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A European Love Affair

by Ian Buruma

ISBN 0375705368 / 9780375705366 / 0-375-70536-8
Publisher Vintage
Language English
Edition Softcover
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Book summary

Voltaire, says Ian Buruma, was the ultimate Anglophile: liberal, humorous, enlightened, and ultimately humane. In that respect, he's not unlike Buruma himself, whose delightful Anglomania weaves a compelling story, from Voltaire onward, of the ways in which European exiles and émigrés have fallen under the spell of the intangible mix of snobbery, liberalism, xenophobia, and tolerance which make up the English character.

Buruma's roll call of Anglophiles is impressive. Wonderful sections on Voltaire are followed by chapters on Goethe's Bardolatry, a marvelously vivid account of frustrated revolutionary exiles in Victorian London (including Marx and Mazzini), and Theodor Herzl's vision of a Jewish state based on his admiration of the English aristocracy. The book concludes with sketches of two of the most influential Anglophiles of 20th-century English culture: Nikolaus Pevsner and Isaiah Berlin. But Buruma never loses sight of the darker side of national belonging, interweaving his own complex family history into the narrative, as well as some subtle and perceptive accounts of the state of the nation as Buruma views it from the office of The Spectator and the Conservative Party Conference in post-Thatcherite Britain. A marvelous book about belonging and Englishness: witty, erudite, subtle, and above all humane. --Jerry Brotton, [via]