Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Marci Shore

Marci Shore is an Assistant Professor in the Department of History at Yale University where she teaches European cultural and intellectual history. She is the author of Caviar and Ashes: A Warsaw Generation's Life and Death in Marxism, 1918-1968 (Yale University Press, 2006) and the translator of Michal Glowinski‘s Holocaust memoir The Black Seasons (Northwestern University Press, 2005).

Among the praise for Caviar and Ashes:
“This book is utterly original, and its scholarship—and I don’t use this word lightly—is breathtaking. Shore has produced a penetrating study of a host of the twentieth century’s most perplexing issues.”
—Jan T. Gross, Princeton University
Late last month I asked Shore what she was reading. Her reply:
Barack Obama, Dreams from My Father

Especially impressive is the author’s honesty and humility—and his appreciation for the situations in which no ideal resolution seems possible, and for the complex personalities (his father’s above all) which reveal how the same person can do both good and bad. This is not a “conversion” story, not a narrative of “from darkness into light” or “from falsity to authenticity.” The author resists both ideological certainty and essentialized identity. This is the story of a young man who comes to appreciate more and more that people—human identity, human motivations—are complicated. He neither idealizes those whom he loves nor demonizes those who work against him. This is a coming-of-age story that offers no absolute answers to the problems of race, class, the third World, poverty, crime, or hate—but rather reveals a penetrating sensitivity to the complexity of the problems.

Isaiah Berlin, Freedom and Its Betrayal: Six Enemies of Human Liberty

Isaiah Berlin is always a pleasure to read. His prose is beautifully lucid; he has an uncanny ability to extract the essence of often very convoluted thought. Berlin’s central critique of the Enlightenment is that Enlightenment thought denied tragedy in favor of an insistence on harmony and compatibility: the idea that truth, happiness, and virtue go together. For Berlin, this was a misunderstanding: society is not a harmonious whole, some good things exclude other good things. Visions of perfection can be realized only at the cost of human freedom.

Tony Judt, Reappraisals: Reflections on the Forgotten Twentieth Century

Tony Judt is in many ways an heir to Isaiah Berlin’s legacy: in his lucidity, in his talent for distilling abstruse thought; in his distrust of utopian visions. Judt’s prose is at once provocative and dazzling. His intellect is sharp—but not cavalier: like Isaiah Berlin, Judt is deeply concerned with moral questions, and he feels the heaviness of the European twentieth century as intensely as any historian has ever felt it.
Visit Marci Shore's faculty webpage and read more about Caviar and Ashes at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue