Book review: The Crooked Timber of Humanity, By Isaiah Berlin


Berlin is a mystery. You encounter the ecstatic cover puffs (TLS: "often self-mocking… full of gaiety and amusement") and then the serpentine pontifications inside and you wonder if you've been reading the same book.

This reviewer failed to find a single example of self-mockery or amusement in these "chapters in the history of ideas". And there are odd omissions.

We learn that "Scarcely anyone in Oxford had then heard of Vico" but not that Vico was a major influence on Joyce. If the title seems uncharacteristically lively, it comes from Kant.