“Italo Calvino – A Life” – Bristol Festival of Ideas hosts PUP authors this week


Michael Wood and Martin McLaughlin will be speaking about their much anticipated new collection of Italo Calvino’s letters, Italo Calvino: Letters, 1941-1985  at the Bristol Festival of Ideas this Wednesday 3rd July. The editors of this wonderful volume will discuss how they first came across Calvino, how they met and why they decided to edit this volume, the importance of the translation in how we interpret the letters, the selection and editing process, what they had to leave out, and the writing and the man himself.

The event will take place at Watershed Waterside 3 in Bristol at 7:45pm on 3rd July. For more information, or to order tickets, please visit the Festival of Ideas website.

Two for Tuesday – Auden and Picasso

W. H. Auden and Pablo Picasso were brilliant twentieth century artists creating images — one through poetry, and the other, through paintings. Princeton University Press is pleased to announce the publication of two new books focusing on their work.

audenFor the Time Being: A Christmas Oratorio
W. H. Auden
Edited and with an introduction by Alan Jacobs

For the Time Being is a pivotal book in the career of one of the greatest poets of the twentieth century. W. H. Auden had recently moved to America, fallen in love with a young man to whom he considered himself married, rethought his entire poetic and intellectual equipment, and reclaimed the Christian faith of his childhood. Then, in short order, his relationship fell apart and his mother, to whom he was very close, died. In the midst of this period of personal crisis and intellectual remaking, he decided to write a poem about Christmas and to have it set to music by his friend Benjamin Britten. Applying for a Guggenheim grant, Auden explained that he understood the difficulty of writing something vivid and distinctive about that most clichéd of subjects, but welcomed the challenge. In the end, the poem proved too long and complex to be set by Britten, but in it we have a remarkably ambitious and poetically rich attempt to see Christmas in double focus: as a moment in the history of the Roman Empire and of Judaism, and as an ever-new and always contemporary event for the believer. For the Time Being is Auden’s only explicitly religious long poem, a technical tour de force, and a revelatory window into the poet’s personal and intellectual development. This edition provides the most accurate text of the poem, a detailed introduction by Alan Jacobs that explains its themes and sets the poem in its proper contexts, and thorough annotations of its references and allusions.

Alan Jacobs is the Clyde S. Kilby Professor of English at Wheaton College in Illinois. He previously edited Auden’s The Age of Anxiety for this series, and is the author of several books, including most recently The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction.

We invite you to read the Preface online: http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/p9946.pdf

picassoPicasso and Truth: From Cubism to Guernica
T. J. Clark

Was Picasso the artist of the twentieth century? In Picasso and Truth, T. J. Clark uses his inimitable skills as art historian and writer to answer this question and reshape our understanding of Picasso’s achievement. Supported by more than 200 images, Clark’s new approach to the central figure of modern art focuses on Picasso after the First World War: his galumphing nudes of the early 1920s, the incandescent Guitar and Mandolin on a Table from 1924, Three Dancers done a year later, the hair-raising Painter and Model from 1927, the monsters and voracious bathers that follow, and finally–summing up but also saying farewell to the age of Cubism–the great mural Guernica.

Based on Clark’s A. W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts, delivered at the National Gallery of Art, Picasso and Truth argues that the way to take Picasso’s true measure as an artist is to leave behind biography–the stale stories of lovers and hangers-on and suntans at the beach that presently constitute the “Picasso literature”–and try to follow the steps of his pictorial argument. As always with Clark, specific works of art hold center stage. But finding words for them involves thinking constantly about modern culture in general. Here the book takes Nietzsche as guide.

Is Picasso the artist Nietzsche was hoping for–the one come to cure us of our commitment to Truth? Certainly, as the dark central years of the twentieth century encroached, Picasso began to lose confidence in Cubism’s comprehensiveness and optimism. Picasso and Truth charts this shift in vivid detail, making it possible for us to see Picasso turn away from eyesight, felt proximity, and the ground of shared experience–the warmth and safety that Clark calls “room-space”–to stake everything on a glittering, baffling, unbelievable here and now. And why? Because the most modernity can hope for from art, Picasso’s new paintings seem to say, is a picture of the strange damaged world we have made for ourselves. In all its beauty and monstrosity.

T. J. Clark is George C. and Helen N. Pardee Professor of Art History Emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of The Painting of Modern Life (Princeton), The Sight of Death, and Farewell to an Idea, and the coauthor of (with “Retort”) Afflicted Powers.

We invite you to listen to an interview with T. J. Clark on BBC Radio 3 Nightwaves (22 minutes in).

BOOK LAUNCH (June 10, 6:30 PM): Join Derek Sayer, Michael Beckerman, Jindřich Toman, and Peter Zusi for a discussion on Prague – the dark capital of the twentieth century

Derek Sayer‘s book Prague, Capital of the Twentieth Century: A Surrealist History, will be released June 10, 2013 at 6:30 PM in The Masaryk Room at University College London. Dialogue with Sayer, Michael Beckerman (New York University), Jindrich Toman (University of Michigan Ann-Arbor), and Peter Zusi (University College London) celebrates the release of the book. Conversation will center around topics that stem from the controversial history of the Czech Republic’s capital and largest city.

Sayer has received praise for his analysis of Prague’s history, bringing to life not only the art and design of the city, but also a vivid account of Prague’s entire cultural background:

This is a fascinating and brilliantly written narrative that combines elements of literary guide, biography, cultural history, and essay. Writing with warm engagement, and drawing on his detailed knowledge of Czech literature, art, architecture, music, and other fields, Derek Sayer provides a rich picture of a dynamic cultural landscape.“–Jindrich Toman, University of Michigan

[A] captivating portrait of 20th-century Prague. . . . The breadth of Sayer’s knowledge is encyclopedic, and those willing to stay the course will be rewarded.“–Publishers Weekly

Prague, Capital of the Twentieth Century is an erudite, comprehensive, well-illustrated and witty account of Czech art, design, architecture, literature and music in an era–stretching roughly from Czechoslovakia’s creation in 1918 to the end of the second world war–when few in Paris, Berlin, London or even New York would have thought of the Czechs as not being part of western civilisation. . . . [I]n this book [Sayer] has succeeded in bringing back to life a golden avant-garde era that not long ago was in danger of being written out of history altogether.“–Tony Barber, Financial Times

Book launch and conversation: Prague, Capital of the Twentieth Century?

Setting out to recover the dreamworlds of modernity in the boulevards, interiors, and arcades of the “city of light,” Walter Benjamin dubbed Paris “the capital of the nineteenth century.” With Prague, Capital of the Twentieth Century: A Surrealist History (Princeton University Press) Derek Sayer christens a new global capital for a darker century. Michael Beckerman, Jindřich Toman, and Peter Zusi join him in conversation to celebrate the publication of the book.

A Conversation

Michael Beckerman (New York University)
Jindrich Toman (University of Michigan-Ann Arbor)
Derek Sayer (Lancaster University)
Peter Zusi (University College London)

All welcome – this event is free, no registration needed.
More info: p.zusi@ucl.ac.uk


The Masaryk Room, 4th Floor, The School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University College London, 16 Taviton Street, London WC1H 0BW


10 Jun 2013 18:30


Czech Center is a co-organizer of the event.

For more information on this event, please visit the following page:

T J Clark at Bristol Festival of Ideas This Weekend

Clark author photo

T J Clark’s Picasso and Truth offers a breathtaking and original new look at the most significant artist of the modern era. This Saturday evening, T J Clark will be speaking about this important painter and his new book at a Bristol Festival of Ideas event.

Please click here if you would like to find out more about this event.

T J Clark will also be speaking at:

The London Review Bookshop on 28th May (sold out)

Hay Festival on 30th May

Birkbeck, University of London on 7th June (free entry)

and the London Lit Weekend on 5th October (stay tuned for more information)

Discovering Descartes

Descartes famously wrote “I am, I exist” and “I think, therefore I am.” But who was he? Kevin Hart of The Australian explores who the man behind these words was and the legacy that he left as described in Steven Nadler’s new book The Philosopher, the Priest, and the Painter: A Portrait of Descartes.

Capturing the ‘am’ of a great thinker

MANY people will be familiar with the most familiar image of French philosopher Rene Descartes. It depicts the head and shoulders of a middle-aged man with long dark hair, a moustache and a small beard under his lip.

He has a starched white collar that is folded over a black coat in the manner of 17th-century Dutch burghers. A strong aquiline nose and eyes with lids that seem about to cover them mark a face that gazes out at us a little quizzically.

Frans Hals, the great Dutch painter, once had Descartes sit for him. Was the portrait lost? Or did he simply do something small and quick, a portrait composed of short, broad strokes of paint applied roughly? We do not know for sure about a lost, full portrait, but we know the small one because it hangs in a museum in Copenhagen, and has been copied many times.

Steven Nadler’s charming introduction to Descartes begins with an evocation of Hals’s portrait of the philosopher, and the whole book is itself an intimate portrait of the man and his times. More exactly, it tells the story of how the portrait came to be painted.

[Read the complete article at The Australian]

Throwback Thursday with Isaiah Berlin: Against the Current

In celebration of the new printings of works by Isaiah Berlin, here is a “Throwback Thursday” image of the old jacket art from Against the Current: Essays in the History of Ideas. It was first published by Princeton in 2001 and the new edition will be available May 2013!

4-1 against the current BOTH

In this collection of essays, Berlin explains the importance of dissenters in the history of ideas. The history of ideas is a field of research that deals with the expression and change of human ideas over time. As a scholar in the history of ideas himself, Berlin’s essays in Against the Current have been heralded as luminous and rich.

In this particular volume of essays, Berlin examined figures who have had a significant influence on modern ideas, but were seen as relatively ridiculous in their own times. Among the essays in the collection, Berlin discusses ‘The Originality of Machiavelli’. Machiavelli’s most popular work The Prince was extremely controversial when it was published in the 1500s. While many at the time thought that his ideas concerning power and princedom were unconventional and even a bit ridiculous, The Prince had significant influence on later philosophical and political work.

For further reading while you are waiting for the new edition of Against the Current, PUP recently published an intellectual biography on Machiavelli:

Niccolò Machiavelli: An Intellectual Biography
by Corrado Vivanti, Translated by Simon MacMichael





Check out the Princeton Isaiah Berlin Facebook Page for more updates and information about all the new editions of Berlin’s works.

Princeton Isaiah Berlin | Promote Your Page Too

The Inner Life of Empires Comprehensive Web Resource Now Available

Inner Life of EmpiresEmma Rothschild, author of The Inner Life of Empires:An Eighteenth-Century History, has created a website featuring resources and additional information that complement her 2011 book. The Inner Life of Empires, which is newly available in paperback, features a unique look at the political, economical, and social landscape of the 18th century world through the Johnstone family’s rich history. The family’s widespread reach across the globe and relationships to the people and institutions that structured the time period create a comprehensive look at both the microcosm that is their family history and the macrocosm of the history of the 18th century. The website delves further into the content covered in Rothschild’s book by including interactive maps of the Johnstone family’s social and geographical networks, profiles of members of the Johnstone family, and some of the resources that Rothschild used while writing the book.

Used in conjunction with The Inner Life of Empires, the website serves as a helpful guide to illustrate a tremendous time in history all through the lives of the people who lived through it.

Visit the website: http://www.innerlifeofempires.org/

The Inner Life of Empires is the winner of the 2011 Scottish History Book of the Year Award, Saltire Society, one of The New Yorker‘s “Reviewer’s Favorites” of 2011, and was shortlisted for the 2012 Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust Book Awards (Non-Fiction category). It has been hailed by critics and consumers alike for its unique perspective on a pivotal time period in history.

Daniel Stedman Jones on Masters of the Universe

Stedman-Jones-at-LSE-3[3]Princeton author Daniel Stedman Jones had a busy day on 16th January promoting his recently published ‘Masters of the Universe: Hayek, Friedman, and the Birth of Neoliberal Politics’. In the afternoon he appeared on BBC Radio 4′s ‘Thinking Allowed’ and that evening he was the lead speaker at a public lecture based around the book at the London School of Economics where his respondents were Professor Lord Skidelsky and Professor Mark Pennington. Please follow the links to catch up with both events.


FACT: “FDR’s effectiveness as president and as keystone of the Grand Alliance depended on his personal alliances with dedicated, live-in aides who entertained him, translated his notions into pragmatic policy, and got results. Harry L. Hopkins and Marguerite ‘Missy’ LeHand (and in earlier years, Louis M. Howe and Thomas G. Corcoran) wore themselves out in trying to cope not only with the extraordinary needs of the ‘Boss’ but also with his possessiveness regarding even their personal lives. By 1944, the very time when Roosevelt faced mounting challenges in managing the war and planning the peace, he had lost the crucial players of his inner circle. FDR became, partly owing to his demanding nature, dangerously isolated.

Roosevelt’s Lost Alliances: How Personal Politics
Helped Start the Cold War

by Frank Costigliola

In the spring of 1945, as the Allied victory in Europe was approaching, the shape of the postwar world hinged on the personal politics and flawed personalities of Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin. Roosevelt’s Lost Alliances captures this moment and shows how FDR crafted a winning coalition by overcoming the different habits, upbringings, sympathies, and past experiences of the three leaders. In particular, Roosevelt trained his famous charm on Stalin, lavishing respect on him, salving his insecurities, and rendering him more amenable to compromise on some matters.

Yet, even as he pursued a lasting peace, FDR was alienating his own intimate circle of advisers and becoming dangerously isolated. After his death, postwar cooperation depended on Harry Truman, who, with very different sensibilities, heeded the embittered “Soviet experts” his predecessor had kept distant. A Grand Alliance was painstakingly built and carelessly lost. The Cold War was by no means inevitable.

This landmark study brings to light key overlooked documents, such as the Yalta diary of Roosevelt’s daughter Anna; the intimate letters of Roosevelt’s de facto chief of staff, Missy LeHand; and the wiretap transcripts of estranged adviser Harry Hopkins. With a gripping narrative and subtle analysis, Roosevelt’s Lost Alliances lays out a new approach to foreign relations history. Frank Costigliola highlights the interplay between national political interests and more contingent factors, such as the personalities of leaders and the culturally conditioned emotions forming their perceptions and driving their actions. Foreign relations flowed from personal politics—a lesson pertinent to historians, diplomats, and citizens alike.

We invite you to read the Introduction here: http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/i9524.pdf

Be sure to check in every Tuesday for a new tidbit from our great selection of politically-minded books.


FACT: “Catholics were first allowed to enlist in the British army in large numbers in the 1790s, and for more than a century thereafter tens and even hundreds of thousands of Irishmen continued to follow the increasingly well-worn path into the armed forces of the Crown. Many joined Irish regiments such as the Connaught Rangers, the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, and the King’s Liverpool Regiment (popularly known as the Liverpool Irish). In some cases, their uniform jackets were green, and the insignias on their jackets included harps, shamrocks, or other distinctively Irish symbols.”

Irish Nationalists and the Making of the Irish Race
by Bruce Nelson

This is a book about Irish nationalism and how Irish nationalists developed their own conception of the Irish race. Bruce Nelson begins with an exploration of the discourse of race—from the nineteenth—century belief that “race is everything” to the more recent argument that there are no races. He focuses on how English observers constructed the “native” and Catholic Irish as uncivilized and savage, and on the racialization of the Irish in the nineteenth century, especially in Britain and the United States, where Irish immigrants were often portrayed in terms that had been applied mainly to enslaved Africans and their descendants.

Most of the book focuses on how the Irish created their own identity—in the context of slavery and abolition, empire, and revolution. Since the Irish were a dispersed people, this process unfolded not only in Ireland, but in the United States, Britain, Australia, South Africa, and other countries. Many nationalists were determined to repudiate anything that could interfere with the goal of building a united movement aimed at achieving full independence for Ireland. But others, including men and women who are at the heart of this study, believed that the Irish struggle must create a more inclusive sense of Irish nationhood and stand for freedom everywhere. Nelson pays close attention to this argument within Irish nationalism, and to the ways it resonated with nationalists worldwide, from India to the Caribbean.

“This is a brilliant history of British imperial white racism and Irish resistance to it—and cooperation with it—in Ireland and the United States. From Frederick Douglass and Daniel O’Connell in the nineteenth century to Marcus Garvey and Liam Mellows in the twentieth, we are given here a pathbreaking account of a still unfinished struggle.”—Seamus Deane, Keough Emeritus Professor of Irish Studies, University of Notre Dame

We invite you to read Chapter 1 here: http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/s9719.pdf

Dana Mackenzie – Four Way Interview

Dana Mackenzie – Four Way Interview

Dana Mackenzie is the author of The Big Splat, or How Our Moon Came to Be (Wiley), among other books. He is a frequent contributor to Science, Discover, and New Scientist. He has a PhD in mathematics from Princeton and was a mathematics professor for thirteen years before becoming a full time writer. His latest book is The Universe in Zero Words.

Why maths?

To me, mathematics is the most universal language. It is a subject with a continuous unbroken tradition from the ancient Chinese, Babylonians, and Egyptians to the present day – a longer tradition than any other science and virtually any other human endeavor. It is an enabling subject, in the sense that every other science depends on it to some extent, and generally speaking the more modern a science becomes, the more explicitly it incorporates mathematical reasoning and ideas.

Most importantly and most personally for me, I love mathematics because there is no other field I know of where truth and beauty are so closely intertwined. They are related in the other sciences as well, but I still feel feel that scientific truths are to some extent contingent and occasionally a result of happenstance. Our knowledge is based upon imperfect data and our imperfect interpretations thereof. In
mathematics, by contrast, nothing is ever true by accident. A mathematical theorem, once proven correctly, can never be falsified. (It can only become irrelevant, and even then it often returns to relevance when you least expect it.) The best theorems, and the best proofs, are almost always the ones with the greatest beauty and economy of ideas.

Why this book?

My purpose in writing this book is to demystify mathematics, and in particular to demystify equations.

For many people, an equation is a forbidding and scary thing. It looks like some kind of mystical incantation filled with secrets they are not privy to. And yet for scientists, and especially for mathematicians, it is exactly the opposite. Words are too imprecise and clumsy to express the fine details of a mathematical idea; an equation is often the only way to do it. This is why I called the book The Universe in Zero Words - because by opening yourself up to equations (which typically have zero words), you open yourself to seeing the universe more clearly.

To compare words to equations, imagine comparing a painting of Earth to a Google map. No matter how well executed, the painting is rough and inaccurate. When you zoom in on it, you don’t see any new geographic details. By contrast, the farther you zoom into a Google map, the more interesting details you see. It is the same way with an equation. This book is an attempt to help the reader through that process, to see the ”Google Maps” version of mathematics rather than the caricature version that popular culture presents us.

I also wrote this book because I wanted to write a mathematics book! My first book (The Big Splat, or How Our Moon Came to Be) was about a subject that I had no special training in when I began the project. It was a great way to exercise and develop my journalistic muscles. For my second book, I wanted to write about something that I already knew a lot about. This allowed me to write from a much more personal point of view, rather than the dispassionate view of the journalist or historian.

What’s next?

In the short term, I am continuing to write a series of booklets for the American Mathematical Society called What’s Happening in the Mathematical Sciences. The next one in the series, volume 9, should come out early next year, and I am very busy with that and hoping that I can meet my deadline.

In the long term, I expect that at some point I will get to work on another trade book. I love writing the “What’s Happening” series, but I have to admit that it reaches a rather narrow audience. At this point I can only describe the broadest features of what I am looking for in my next mass market book. Having written one book “far from home” (about planetary science) and one “close to home” (about mathematics) I will probably venture “farther from home” again. But I may change that plan if The Universe in Zero Words is a big success, and if there seems to be a big demand for another mathematical book from me. I would also be interested in writing a book that takes place over a shorter time frame, because both of my previous books covered nearly the whole period of recorded history. There is something to be said for the classical unities of time, space, and action (although I would not interpret themtoo literally).

What’s exciting you at the moment?

Mostly the things I have written about most recently and the things I am writing about right now. That would include an article I wrote for Science magazine about robotic flapping birds, and a chapter I wrote for What’s Happening in the Mathematical Sciences about mathematical algorithms to solve Rubik’s cube. An interesting thing that they had in common was that for the first time I found myself using YouTube as a research tool! There is an absolutely amazing video on YouTube of one of the new robotic birds, designed by a German company called Festo, flying over the audience at a TED conference in Edinburgh. You should look it up if you haven’t seen it. And there are many, many amazing videos on YouTube of “speedcubers” — people who solve Rubik’s cube as quickly as possible. Some use their hands, some use their feet, some do it blindfolded! The current world record for solving Rubik’s cube (by a human) is 5.66 seconds. I don’t know about you, but I can’t even unlock the door to my house in 5.66 seconds!

This interview was first published on 25th May 2012 on Popular Science. For more interviews like this as well as book reviews on popular science and maths titles, please visit www.popularscience.co.uk.


Could the EU learn a thing or two from Blackbeard?

“The idea that pirates were better at governing themselves than the European Union might seem a little surreal, unless you’re a very sceptical person when it comes to the EU. So prepare for your timbers to be shivered and your preconceptions of pirates to be swashbuckled. According to Peter Leeson, author of the Invisible Hook, a wordplay on Adam Smith’s invisible hand, pirates were quite a civilised bunch. When it came to governing themselves, that is.”

Ahoy Mateys! The Daily Reckoning posts a long article about the EU, drawing on ideas from The Invisible Hook by Peter Leeson. And since there’s nothing like a pirate economics book to bring out some wonderful imagery and piratical puns, this article is a must read. If your appetite is whetted, we’re happy to offer two ways to dip further into the material:

The Secrets of Pirate Management is a new Princeton Shorts that distills important lessons that can apply to any enterprise, nautical or otherwise. This short e-book is available on internet retailers at a bonny low price and is an economical way to sample the book.

The Invisible Hook is the whole kit and kaboodle and is now available in paperback. You can further sample the book via a PDF excerpt on our web site.