Berlin

Infinite Life
July 21, 2010

Naming Infinity: A True Story of Religious Mysticism And Mathematical Creativity By Loren Graham and Jean-Michel Kantor (Belknap Press, 239 pp., $25.95) A starry firmament, or sand cascading through one’s open fingers, or weeds springing up time after time: the first conception of infinity, of the uncountable and the unending, is not recorded, but it must have been stimulated by experiences such as these. It may have merged in the mind of an ancient progenitor with thoughts of a God, a possessor of unlimited might, an infinite being itself.

Infinite Life
July 21, 2010

Naming Infinity: A True Story of Religious Mysticism And Mathematical Creativity By Loren Graham and Jean-Michel Kantor (Belknap Press, 239 pp., $25.95) A starry firmament, or sand cascading through one’s open fingers, or weeds springing up time after time: the first conception of infinity, of the uncountable and the unending, is not recorded, but it must have been stimulated by experiences such as these. It may have merged in the mind of an ancient progenitor with thoughts of a God, a possessor of unlimited might, an infinite being itself.

The Counter-Thinker
July 21, 2010

The Tyranny of Guilt: An Essay on Western MasochisBy Pascal Bruckner Translated by Steven Rendall (Princeton University Press, 239 pp., $26.95) I. Once upon a time, it seemed an incontestable fact that the life of the mind radiated from the Left Bank outward. Within a small quadrant of the Latin Quarter in Paris, an intellectual elite labored to produce magisterial works that lesser minds all over the world received eagerly, gratefully—and by and large uncritically.

A Deal With The Devil
July 17, 2010

Emissary of the Doomed: Bargaining For Lives in the Holocaust by Ronald Florence (Viking, 336 pp., $27.95)  I. March 18, 1944 was an unusually pleasant spring day in Budapest, with crowds filling the outdoor cafés: it was difficult to tell that Hungary was at war. Rumors were spread about the government’s secret negotiations with the Western Allies, and all surmised that an unspoken agreement existed according to which the Hungarians would not fire on American and British aircraft overflying the country and the enemy aircraft would not drop any bombs.

A Deal With The Devil
July 17, 2010

Emissary of the Doomed: Bargaining For Lives in the Holocaust by Ronald Florence (Viking, 336 pp., $27.95)  I. March 18, 1944 was an unusually pleasant spring day in Budapest, with crowds filling the outdoor cafés: it was difficult to tell that Hungary was at war. Rumors were spread about the government’s secret negotiations with the Western Allies, and all surmised that an unspoken agreement existed according to which the Hungarians would not fire on American and British aircraft overflying the country and the enemy aircraft would not drop any bombs.

The Reactionary
July 16, 2010

Field Notes on Democracy: Listening to Grasshoppers By Arundhati Roy (Haymarket Books, 230 pp., $20) In 2009 The Lancet, the prestigious British medical journal, published a study on death by fire. In the country under review, approximately one hundred thousand women perished over the course of a single year. Victims of domestic violence and participants in dowry disputes were being murdered, and the government was doing hardly anything to intervene.

The Reactionary
July 16, 2010

Field Notes on Democracy: Listening to Grasshoppers By Arundhati Roy (Haymarket Books, 230 pp., $20) In 2009 The Lancet, the prestigious British medical journal, published a study on death by fire. In the country under review, approximately one hundred thousand women perished over the course of a single year. Victims of domestic violence and participants in dowry disputes were being murdered, and the government was doing hardly anything to intervene.

Krugman’s Tales from the Crypt
July 10, 2010

If repetition doesn’t improve the argument, try escalation. Paul Krugman, Princeton’s Nobel laureate-turned-columnist, has been haranguing the Europeans, and the Germans in particular, to drop their fiscal tightwad act: Don’t cut government spending, keep the deficits rolling.

The Stupidest Man in America
July 02, 2010

Like Satan, Sodomy and Socialism, Soccer begins with an S. Obviously, then, it's un-American and likely to corrupt these great United States. Hats off to Marc Thiessen for scrawling the most absurd anti-soccer nonsense of the World Cup. At long last we have a winner: The world is crazy for soccer, but most Americans don’t give a hoot about the sport. Why? Many years ago, my former White House colleague Bill McGurn pointed out to me the real reason soccer hasn’t caught on in the good old U.S.A. It’s simple, really: Soccer is a socialist sport. Think about it.

The Patriarch
July 01, 2010

Moses Montefiore: Jewish Liberator, Imperial Hero By Abigail Green (Harvard University Press, 540 pp., $35) In 1827, an upright, well-to-do English gentleman, traveling through the Levant with his lady wife, ran into some dirty weather en route from Alexandria to Malta. But this particular gentleman was called Moses and his notion of calming the sea was to throw the afikoman half of the middle matzoh of the Passover seder into the churning waters. Apparently, as Abigail Green tells it, in some Sephardi traditions the breaking of the afikoman symbolizes the parting of the Red Sea.

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