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The two faces of Isaiah Berlin

On the 100th anniversary of his birth, the second volume of the letters of one of the 20th century's great intellectuals makes strange reading: in turn troubling, exasperating, two-faced, self-absorbed - and laced with wit, provocation and soaring intellectual flights

By David Herman   June 2009

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Isaiah Berlin, Enlightening: Letters 1946-1960 Edited by Henry Hardy and Jennifer Holmes (Chatto & Windus, £35)

Will Isaiah Berlin’s reputation survive the publication of these letters? This may seem an extraordinary question. Berlin is widely considered one of the leading liberal thinkers of the mid-20th century. This second volume of his letters covers his greatest years: the post-war period when he wrote the essays on political philosophy, on Russian 19th century thought and literature and on the history of ideas which were to prove the basis of his reputation. It offers…

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