Why is Anna Akhmatova's legacy important? What was shameful about Jorge Luis Borges' career? These are the kinds of questions esteemed critic Clive James poses and answers in his new book, Cultural Amnesia, a compendium of the intellectuals, artists, and thinkers who shaped the 20th century. Taken together, the essays—presented in an A-to-Z format—offer a compelling alternative history of the last century and of the struggles of liberal humanism against totalitarianism. Slate published an exclusive selection of these essays adapted for these pages.
"Anna Akhmatova: Assessing the Russian poet and femme fatale." Posted Feb. 5, 2007.
"Jorge Luis Borges: Can a great writer be blind to the world around him?" posted Feb. 7, 2007.
"Dick Cavett: The secret art of the talk-show host." Posted Feb. 9, 2007.
"Sergei Diaghilev: On generosity, artistic slobs, and dressing to kill." Posted Feb. 12, 2007.
"Duke Ellington: The supremacy of swing." Posted Feb. 14, 2007.
"Egon Friedell: The art of conversation." Posted Feb. 16, 2007.
"Terry Gilliam: What Braziltells us about torture today." Posted Feb. 20, 2007.
"Adolf Hitler: How the intellectual climate in Germany shaped the future Führer." Posted Feb. 21, 2007.
"Ernst Jünger: Did he help Hitler rise?" Posted Feb. 23, 2007.
"Alexandra Kollontai: The flaws of Soviet feminism." Posted Feb. 26, 2007.
"Christoph Lichtenberg: Lessons on how to write." Posted March 2, 2007.
"Nadezhda Mandelstam: How one wife's suffering changed how we see Communism." Posted March 6, 2007.
"Lewis Namier: The eccentric historian who changed British postwar culture." Posted March 8, 2007.
"Grigory Ordzhonokidze: When mass murderers repent." Posted March 13, 2007.
"Alfred Polgar: The forgotten wit whom Marlene Dietrich had hoped would write her biography." Posted March 16, 2007.
"Edgar Quinet: The man who understood the true cost of the violent revolution." Posted March 27, 2007. [Note: Because of a production error, this piece appeared after the excerpt about Rainer Maria Rilke.]
"Rainer Maria Rilke: What his career—taken along with Bertolt Brecht's—tells us about fame." Posted March 23, 2007.
"Jean-Paul Sartre: The nothingness at the heart of his philosophy." Posted March 29, 2007.
"Leon Trotsky: He was a mass murderer, not the true champion of the working class." Posted April 2, 2007.
"Dubravka Ugresic: A defender of women's rights and a brilliant journalist." Posted April 6, 2007.
"Paul Valéry: How poets write great poems." Posted April 10, 2007.
"Ludwig Wittgenstein: In search of the real artichoke." Posted April 12, 2007.
"Isoroku Yamamoto: The poet who planned Pearl Harbor." Posted April 17, 2007.
" Stefan Zweig: The incarnation of humanism." Posted April 20, 2007.
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