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About the book
  • Published: 1 June 2005
  • ISBN: 9780712635653
  • Imprint: Pimlico
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 816
  • RRP: $45.00

Flourishing

Letters 1928 - 1946


Formats & editions


FLOURISHING is the first volume of a keenly awaited edition of the marvellously readable and entertaining letters of the most famous English intellectual of the last century.

'Life is not worth living unless one can be indiscreet to intimate friends,' wrote Isaiah Berlin to a correspondent. FLOURISHING inaugurates a keenly awaited edition of Berlin's letters that might well adopt this remark as an epigraph. Berlin's life was enormously worth living, both for himself and for us; and fortunately he said a great deal to his friends on paper as well as in person. The indiscretions, thought engaging, are of course only part of the story. Berlin is one of the towering intellectual figures of the twentieth century, and the focus of growing interest and discussion. Above all, he is one of the best modern exponents of the disappearing art of letter-writing.
When this volume opens Berlin is eighteen, a pupil at St Paul's School in London. He becomes an undergraduate at Oxford, then a Fellow of All Souls, where he writes his celebrated biography of Karl Marx. When that is complete he moves to New College to teach philosophy, and after the outbreak of the Second World War sails to America in somewhat mysterious circumstances with Guy Burgess. He stays in the USA, working for the British Government (apart from visits home and his famous trip to the Soviet Union in 1945-6) until April 1946, when he returns to Oxford, and the volume closes. Berlin's letters are marvellously accessible, and as entertaining as a novel. During the two decades covered here we see his personality and career growing and blooming. In America he writes a regular telegram to his anxious parents, often saying just 'Flourishing'; the word is entirely apt, not only for his wartime experience, but for the whole of his early life, vividly displayed in this book in all its multi-faceted delightfulness.

  • Pub date: 1 June 2005
  • ISBN: 9780712635653
  • Imprint: Pimlico
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 816
  • RRP: $45.00

About the Author

Isaiah Berlin

Isaiah Berlin was born in Riga, now capital of Latvia, in 1909. When he was six, his family moved to Russia, and in Petrograd in 1917 Berlin witnessed both Revolutions - Social Democratic and Bolshevik. In 1921 he and his parents emigrated to England, where he was educated at St Paul's School, London, and Corpus Christi College, Oxford. Apart from his war service in New York, Washington, Moscow and Leningrad, he remained at Oxford thereafter - as a Fellow of All Souls, then of New College, as Chichele Professor of Social and Political Theory, and as founding President of Wolfson College. He also held the Presidency of the British Academy.

His published work includes Karl Marx, Russian Thinkers, Concepts and Categories, Against the Current, Personal Impressions, The Sense of Reality, The Proper Study of Mankind, The Roots of Romanticism, The Power of Ideas, Three Critics of the Enlightenment, Freedom and Its Betrayal, Liberty, The Soviet Mind and Political Ideas in the Romantic Age. As an exponent of the history of ideas he was awarded the Erasmus, Lippincott and Agnelli Prizes; he also received the Jerusalem Prize for his lifelong defence of civil liberties. He died in 1997.

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Praise for Flourishing

“'enthralling...Berlin's letters crackle with wit'”

Nicholas Lezard, Guardian

“'anyone who knows Berlin's writing through his slightly stodgy essays will find these vivid letters a revelation'”

Christopher Hirst, Independent


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