Sarah Bakewell, (1962-) is an English writer of non-fiction. She has published four books: The Smart (about an 18th century forgery); The English Dane (about a 19th century adventurer who was a key player in a revolution in Iceland to break from Danish control); How To Live: A Life of Montaigne; her latest is At the Existentialist Cafe (about the existentialist movement).
"Who do we think we are?"
That huge identity question roils the world, including our closest relations. Many Scots want to leave Britain, especially if Britain leaves the EU. Other Europeans are challenged by the integration of refugees from other places, especially Muslims. Eastern Europeans who had longed to join their old European cultural family have ended up disappointed.
Capsule reviews/summaries of a miscellany of books read July-August, 2106.
John Horne Burns (1916-1953): The Gallery
This first novel, published in 1947, is set largely in Naples in August, 1944 during the Allied, mainly US, occupation while war against the Germans continued to the north. The novel was widely acclaimed for its uncompromising portrayal of the motives and methods of the occupation and its effects on individuals, and morals, on both sides. Burns pulled no punches in his evaluation of American actions:
J'ai beaucoup aimé ce livre de Mémoires de notre ancien Ministre, en particulier la partie très originale consacrée à la diplomatie parlementaire internationale , un domaine auquel le Ministre Graham a apporté une contribution significative.
Penelope Fitzgerald (1916-2008) was an English novelist, poet, essayist and biographer. In the 1950s, she worked, with her husband, as co-editor of a magazine called World Review to which she contributed articles on literature, music and sculpture. She and her husband lived in public housing in the 1960s after her husband was disbarred for forging cheques. She then worked as a teacher in a drama school. Fitzgerald launched her literary career at the age of 58, in 1975. She won the Booker Prize for her novel Offshore (1979). The Times included her in a list of the 50 greatest British writers since 1945. The Observer named her novel, The Blue Flower, as one of the ten best historical novels.
Stefan Zweig: Beware of Pity
Zweig (1881-1942) was an Austrian novelist, playwright, librettist, journalist, and biographer. At the height of his literary career in the 1920s-1930s, he was one of the most popular, and most translated, writers in the world. As Hitler consolidated power, Zweig left Austria, in 1934, to move to England. In 1940, Zweig and his wife moved to New York where they lived for two months before moving again, to Brazil where they committed suicide in February, 1942. Looking at the state of Europe, Zweig wrote in his suicide note: "I think it better to conclude in good time and in erect bearings a life in which intellectual labour meant the purest joy and personal freedom the highest good on Earth."