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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, exhaustive story of first half of his life., 24 Oct. 2001
This review is from: Bertrand Russell: 1872-1920 The Spirit of Solitude v. 1 (Paperback)
Bertrand Russell worked hard, wrote fast and lived long. This makes him a challenging subject for biography, even before you take account of the fact that he was full of contradictions in his personal life, in his correspondence and in his published writing. Most biographers of Russell have ignored specific, particular but important aspects of this man's character to fit him into their book, but I think Monk has succeeded in presenting the whole man: his greatness and his smallness.
It's all here: the passion for mathematics; the passion for Ottoline Morrell; the rollercoaster intellectual ride with Wittgenstein; the wonderful honesty in academic life; the shocking dishonesty in personal life; the letters that make you change your mind every ten pages - do you admire this man, or detest him? And this volume covers just half his life!
If this biography has a 'Unique Selling Point', it is that Monk is prepared to let the reader have a go at understanding Russell's mathematical philosophy, which is where his true genius lies. Not only is this fascinating in its own right (at any rate for those of the right disposition!), we see how his philosophical progress and discoveries affected, and were affected by, his relations with other people - his social life. Even the most abstract realms of academia aren't immune to the effects of people's lives, emotions and actions.
I can think of no greater compliment to pay to this book than that it is precisely the volume I was hoping for once I had read Monk's biography of Wittgenstein, The Duty Of Genius. The Spirit Of Solitude is an exciting read, and pleasurable. (Volume II is similarly well-written, and contains much more about those episodes of Russell's life which are best known to the general public, but it is a much sadder book and does Russell little credit. If you want to know how great a man can be as well as how petty, stick to Volume I.)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars SUPERB, 30 Nov. 2010
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This review is from: Bertrand Russell: 1872-1920 The Spirit of Solitude v. 1 (Paperback)
Ray Monk has written an absolutely gripping masterpiece of a biography.You experience the extraordinary drama of Russell's life and work as if from the inside.Almost you can feel what Russell was feeling.
The early years are utterly extraordinary and almost unbelievable.But en route you meet a wonderful selection of characters and themes and a cross section of Victorian /Edwardian society
The philosophy and maths are not ducked as Monk is supremely capable of translating this into common understanding.
Perhaps the endless affair with Ottoline is covered in slightly too intricate detail but still ...
This is no attempt to idealise Russell ,the faults are not ducked.
A wonderful achievement and certain top make one read Vol 2.
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Bertrand Russell: 1872-1920 The Spirit of Solitude v. 1
Bertrand Russell: 1872-1920 The Spirit of Solitude v. 1 by Ray Monk (Paperback - 3 April 1997)
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