“Was Mahatma Gandhi a philosopher? He would not have thought so himself. But I want to show that he was a model for philosophy in the philosophical subtlety of his accounts of non-violence and in his thinking on a vital kind of freedom. Gandhi was full of surprises: in his defence of concrete particularity in ethics when exceptionless rules cannot guide conduct; in his openness to views from other cultures; and in his exemplary response to criticism, which was welcomed, promulgated without being distorted, treated with disconcerting wit, and used to lead to a radical re-thinking of his own views.

Of course, Gandhi (1869-1948) is known for his belief in non-violence, which included, but was by no means confined to, non-violent resistance to the British rulers of India. But it is less well-known that he rejected the non-violence he had heard of in India. Although the most important influence in his life was the Jain faith, on non-violence, he preferred the second most important influence – Leo Tolstoy. He thought, rightly or wrongly, that the Indian view he knew did not sufficiently mind someone else treading on a beetle, so long as one kept oneself pure by not treading on it oneself. Gandhi saw his early self as a votary of violence. It was the Russian Christian writer, Tolstoy, who converted Gandhi to non-violence, a fact that shows his openness to views from other cultures.”

— Richard Sorabji, Aeon



Wittgenstein is a notoriously difficult philosopher, and anyone approaching his work will inevitably ask themselves the question: Is it going to be worthwhile?  It’s a common problem, of course. Do I really want to set aside the enormous amount of time and effort that it will take to understand Heidegger, or Derrida, or Deleuze?  Often the answer is no (and for good reason).  Part of what convinced me early on that Wittgenstein would be worth the effort was the portrait of Wittgenstein that emerges in Malcolm’s memoir: a man of fierce, extraordinary intelligence who was driven by the very deepest questions of human life.”

— Carl Elliot, The Chronicle of Higher Education



Robinson has told us what Lila knows, with a consistent spareness and precision of expression that compel attention from the book’s first line. She has brilliantly voiced a story about deprivation, trust and mistrust, the critical edginess of real compassion – unmistakably a Christian story, but far from an ideologically triumphant argument. Its moral acuity and insistence on what it means to allow the voiceless to speak give it a political and ethical weight well beyond any confessional limits. It will repay many readings for the subtlety of its narration, its sensuously realised descriptions and its stark emotional and psychological clarities. Lila is the work of an exceptional novelist at the peak of her capacity.”

— Rowan Williams, New Statesman



[Chinua] Achebe’s essay helped explain what I had found repellent in Conrad’s work and why I’d stopped reading him. In the novels set in the outer reaches of European empire the native characters always seemed to merge with their environment, reminiscent of the Hegelian image of Africa as a land of childhood still enveloped in the dark mantle of the night. I accepted everything Achebe said about Conrad’s biases.

And yet, I could not wholly embrace Achebe’s overwhelmingly negative view of ‘Heart of Darkness’ or Conrad in general. Somehow, the essay failed to explain what had once attracted me: Conrad’s ability to capture the hypocrisy of the “civilizing mission” and the material interests that drove capitalist empires, crushing the human spirit. [In The Dawn Watch: Joseph Conrad in a Global World, Maya Jasanoff] does not forgive Conrad his blindness, but she does try to present his perspective on the changing, troubled world he traveled, a perspective that still has strong resonance today.”

— Ngugi wa Thiong’o, The New York Times


After reading R.F. Christian‘s edition of Leo Tolstoy‘s letters, Alexandra of Russian Literature and Biography notes the writer’s advice to aspiring authors:

“His suggestions to authors were paradoxical: Tolstoy advised them not to write, unless they felt it was absolutely necessary, and never to write with an eye to publication. In 1887, replying to an obscure writer, Tolstoy suggested: ‘The main thing is not to be in a hurry to write, not to grudge correcting and revising the same thing 10 or 20 times, not to write a lot and not, for heaven’s sake, to make of writing a means of livelihood or of winning importance in people’s eyes.'”

— Russian Literature and Biography