Robert Louis Stevenson

The Stranger's Child  By Alan Hollinghurst  (Knopf, 435 pp., $27.95) As one looks back to the founding years of literary modernism in Europe, it is possible to discern a parting of ways that occurred on or about the eve of World War I. Along one twilit and at times tortuous path ventured Yeats and Henry James at the head of their few stragglers, while down the other broad thoroughfare strode the forces of the avant-garde, led by Pound, Joyce, and Eliot. Pound’s exhortation to “make it new” was a clarion call to stir the blood of young men already feeling the ground quaking under their boots.

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Continental Divide: Heidegger, Cassirer, Davos By Peter E. Gordon (Harvard University Press, 426 pp., $39.95) I. The Swiss town of Davos was once famed as a sanatorium. It provided pastoral balm for mental breakdown (Ernst Ludwig Kirchner), relief from chronic illness (Aby Warburg), and an Alpine antidote to tuberculosis (Robert Louis Stevenson finished Treasure Island there). This concentration of ailing artists and intellectuals produced its own distinctive cultural life, immortalized by Thomas Mann in 1924 in The Magic Mountain.

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To laymen, the dichotomy between law and literature is merely one aspect of the conflict between law and life. A feeling so widely and deeply held by even the most cultivated outside the law cannot be nurtured wholly upon untruth. And yet it conceals a fine covey of paradoxes which would have been fair game for a Hazlitt, though for all I know he himself shared the feeling or put to flight at least some of its paradoxes. That nothing which is human is alien to him, is truer of the lawyer than even of doctor or priest.

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