powerful critic of religion (whence the heretic of the subtitle) and student of world literature and history, taking on the theologies and works of Luther, Plato, Milton, Aeschylus, and countless others while waging his own war “against decrepit ideas.” In that pursuit, no book went unread, and though Kaufmann was a man of action, this biography is one of ideas and the presupposition that readers are prepared to take on a big slice of intellectual history in considering them.

Kaufmann’s own self-requiem says it all: “There was nothing left in him; he did not spare himself; he put everything he had into his work, his life.” But he did not find time to reckon fully with his own legacy, and in that, Corngold provides a valuable service.

Pub Date: Dec. 11, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-691-16501-1

Page Count: 760

Publisher: Princeton Univ.

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2018

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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