Tag Archives: History

Present Tense

Review – 21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari

The success of Yuval Noah Harari’s first book, Sapiens, a sweeping assessment of human history, was so great that its author has been granted a status far beyond that normally afforded to professors of global history. Continue reading

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In Parts True and Original

Review – The Death of Truth by Michiko Kakutani

Amid many recent books purporting to explain our present age’s apparent problems with the truth, Michiko Kakutani’s stands out.

It stands out because of its author’s reputation as a judicious writer; she was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for literary criticism. But more than that, it stands out because of the specificity of its central claim – which holds not, as other books have argued, that there is more falsehood in the world now than ever, or it is easier to be duplicitous, and on a grander scale, than at any time in recent history; but rather that the very idea of verity is under attack, and that it has been in retreat for some time. Continue reading

The Death of Socrates Reconsidered

Socrates is often considered the father of Western philosophy. He taught Plato and influenced Aristotle, pioneering aspects of intellectual instruction and philosophical enquiry. No writings in his name survive. Instead, the life of Socrates is held to demonstrate greatness. Plato viewed his mentor as the ideal philosopher, a model of how a thinker should act and live. The memory of the man surpasses his works. Continue reading

Jordan Peterson’s Mechanistic Universe

In a very brief time, Jordan Peterson has become almost ubiquitous. The professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, now on leave in order to tour the world, has been cultivating a growing following on social media and YouTube for years. But 2018 is his moment. Continue reading

The Memories the City Holds

Review – A Line in the River: Khartoum, City of Memory by Jamal Mahjoub

Home does strange things to us. There’s an entire sub-genre of autobiographical writing to attest to that. But for Jamal Mahjoub, a novelist whose life has been nothing if not international, home is less than fixed, and therefore difficult to pin down, let alone document. Continue reading

Necessary Acts Are Never Popular – So Politicians Have Done Nothing about Iran or North Korea

The situation on the Korean peninsula has not been good for a long time. But the ceasefire agreed in the 1950s, following years of open warfare, seems more strained now than at any moment in recent memory. Continue reading

The Ground Beneath Our Feet

Review – Imaginary Cities by Darran Anderson

Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino is one of the most imaginative works of twentieth century fiction. The book is a dream, a vision, literally so. It depicts, as a framing narrative, a conversation between Marco Polo and Kublai Khan, the great figure at the head of the Mongol Empire. The two of them exist in a dream state, caught in a suspended moment. They discuss wonders and marvels, the result of Polo’s travelling. These are the cities of the title. Continue reading