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The Ruin of Kasch
ISBN 0674780299 / 9780674780293 / 0-674-78029-9
Publisher Belknap Press of Harvard University Press
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The Ruin of Kasch examines the rise of the modern state and the origins of romantic nationalism, whose sick fruit has been harvested in places such as Bosnia, Chechnya, and East Timor. Roberto Calasso locates the transformation in the French Revolution, when a frivolous monarchy evaporated before a government that valued order, bureaucracy, and above all secrecy. He also attributes it to Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord (1754-1838), who was perhaps the first professional civil servant. Ever selfish, Talleyrand proved the perfect servant to the Napoleonic Era; as Napoleon said, "Principles are fine; they don't commit you to anything." The Ruin of Kasch is about Talleyrand, but also, Italo Calvino notes, "about everything else." It's a whirlwind of a book, sometimes maddeningly so. It is one to pick up, ponder, put down, argue with, and then resume reading until the next argument pops up a page or two later. [via]