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About the book
  • Published: 15 October 2018
  • ISBN: 9781845952495
  • Imprint: Pimlico
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 528
  • RRP: $49.99

Personal Impressions

Formats & editions

The third, enlarged edition of Isaiah Berlin's remarkable series of character portraits, Personal Impressions

The third, enlarged edition of Isaiah Berlin's remarkable series of character portraits, Personal Impressions

Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Virginia Woolf, Aldous Huxley, Albert Einstein, Boris Pasternak and Anna Akhmatova: Isaiah Berlin’s Personal Impressions collects the essayist and intellectual historian’s most remarkable portraits of prominent twentieth-century thinkers, writers and politicians.

For this third, enlarged edition, ten new pieces have been added, including portraits of David Ben-Gurion, Maynard and Lydia Keynes, and Stephen Spender, as well as Berlin's autobiographical reflections on Jewish Oxford and his Oxford undergraduate years. Rich and enlightening, Personal Impressions is a vibrant demonstration of Berlin's belief that ideas truly live only through people.

  • Pub date: 15 October 2018
  • ISBN: 9781845952495
  • Imprint: Pimlico
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 528
  • RRP: $49.99

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 Personal Impressions

“This is more than a collection of brilliantly perceptive portraits from the life of men as various as Churchill, Namier, Einstein, Pasternak. It is also a window into one of the wisest, most spacious and generous minds of our time”


“This is an amazingly enjoyable book from a very gifted and fortunate man”

Christopher Hitchens, New Statesman

“Marvellously good reading... A quarter of the entire volume is occupied by [an] essay in which Berlin recalls his meetings with Pasternak and Anna Akhmatova in 1945 and 1956. This last essay, in particular, is simply stunning”

Alan Ryan, Sunday Times

“Welcoming and rewarding… This splendid book bring[s] the past to life. It lives for Berlin, and, thanks to him, it lives for us”

Peter Stansky, New York Times Book Review

“It is one of Berlin's most endearing characteristics that he can admire so many utterly diverse people, that he can tell us about them all, and see the point of them’”

Mary Warnock, Listener

“It is hard to think of any other writer who is so penetrating, so amusing, and yet so entirely free of malice… No one, I believe, who reads his books could fail to recognise that they are in the presence of someone who is not only hugely gifted intellectually, but who is also the most sympathetic, ebullient ,and generous man whom they arc ever likely to encounter”

Anthony Storr, Spectator

“An invigorating spectacle of the liberal mind at its most assured and unobstructed, glorying in the variety of human character and achievement which it is the chief purpose of liberalism to applaud and protect”

Anthony Quinton, Encounter

“Among men of learning in history and philosophy Isaiah Berlin is probably the most captivating expositor of ideas in the English-speaking world. The subject of Personal Impressions is men and women inhabited by intellects that blend with or distort their characters and become important personal visions… His writing has all the élan of conversation”

V. S. Pritchett, New York Review of Books

“A succession of portraits that in the end evokes the portrait of the author himself: a man of moral intuition and superb intelligence, of empathy and magnanimity, of unerring sharpness and style”

Fritz Stern, Foreign Affairs

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