Leszek Kolakowski (1927-2009), born in Radom, Poland, was Professor of the History of Philosophy at the University of Warsaw until expelled from that post for political reasons by the Communist authorities in 1968. He left Poland that same year and from 1970 was Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford. He was also Professor at the Committee on Social Thought at the University at Chicago. He is the author of, among others, Main Currents of Marxism, Religion, Bergson, God Owes us Nothing and Horror Metaphysicus; a large number of essay collections, among them Modernity on Endless Trial, The Two Eyes of Spinoza, Why Is There Something Rather Than Nothing? and Freedom, Fame, Lying and Betrayal; and three books of stories, The Key to Heaven, Conversations with the Devil and Tales from the Kingdom of Lailonia. He was the recipient of many honorary doctorates, both in Europe and in the US, and many prizes and awards - among them the Erasmus Prize, the Prix Tocqueville, the Jefferson Prize, the MacArthur award and the Kluge Prize.
There can be few more eminent figures in the world of ideas * The
The most esteemed philosopher * Independent *
His distinctive mix of irony and moral seriousness, religious sensibility and epistemological scepticism, social engagement and political doubt was truly rare ... a true Central European intellectual - perhaps the last -- Tony Judt * The New York Times Review of Books *
The word "mordant" may have been invented to describe a writer such as the late Kolakowski (1927-2009), public intellectual, brilliant stylist, and prolific author. This selection of essays not only offers new translations but also spans half a century of the Polish author's work, illustrating his distinctive voice and intellectual preoccupations. The essays in the book are organized loosely into thematic areas-socialism and other political topics; religion, God, and evil; and modernity and the past-but Kolakowski brought to his subjects a mind that sees connections. He was a philosopher engaged with political questions, fiercely anticommunist, and profoundly marked by the moral and political traumas of, first, Nazi and then Soviet-initiated Communist domination of his homeland. Kolakowski knew history and the history of his chosen discipline, philosophy, and it informed his arguments with God and everybody else, conducted in bitingly ironic fashion. He deserves greater appreciation for the inimitable way he articulated the great moral questions that haunted European intellectuals after midcentury and before postmodernism disengaged the intelligentsia. (Feb. 5) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Happiness is difficult even for Koakowski (1927-2009), who rose quickly to professor of philosophy at the University of Warsaw until 1968, when the Communist regime's grip tightened and he left Poland for Berkeley, CA, and All Souls, Oxford. In this collection of 28 essays, ten of which appear for the first time in English, Koakowski is preoccupied with religion (mostly Christianity) and the Stalinist twists and outcomes of Marxism. The remainder of his writings center on the theory of history and the history of philosophy. Koakowski's Jesus is not God but rather a troubled man teaching love and opposing legalism. In some places, the author touches upon a possible apocalypse (e.g., in "Our Merry Apocalypse") but sees us, like God, as struggling with glimpsed fundamental values amid a sea of troubles and finds no final pattern in history or philosophy. VERDICT A pudding with plums (glimpses of the human predicament) but also soggy parts (old disputes about the lost world of communism). Worthwhile for the plums.-Leslie Armour, Dominican Univ. Coll., Ottawa, Ont. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.