Lawrence Stepelevich

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Lawrence Stepelevich

Lawrence Stepelevich’s book reviews

Published during the final year of the First World War, this small study is intent to set forth, as well as to support, an optimistic vision of Jewish participation and contribution to world culture. In order, France, England, Russia, Italy, and America are taken up, but other than America and England, there was little that even the hopeful Rabbi E Enelow could find among the history of these nations which would suggest more than sporadic expressions of developing tolerance – a tolerance which all too often followed upon a dreadful persecution, such as the slaughter, in 1090, of all the Jews in York, England, and the subsequent expulsion, within a few years, of all Jews from England. This was not a unique event, but what the reason might be for this interminable persecution is never brought up by Enelow – which itself might be a sign of its continuance. Nevertheless, despite this painful history, the Rabbi remained assured of a happier future for his people, and to this end, he devoted a chapter to the hope of Palestinian homeland. Encouraged by the Balfour Decision, he envisioned Palestine to become more of a spiritual homeland rather than a political entity. Unlike Herzl, Enelow was a Reform Rabbi, more inclined to believe in Jewish cultural assimilation than political separation, and so, although he held that “Palestine and the Jews are inseparable” he yet rejected “political Zionism”. Unhappily, after the horrors of the Second World War, his optimism now seems sadly dated.
Lucien Wolf’s prescient work was written in 1920, the same year that both the English and German translations of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion [Die Protokolle der Weisen von Zion] appeared. Alfred Rosenberg, as the German editor, was soon to acquaint Hitler with it, and in 1925, it was, with approval, cited by Hitler in Mein Kampf. Wolf’s work is in response to the full and uncritical publication of the Protocols by the English newspaper, The Morning Post. It is of interest to note that not only had Winston Churchill inclined to see some merit in the Post’s publication, placed under the heading, “The Cause of World Unrest”, but even some redoubtable authors, such as Chesterton and Belloc.
Wolf not only traces the various historical threads which led to the fabrication of a work which finally spelled out, in detail, that which had been long only half-suggested, of a sinister plotting by a “Formidable Sect” bent upon world domination, but he also understood the inhuman effects which would follow from any uncritical acceptance of the forged documents. The Protocols were first composed Russia, intended onlly to deflect rising revolutionary anger away from actual Czarist oppression and toward the mythic religious enemy – the Jews. However, it was not long before a seemingly ineradicable link was joined between Judaism and revolutionary Bolshevism, a link that become a Nazi article of faith, i.e., Jewish covert forces were responsible for the decay of German morals and military power.
Wolf’s brief but well documented work clearly points out the fallacies and fabrications which were gathered together in this all-too-influential conspiracy theory, and his study remains of great value, as the malevolent effects of the Protocols are still being witnessed today.
Corvin, as a German radical deeply involved in in the 1848 revolution directed this work against the reactionary influence of the Roman Catholic Church. The work is a historical survey dealing with the various vices and power-grabs issuing from the Vatican from its onset to Corvin\'s time. Of particular contemporary interest is his lengthy examination of the ill effects of clerical celibacy, not the least being its expression in the long and hidden issue of widespread child molestation. The work is not always as carefully documented as might be wished, but there are enough citations and quotations to prove his point.
Written in 1922, this work is in the same genre as ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT. It is unrelentingly bloody and bitter. The particular French battlefield in which the futile killings and maiming is more universal than specific -- no particular battle is named. This pessimistic novel might be termed, rather tritely, to be but a description of the horrors of war intended as an anti-war tract. Without either a clear characterization of the individuals involved, nor a concrete military or political context, its horrific descriptions of death, wounding, and gassing, became for me, finally, and sadly, somewhat tedious.
A very witty and humorous book by a master of language. Most entertaining, and, at least for me, the best of his fine stories. Little plot, but in need of none, as the conversational jousting between a gathering of eccentric individuals in Headlong Hall, is enough in itself. In a later work, Nightmare Abby, Peacock took on the foibles of his friends, Coleridge and Shelly, who nevertheless remained his friends! A good read.
Read this book when I was about 10 years old (1940). A great child's introduction to the adventure of space travel. Now a bit dated, of course, and some of the racial travesty regarding "Washington" is now offensive, but was hardly noticed at the time. In any case,it started my interest in science-fiction -- and just plain "science".
First published in 1844, DER EINZIGE UND SEIN EIGENTUM,was re-published in 1892, but since that time has never been out of print. It has been published in dozens of editions (the latest English edition, in 1995, was published by Cambridge U. Press), and it has been translated into over a dozen languages (the latest, in 2008, being the second Dutch translation -- There is even a a Yiddish translation!). Check out the web on all of this.

The EGO continues to be of great interest not only to those interested in a philosophy of radical individualism, but for anyone wishing to know the reason for the vitriolic attack upon THE EGO by Marx and Engels. In 1845, just one year after the EGO appeared, they wrote THE GERMAN IDEOLOGY. It directed more pages critical of the EGO than were in the work itself.

Stirner's masterpiece is indeed one of the most logical and lucid defenses ever made in the cause of individual liberty.
The characters of Poirot and Hastings are finely drawn. Some humorous aspects when Hastings has his own unreflective self-confidence put to the test by the often enigmatic Poirot. A good character study as well as a fine, although complex, mystery.
This 1913 work anticipated the later, 1921 work, THE IDEA OF PROGRESS. This earlier work is good,but a bit uneven. Bury's optimistic philosophy of history mirrored the general optimism of the time -- that the overall rise of reason and toleration was taking inexorable hold of the whole of Western Culture. Overall it is not as satisfying as the works of H.E.W. Leckey on the same topics. Still worth a read. It is interesting that Bury did not seem to take any notice of either the coming or the effects of WW1.
This 1921 work follows and refines Bury's 1913 work, THE HISTORY OF PROGRESS. The titles indicate their content: a historical survey of the rise of progressive thought from pre-Christian to the late 19th. Century. After WW1, which seemed not to affect Bury's liberal optimism, the genre of optimistic historiography seems to have suffered a setback.