On Evil, By Terry Eagleton

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The Independent Culture

"Those who sentimentally indulge humanity do it no favours," argues Eagleton in this brisk, deep and oddly entertaining book about mankind at its very worst.

Splicing his radical affiliations with a respectful grounding in traditional theology, the critic aims to rescue the reality of evil. He argues against liberals who would discount the idea as the hangover from a superstitious age.

Eagleton begins with James Bulger and, if he treats the boy's killers merely as "semi-socialised creatures", he firmly accepts the truth of evil as a proud, clever and almost abstract cruelty, from Iago to the Nazis.

Eagleton's evil is a form of absolute selfishness built upon the denial of our mortality, and of our dependence from the womb "on others of our kind".