A Life

Book - 2011
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This riveting, New York Times bestselling biography illuminates the life of Otto von Bismarck, the statesman who unified Germany but who also embodied everything brutal and ruthless about Prussian culture.

Jonathan Steinberg draws heavily on contemporary writings, allowing Bismarck's friends and foes to tell the story. What rises from these pages is a complex giant of a man: a hypochondriac with the constitution of an ox, a brutal tyrant who could easily shed tears, a convert to an extreme form of evangelical Protestantism who secularized schools and introduced civil divorce. Bismarck may have been in sheer ability the most intelligent man to direct a great state in modern times. His brilliance and insight dazzled his contemporaries. But all agreed there was also something demonic, diabolical, overwhelming, beyond human attributes, in Bismarck's personality. He was a kind of malign genius who, behind the various postures, concealed an ice-cold contempt for his fellow human beings and a drive to control and rule them. As one contemporary noted: "the Bismarck regime was a constant orgy of scorn and abuse of mankind, collectively and individually."

In this comprehensive and expansive biography--a brilliant study in power--Jonathan Steinberg brings Bismarck to life, revealing the stark contrast between the "Iron Chancellor's" unmatched political skills and his profoundly flawed human character.
Publisher: Oxford ;, New York :, Oxford University Press,, 2011.
ISBN: 9780199782529
Branch Call Number: 943.083092 B6229S
Characteristics: pages cm


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Feb 13, 2015


Jun 22, 2011

A dry, ponderous and pedestrian tome about a fascinating man.
No doubt Steinberg is an able historian, but his prose is flat and clunky. Worse, he doesn't know what to throw out. The reader doesn't really need to know every Count Erwin von Klinkerfelden-Baden-Schmeitzenkirken et al in the room. Mein Gott! Who cares?
Inside this flabby 500-page snoozefest is a great 300-page biography gasping to get out.
If only we could summon up the ghost of A.J.P. Taylor whose bio of Bismarck crackled with energy and wit 50-odd years ago. Taylor had more snap, crackle and pop on one page than this whole dreary, wearisome book.
This baby is stillborn. So sad.


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