Osamu Dazai’s The Setting Sun

I have been reading post-war Japanese literature of late, in the conviction that Japan’s shock transition from a self-governed empire into an economy neatly folded into the international world order might shed some light on what has happened in the […]

Kanan Makiya’s Republic Of Fear

When Republic Of Fear, an inside look at how the Ba’ath Party ruled Iraq, was finally published in 1989, after three long years of publishers deferring out of sheer disbelief at the horrific details contained within, Saddam Hussein had not […]

David W. Blight’s Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom

The man the world would come to know as Frederick Douglass was born into slavery as Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey on a plantation in Talbot County, Maryland, but he shed his middle names soon after shedding his manacles, giving himself […]

Alberto Moravia’s Agostino

Alberto Moravia was a decorated Italian author whose life, from 1907 to 1990, spanned most of the 20th century. Two consequential events marked him from a young age: his diagnosis, at 9 years old, with tuberculosis of the bone, resulting […]

Carl Jung’s Modern Man In Search Of A Soul

Carl Jung, I assume, needs no introduction, but Modern Man In Search Of A Soul – a collection of his lecture and one original essay – was my first foray into the work of the famous Swiss psychologist. This volume was consciously […]

Joseph Frank’s Dostoevsky: The Stir of Liberation, 1860-1865

The third volume of the late Princeton professor Joseph Frank’s Dostoevsky pentalogy begins on the heels of the second, with Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky returned from his exile in a Siberian labour camp and released from the subsequent mandatory military service […]

Derek Raymond’s He Died With His Eyes Open

Crime and detective fiction have never been of particular interest to me, but the late British writer Derek Raymond – real name Robert William Arthur Cook – has been recommended by so wide a variety of authors that I felt compelled […]

Yukio Mishima’s The Sound Of Waves

Yukio Mishima was unknown to me up until late last year, after which point he has been inescapable. Book-loving friends have pressed him on me; political commentators and polemicists I follow have invoked his name, his writings, or his life. […]

Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Notes From A Dead House

Prison memoirs, fictionalized or not, are now so numerous that they almost constitute a genre unto themselves, but Dostoevsky’s semi-autobiographical Notes From A Dead House, sometimes translated as The House Of The Dead, was one of the earliest and most […]

Ben Macintyre’s Rogue Heroes

In late April of 1980, six armed men, members of an Arab nationalist group, stormed the Iranian embassy in London and barricaded themselves inside, taking 26 hostages as leverage for their demands: the release of Arab prisoners held in Iran, […]

Gertrude Himmelfarb’s On Looking Into The Abyss

Gertrude Himmerlfarb passed away last December, at the age of 97. She was one of America’s most decorated historians, with a publishing career spanning more than half a century. Even her family merits mentioning: her late husband was the influential […]

Osamu Dazai’s No Longer Human

In film, extreme close-up shots are used to discomfit viewers and convey to them, in often painstaking detail, the psychology of the character in focus. Osamu Dazai’s No Longer Human is a kind of literary extreme close-up of the life […]

Patrick White’s Flaws In The Glass

Patrick White was the 1973 recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature, the first – and of this writing, the only – Australian to win the award, and it was this fame that motivated me to snatch his memoir from […]

Christopher Dawson’s Religion And Culture

Ten years ago, it would have been unimaginable to me that I would read a Catholic historian with great pleasure, or take seriously his thesis that religions were inseparable, indispensable elements of culture. I began this blog describing myself as […]

Roger Scruton’s Modern Culture

Roger Scruton died earlier this year. There are very few people who can fairly be described as irreplaceable, but he was certainly one. Who among us now can claim his vast array of talents or rival his broad base of […]