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.
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 * Observer * 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 *