The week in books

January 10, 2008

Nazi Germany and the Jews: The Years of Extermination, 1939-45 by Saul Friedländer. Weidenfeld and Nicolson, £30.00, ISBN 978297818779
"Friedlander's (1939 Club chair in Holocaust studies, University of California, Los Angeles) thesis rests on the centrality of racial anti-Semitism in defining the goals of German policies. For him the 'Final Solution of the Jewish Question' was not an epiphenomenon, derived from objectives such as economic expansion, repopulation schemes or a geopolitical reordering of Europe. On the contrary, the prime movers of policy were ideological and cultural factors, factors that were there from the start of the Third Reich, though notions on their implementation fluctuated and evolved erratically."
Peter Pulzer, Times Literary Supplement

Burning to Read: English Fundamentalism and its Renaissance Opponents by James Simpson. Harvard University Press, £18.95, ISBN 9780674026711
"James Simpson's [Douglas P. and Katherine B. Loker professor of English, Harvard University] unremittingly clever new book suggests we re-examine the early 16th century in order to make sense of contemporary culture. His aim, however, is to disabuse us of the assumption that modern liberalism can lay claim to unproblematic origins in the Protestant Reformation."
Marcus Nevitt, The Daily Telegraph

The Naked Man: A Study of the Male Body by Desmond Morris. Jonathan Cape, £18.99, ISBN 9780224080422
"Desmond Morris [zoologist and ethologist] suggests that for secular modern man, at least, his 'soul', his only chance of immortality, resides not in his brain, or his heart, or his pineal gland... but only in his genetic material. Not only is there no God, not only are we close relatives of the chimpanzee and orang-utan, not only do we face the certainty of personal extinction in a cosmos of chilly and infinite indifference, but as a final indignity it turns out that the modern man carries his soul in his underpants."
Christopher Hart, The Sunday Times

Jesus Christ: The Gospels presented by Terry Eagleton. Verso, £7.99, ISBN 9781844671762
"Terry Eagleton's [John Edward Taylor professor of English literature, University of Manchester] book is the most interesting in the series, not just because Eagleton is on such good form ­ iconoclastic, intellectually spry and eloquent ­ but because Jesus¹s revolutionary credentials are the least well established." Laurence Phelan, The Independent on Sunday

A History of Histories: Chronicles, Romances and Inquiries from Herodotus and Thucydides to the 20th Century by John Burrow. Allen Lane, £25.00, ISBN 9780713993370
"Throughout, John Burrow's [emeritus fellow of Balliol College, Oxford] approach is frustratingly old fashioned as he catalogues one damned historian after another. We never meet readers of the historians' own days, and we rarely get a sense of the culture and society that surrounded them."
Felipe Fernández-Armesto, The Sunday Times

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