Just read, The Power of Ideas, Isaiah Berlin

This isn’t really my usual reading material but was on a recommended reading list for a course I was quite interested in last year on cultural history/ history of ideas. Bought it last summer alongside a Michel Foucault book that I never finished (a bit pretentious I thought) and it’s been in the loo library since. It was a pretty easy and quick read, a collection of essays that I rather enjoyed. More so as quite a few were dealing with Enlightenment, Romanticism, Marx, writing of history and so on, things I have some knowledge of and reference points that I could understand. Even though the majority of essays were written about 60 or so years ago and thinking has changed since, found it pretty useful for an amateur like me.


Balancing it out

What possessed me? I don’t know.

I came across Michel Foucault in one of my course books, remembered I had The Order of Things which I still haven’t read so I thought I’d give it a go. I am not very far into it for reasons that shall become clear shortly and so far, it has been a lot of things at the same time: poetic with some absolutely beautiful sentences and phrases; inspirational as it makes me think outside familiar and comfort zone; educational, I guess this almost goes without saying; extremely frustrating as it starts off with a very detailed consideration of Las Meninas by Velasquez which the publishers did not see fit to include and just a little pretentious maybe – not sure if that’s the translator or the author. Here is what I mean by ‘pretension’:

– propinquity, exegesis, agglutinate, adumbrate, concatenation, sagittal, volute


– proximity, explanation, glue, shade, link, arrow-like, spiral/ twist

I don’t mind looking up words I don’t know but some of these are quite unnecessary. There are lots more and on one hand, I am happy to look things up if I feel I am learning something or, if a word sounds particularly good – like ‘pernicious’ for example, but on the other, is it a requirement of being an intellectual to use words that a great number of people don’t know the meaning of?

So, I thought I’d balance reading of The Order of Things with this:

This is very bad – I have never read complete Brothers Grimm before!! It is quite good reading in bed and again, not very far into it yet. What can I say about it so far – it is not as light as you’d think and some of these are not really children’s stories, some are a bit ambiguous and the morals are not as clear as you’d expect. So far, I don’t think the stories have started entering my dreams but I hope they will. This book is a lot more intriguing and unexpected than I thought it would be.

So, what possessed me? I thought it would be a nice contrast between hard = Foucault and easy = Brothers Grimm but it is not so clear cut as that. I love it already (with hundreds of pages to go)!