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Daddy’s Boy

Michael Ignatieff, 22 December 1983

The Shoemaker: Anatomy of a Psychotic 
by Flora Rheta Schreiber.
Allen Lane, 432 pp., £9.95, November 1983, 0 7139 1636 2
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... 38-year-old shoemaker from Philadelphia was finally arrested in 1975, he and his 14-year-old son Michael had murdered and then castrated a little Puerto Rican boy, José Collazo, whom they happened to meet on the street; they had tied another of Joe’s sons, Joey, to a ladder and watched him drown in a pool of water on an abandoned building site; they had ...

Anna F.

Michael Ignatieff, 20 June 1985

Anna Freud: A Life Devoted to Children 
by Uwe Henrik Peters, translated by Beatrice Smedley.
Weidenfeld, 281 pp., £16.95, April 1985, 0 297 78175 8
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... She burst into the history of psychoanalysis crying out in her sleep: ‘Anna Fweud, stwawbewwies, wild stwawbewwies, omblet, pudden!’ The calipers of theory were immediately applied: ‘At that time she was in the habit of using her own name to express the idea of taking possession of something. The menu included pretty well everything that must have seemed to her to make up a desirable meal ...


Michael Ignatieff, 8 May 1986

The Silent Twins 
by Marjorie Wallace.
Chatto, 230 pp., £10.95, February 1986, 0 7011 2712 0
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... One question in this strange, riveting story of identical black twins whose career of arson led them to indefinite confinement in Broadmoor is never quite addressed: what makes a person a person? How do we become individuals? These twins never made it into personhood, and their story helps one to realise that becoming a person is not the natural outcome of all childhoods, but an arduous self-invention which can go terribly wrong ...

The Beloved

Michael Ignatieff, 6 February 1997

Giving Offence: Essays on Censorship 
by J.M. Coetzee.
Chicago, 289 pp., $27.50, March 1996, 0 226 11174 1
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... When Andrei Sinyavsky looked up tsenzura in a Soviet dictionary of foreign words imported into Russian, it wasn’t there. ‘The word censorship was itself censored.’ Censorship is ashamed of itself. It is also ridiculous: a censor, J.M. Coetzee writes, is like a man trying to stop his penis from standing up. To censor is to give proof that one is in the grip of that which one wishes to forbid others desiring ...

It’s a riot

Michael Ignatieff, 20 August 1981

‘Civil Disturbances’: Hansard, Vol. 8, Nos 143-144, 16 July 1981 – 17 July 1981 
HMSO, £80Show More
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... riots. In the adjournment debate on ‘Civil Disturbances’, MPs as far apart as Joan Lestor and Michael Heseltine agreed that the speeches had transcended party politics. Of course there were exceptions. No Tory MP joined Stuart Holland and John Fraser in their criticism of the Police in Brixton, and no Labour MP supported Winston Churchill’s call for an ...

Mad or bad?

Michael Ignatieff, 18 June 1981

Trial by Medicine: Insanity and Responsibility in Victorian Trials 
by Roger Smith.
Edinburgh, 288 pp., £15, March 1981, 9780852244074
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... During his summation at the Old Bailey trial of Peter Sutcliffe, Mr Justice Boreham felt called upon to remind the jury that they were there to judge Sutcliffe, not the flock of psychiatrists called to testify as to his mental condition. The jury could have been forgiven for believing that psychiatry, not Sutcliffe, was in the dock, for during the trial, the profession and its discourse were subjected to merciless inquisition ...

Decent Insanity

Michael Ignatieff, 19 December 1985

The Freud Scenario 
by Jean-Paul Sartre, edited by J.-B. Pontalis, translated by Quintin Hoare.
Verso, 549 pp., £16.95, November 1985, 0 86091 121 7
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... Huston-Sartre, Sartre-Huston: an odd couple, but not an inconceivable one. Huston wasn’t scared or contemptuous of intellectuals, and he had even directed Sartre’s No Exit in New York. The Freud oeuvre was hardly natural material for Hollywood, but Jones’s biography and the version of the Freud-Fliess letters then just published led Huston to think that Freud’s discovery of the unconscious would make a gripping intellectual adventure story ...

Last Word

Michael Ignatieff, 3 February 1983

The Wolf-Man: Sixty Years Later 
by Karin Obholzer, translated by Michael Shaw.
Routledge, 250 pp., £12.50, November 1982, 0 7100 9354 3
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Ernest Jones: Freud’s Alter Ego 
by Vincent Brome.
Caliban, 250 pp., £12.50, January 1983, 0 904573 57 5
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... I dreamt that it was night and that I was lying in my bed ... Suddenly the window opened of its own accord, and I was terrified to see that some white wolves were sitting on the big walnut tree in front of the window. There were six or seven of them. The wolves were quite white, and looked more like foxes or sheep-dogs, for they had big tails like foxes and they had their ears pricked like dogs when they pay attention to something ...

Sergeant Jones’s Sleeping-Bag

Michael Ignatieff, 17 July 1997

Hystories: Hysterical Epidemics and Modern Culture 
by Elaine Showalter.
Picador, 244 pp., £16.99, June 1997, 0 330 34670 9
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... It adds greatly to the glamour of this book that its author was threatened for having written it. Her offence was to argue that many of the passing media events of our culture – chronic fatigue syndrome, Gulf War syndrome, satanic ritual abuse allegations, alien abduction fantasies – are forms of mass hysteria. This so enraged American sufferers of chronic fatigue syndrome that they threatened to kill her ...


Michael Ignatieff: Canadian Elections, 1 November 1984

... On 4 September, the night of the Canadian Election, friends of mine were gathered around the live radio-feed listening to the results in Canada House, cackling as the tumbrils bore each Liberal Cabinet Minister to the electoral guillotine. By about four in the morning, the dimensions of the Liberal catastrophe had revealed themselves: expelled from its Quebec bastion, reduced to a small-town Ontario rump with only two seats between Thunder Bay and Vancouver ...


Michael Ignatieff: Uncle Alyosha, 20 October 1983

... When my father reached Paris from Russia in May 1919, the man who met them at the Gare de Lyon was Uncle Alyosha. My father was six at the time and he has no memory whatever of the tall, soldierly gentleman with a moustache. Instead his memory darts unerringly to the thing which mattered to him at that moment in his life. In Uncle Alyosha’s apartment in Saint Cloud, he was served koulibiaka, a pâté made from salmon ...

Ruthless Enthusiasms

Michael Ignatieff, 15 July 1982

The Brixton Disorders: Report of an Inquiry by the Rt Hon. the Lord Scarman 
HMSO, 168 pp., £8, November 1981, 0 10 184270 8Show More
Punishment, Danger and Stigma: The Morality of Criminal Justice 
by Nigel Walker.
Blackwell, 206 pp., £9.95, August 1980, 0 631 12542 6
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Punishment: A Philosophical and Criminological Inquiry 
by Philip Bean.
Martin Robertson, 215 pp., £12.50, August 1981, 0 85520 391 9
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Dangerousness and Criminal Justice 
by Jean Floud and Warren Young.
Heinemann, 228 pp., £14.50, October 1981, 0 435 82307 8
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The Abuse of Power: Civil Liberties in the United Kingdom 
by Patricia Hewitt.
Martin Robertson, 295 pp., £15, December 1981, 0 85520 380 3
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... One of the sombre gratifications of war, as we have had recent occasion to discover, is solidarity. War taps a longing to still the quarrels of ordinary life for the sake of something in common. This is a more pervasive longing than we like to admit. Even those who speak out against war are not immune to its lure. ‘Jingoism’ is a word used to condemn the enthusiasms of others, but also to ward off their fatal attraction ...

What about Anna Andreyevna?

Michael Ignatieff, 6 October 1994

by Ryszard Kapuściński and Klara Glowczewska.
Granta, 336 pp., £14.99, September 1994, 0 14 014235 5
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... Ryszard Kapuściński’s is the most passionate, engaging and historically profound account of the collapse of the Soviet empire that I have read. Caustic and lyrical by turns, it is driven by that combustible mixture of love and loathing for their neighbour which Poles seem to have felt since the days of Mickiewicz. As in all of his previous work – The Soccer War, The Emperor, Shah of Shahs – Kapuściński (with the help here of Klara Glowczewska’s translation) has raised reportage to the status of literature ...


Michael Ignatieff, 20 December 1990

Vladimir Nabokov: The Russian Years 
by Brian Boyd.
Chatto, 607 pp., £20, November 1990, 0 7011 3700 2
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... This is a very good biography indeed – thorough, compassionate, refreshingly unreverential. Is it, on the other hand, necessary? Any literary biographer must proceed on the assumption that the life gives us the work, yet Nabokov’s scorn for this way of thinking was proverbial. The butterflies of his art were always flying free of the dingy Continental hotel rooms in which they happened to have had their pupation ...

How liberals misread their own history

Michael Ignatieff: The Roosevelt Problem, 29 October 1998

Liberalism and Its Discontents 
by Alan Brinkley.
Harvard, 372 pp., £18.50, May 1998, 0 674 53017 9
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... To be a liberal in Europe is a frustrating business. In Britain Liberal Democrats can only stand by and fume while Blair’s Third Way steals liberal nostrums and enlists them in the service of a new centrist consensus designed to keep Lib Dems on the margins for ever. In Germany, the liberals have gone from being the king-makers of the Kohl era to bystanders in Schröder’s ...

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