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4.3 out of 5 stars
7
4.3 out of 5 stars


on 23 March 2013
This is an extremely thorough - and long - self-portrait. At the end of each chapter there are many letters - my advice is to ignore these at first reading then only dip into the ones that interest you. Id have prefered the letters all to be at the end of the book.: on a kindle it is a little frustrating to skim them or else retun to the contents page in order to get to the next chapter.

The substance of the book is mostly gripping [althought I got bored with a few episodes] and give an excellent insight into the development of his unilateral disarmament position. Most of all, though, I was pleased with the unfolding of his personal development and his honesty in discussing his weaknesses and frailities
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on 31 October 2011
Bertrand Russell lived for over 90 years. During his long life he engaged in correspondence with many leading figures of the day, from Keynes to Khrushchev. It is fascinating to read these letters, although several of them are written in German or French and thereby are inpenetrable to the average reader.

As to the Autobiography itself, it starts off extremely well. In recording his early years, Russell is brutally honest and details his struggles with all aspects of his life from mathematics through to masturbation, and he does so with his trademark wit. For his sins, he is patriotic, passionate and profoundly idealistic, yet, with the exception of his actions to his first wife, comes across as rather likeable. Highlights include early trips to the new USSR circa 1921 and China pre-PRC.

In the later half, Russell becomes cagey. His third divorce occupies a single line. His prose also deteriorates. Meanwhile, the ratio of letters to biography shifts so that one finds oneself wading through a sea of largely irrelevant letters on this or that peace initiative, and Russell, who had previously been somewhat of a maverick, becoming a respectable, if idealistic figure. Shudder.

The ends of the book tie together rather nicely. However, one can't help feel that somewhere Russell shifted from his original purpose of honest self-exploration. It is as if the light of truth became too painful for himself and those close to him to bear.
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on 5 November 2013
To say that Russell was 7th wrangler, awarded a distinction in the Moral Sciences Tripos and went on to revolutionise mathematical logic and philosophy, nowhere near gives an adequate impression of his education, interests and richness of life.
He had Latin, Greek, German, Italian, French and probably some Russian and Chinese as well. Of course he wrote some of the best books in the English language. He read and appreciated the best that the literature of the world had to offer. He was also deeply political in the best sense: not promoting himself into government but fighting for changes he believed necessary, often against great opposition even at the cost of job, widespread criticism and even a spell in prison. He was even sacked from a university chair for his advanced views on sex and marriage. His friendships are marvellous to behold. The autobiography is full of illustrative letters which together are an important contribution to the history of the time. Of all men, Russell's effect for good on his world is beyond compare.
Once, I heard him speak at the Usher Hall, Edinburgh. He was then a double nobel laureate (one of four: Fred Sanger, Lynus Pauling and Marie Curie the others), aged about 90. His very existence is an inspiration.

PS In his relationship with Wittgenstein the intellectual honesty shines forth. How different academe is these days: a rat race for preferment, lying and self promotion being almost considered normal. The world will not see his like again.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 24 August 2015
This is a remarkable book, moments like the infamous realization that he didn't love his first wife while on a bicycle ride. In fact Russell's remarkably long life is full of remarkable meetings, compelling events and is written his trademark lucid style. He includes the famous volte face when he went from pacifist to 1945 proponent of A Bombing the USSR before it was so armed. What you notice if you have independent knowledge of Bertie is that much as he admired philosophers as truth-seekers and loathed sophistry, he was himself a sophist, as anyone who has read his ridiculous chapter on Nietzsche in his brilliant if unreliable 'History of Western Philosophy' will know. So this is a readable, interesting but disingenuous autobiography. True he makes many brutally frank disclosures, but why his son committed suicide and quite how lightly he held his pacifism and such receive no admission here. It is revealing that the two people who had his philandering card marked- he was a notorious lecher and travelling in a cab was unwise for young women - and his aggressive side were T.S. Eliot in his worrying 'Mr Appollinax' and D.H. Lawrence, who saw in the pacifism a mask for the "wish to jab and strike" in one of his superbly frank letters. Well worth reading, just don't take it all at face value; Rousseau he is not; worth reading the letters between him and Ottoline Morrell to see how ghastly he could be..
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on 12 March 2016
Volume I 1872-1914
Russell was born in 1872; old enough not to have been called up in the 'Great War'. Volume 1 of his Autobiography (with the green jacket design spine, and a black-and-white cover photo by Lotte Meitner-Graf, a copy of which appears in Chomsky's study, and in a 1970s film including Malcolm McDowell) was published by Allen & Unwin, his lifelong publisher. Volume I is 1872-1914; Volume II 1914-1944; Volume III 1944-1967 (from memory) with a 'tailpiece' of 1969. These divisions clearly correspond to milestones in Russell's mental life: the outbreak of the 'Great War', and the invention of nuclear weapons.

There were astounding changes in Russell's lifetime: automobiles and aeroplanes and skyscrapers hardly existed until he was about 40 years old. Underground and tube railways first came to London somewhat earlier. Telephones were rare and valuable. Oil-based plastic polymers were hardly known before 1945. Machine guns and dynamite pre-dated 1900. Their later developments were in time to be misreported by radio, and then television. Russell recognised the power of TV: he thought most people would believe any lie promoted by television.

Russell's longevity reflects on his cultural background. He was not of a temperament to be attracted to Greek and Roman classics; these had their day, but were outdated by Victorian progress. He was hopelessly impractical, not having any empirical scientific skill, though he recognised the importance of science. Such books as Lewis Carroll's and Edward Lear's, Tristram Shandy and The Trumpet Major and War and Peace (later, in English) and the Cambridge Modern History were part of his upbringing and early maturity. Alys Pearsall Smith (his first wife, an American New England Quaker) and Russell ploughed through standard histories together, like Darwin. I don't think Russell ever applied scepticism to history: for example, about Nero, or Cromwell, or the French revolution. Before this, his early years in his grandfather's gift-of-Victoria house in Richmond Park were partly spent looking through Prime Minister Russell's library, though L'Art de Verifier des Dates is the only book (I think) he specifically locates there.

All Russell's early years were spent, more or less in isolation, in Richmond Park, with his elder brother Frank, his servants, and elderly relatives, notably an ancient puritanical Scottish aunt. As in many European countries, aristocrats carried with them a considerable penumbra of hangers-on. Possibly there was a painful waste of talent: they might have observed the world more than they did. But equally possibly there was not; it's agonising to reflect on the missed opportunities.

Pembroke Lodge still exists, in a state of conversion into tea room with car park, and a huge outdoor poem carved into wood: City of Dreadful Night. Poor Russell is almost elided away by now. He loved the landscape and nature, which he thought of as wild, and described in old age with great vigour.

When Russell was young, Joseph Conrad did not exist as part of a more-or-less official literary canon. Shelley was there--Russell read Epipsychidion aloud to Alys in between kissing sessions. Byron furnished materials for Russell on 'Byronic unhappiness'. The really immense historical upheaval was the French Revolution and Napoleon, and the preceding philosophical groundwork, Voltaire, Blake, Swedenborg and so on, but especially Rousseau, who retained an aura of irresponsibly-'romantic' evil in Russell's mind. The simple outline of this historical set of events (including slogans, the terror, and military conquests) adapted itself well to the so-called 'Russian Revolution' of volume 2 of Russell's Autobiography. Russell never had any doubt about this scheme, and for example always called the Jewish-run 'Union of Soviet Socialist Republics' Russia, as though it was simply another nation-state made up of one well-defined nationality.

Russell regarded himself as a triple philosopher-mathematician-social scientist. His philosophical life started largely with his attack on Christianity, in his exercise book labelled 'Greek Exercises'. It's similar to other rationalistic attacks of the time, concentrating fire on falsehood and absurdity. Russell was too young or naive to understand that much of established religion is an income-generating scheme, though he must have been aware of the history of the Reformation as presented in 19th-century England. Anyway, at the end of this process Russell recalls feeling relieved that it was all over. When he finally went 'up' to Cambridge, he says he met only one person who had heard of Draper's History of the Conflict between Religion and Science. Russell claims to have been led into mathematics by his brother's explaining some of mysteries of geometry to him, from Euclid, including the problem of parallel straight lines not meeting. Aged about 18, he was ready for Cambridge, full of promise--the famous Jowett came to visit what there was of his family. (Both his parents died when he was young--too young to remember them). Russell's social science interests started in Volume II; before that, he worked at his Principia Mathematica. He claims to have discovered much of the work of Cantor independently. My own belief is that Cantor and (later) Einstein are flawed. I suspect Russell was well aware of fame and publicity and renown; most of his beliefs were in accordance with ideas currently promoted at the time. One of his 1930s essays, on Tom Paine and Washington and the early views of democracy, Russell states that 'Some worldly wisdom is required even to secure praise for the lack of it.' In Volume I this hardly mattered; Russell's views were not very controversial. But, at least in my view, Russell always had some intellectual timidity: he never dared criticise Freud, for example, in any forthright way.

Russell at Cambridge found Cambridge University life exactly suited to his tastes and abilities. He was sought out by intellectual clubs, was able to talk for the first time in his life, found the buildings beautiful, met Whitehead, and generally expanded. He bought and smoked Fribourg & Treyer's 'Golden Mixture'. He took very long walks. He rode his bike. He became less shy. He liked the ambience of completely free discussion, and never noticed it was much less free than he'd imagined. He made fun of people who tried to popularise. A note that strikes me as discordant is his dislike of the 'Dons'. He wrote prose with purple patches. As with almost all biographies, Russell writes very little on what he actually learned at Cambridge. He gives no summary or account of the influence of mathematical structures on his thinking. Very likely 'propositional functions' are one such thing, but he doesn't explicitly say so. He liked philosophy 'and the curious ways of conceiving the world that the great philosophers offer to the imagination.' His first philosophical ventures led him, following others, to criticisms of Hegel and German Idealism, though not of the assumptions and mind-sets that led to its being favoured.

Russell married (partly because he wanted children) and moved to a newly-built house. He was--I did some comparative calculations--the equivalent of a millionaire now, through inheritance. It's not quite true to say that Russell was fully absorbed in philosophy and mathematics: his wife Alys spoke on votes for women and similar issues. I found a short essay by her in Nineteenth Century Opinion, taken from The Nineteenth Century of 1877-1901, in a 1951 paperback edited by Michael Goodwin (if you must know) in which she expressed the desire of single wealthy women for work--with the usual implicit restrictions. He and she went to Germany to study 'social democracy' there; the outcome was his very first book German Social Democracy (1896). This set a style for all Russell's social science books: he simply had no idea about Jews, which of course was a standard head-in-the-sand attitude in polite Britain. Probably he simply assumed the vast number of Jewish publications in Germany, and the tiny number of those discussing Jewish influence, must have been a plain reflection of merit. Russell's following three books were An Essay on the Foundations of Geometry (1897), A Critical Exposition of the Philosophy of Leibniz (1900), and The Principles of Mathematics (1903). However, Russell doesn't write much about his books, which he often implied came from unconscious thought, as for example in his account of sitting in the parlour of the Beetle and Wedge at Moulsford, wondering what to say about 'our knowledge of the external world'.

One of the attractive characteristics of Russell's Autobiography is its peppering with famous names: G E Moore, J M Keynes, D H Lawrence, G B Shaw, Eddington, Einstein, H G Wells, Malinowski, Sidney and Beatrice 'Webb', for example--though arguably they are chosen for notoriety rather than workmanship. Russell worked in Cambridge, London--at the time one of the world's largest cities-- and his Hindhead house. And he had a set of women companions, but this fact only emerged later, and is only very slightly present in his Autobiography. In this way, he might have proceeded from the 1890s to the twentieth century and onward, for the rest of his life as a respected academic, reading The Times and hefty Victorian books, with no inkling that other outlooks and forces were designing and plotting.

Woven into his narrative are relatives--often enough, surprising, because of the inevitable limitations of the first-and-surname principle. General Pitt-Rivers was his uncle. Lord Portal, responsible for bomber command (in Volume III) and perhaps therefore the Second World War, was Russell's cousin. The Duke of Bedford was 'head of my family'. And of course Russell had personal friends. Russell's chapters each end with a collection of letters; Volume II has far more of his letters than text, suggesting his early life had disproportionately the most emotional meaning for him, and that Russia, China, and America between them managed to exhaust him.

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Volume II 1914-1944
Just a few comments on Russell's attitudes at the time. A run-in with a family doctor caused other family members to tell Russell he ought not to have children, because of the taint of insanity of a relative of Russell's. Russell said people at the time tended to believe overmuch in heredity. Since then, population movements have become so much easier that people if anything are at the opposite extreme, denying all role for genetics--this of course is a Jewish view. The point really is that if people are to be ignored as sub- or non-human, as per Jewish orthodoxy, it doesn't matter if there are differences. Similarly with Russell: if you're a secure aristocrat, what do other people matter? Russell assumes all human populations are similar: his book on Power doesn't differentiate in any way between population, though there are token references in his books on education. This must have had a lot of effect on his attitude to the 'masses', and his attitude to Jews vs Russians.

Russell disliked 'capitalism', but seems to have taken the word and its connotations straight from Marx. Although he was aware of finances, and the power of panics and crashes and so on, his use of 'capitalism' was just like that of all the other 'economists' of the time trying, or pretending, to be critical. Quite apart from money, as far as I recall there is nothing in Russell on economic goods: Can there be too much? Should inventions made in A be allowed into B? Is there some law making some level of 'productivity' ideal? Is there an optimum population? Despite Russell's attempts, I don't think he discovered anything, though some people credit him with 'effective demand' and 'spending out of depression'.
Russell was horrified by the 'Great War'. As with most people, he was at the level of calling it an 'outbreak'. He had no analysis of people who wanted war, and why they wanted war, though he implied he'd kept an eye on Sir Edward Grey and others. His eyes were on average people:

'... Although I did not foresee anything like the full disaster of the War, I foresaw a great deal more than most people did. The prospect filled me with horror, but what filled me with even more horror was the fact that the anticipation of carnage was delightful to something like ninety per cent of the population. I had to revise my views on human nature. At that time I was wholly ignorant of psycho-analysis, but I arrived for myself at a view of human passions not unlike that of the psycho-analysts. I arrived at this view in order to understand popular feeling about the war. I had supposed until that time that it was quite common for parents to love their children, but the war persuaded me that it is a rare exception. I had supposed that most people liked money better than almost anything else, but I discovered that they liked destruction even better. I had supposed that intellectuals frequently loved truth, but I found here again that not ten per cent of them prefer truth to popularity. ...

Thus Russell. But how did he know all this? Most of his information came from newspapers, and if newspapers are owned by people who want war, it's simple to fill the pages with war stories. The Bryce Report propaganda, and the prolonged leaks of anti-Russian and anti-German and anti-British material into other countries, clearly showed this. Russell did not talk to ordinary people; I've certainly met people who say they didn't want war. However, it gave him a new topic, the part played by impulse in human (and animal) life, which Russell mixed in with Freud, in my view unfortunately.

His new topic emerged as Principles of Social Reconstruction (1915):
'... I did not discover what it was all about until I had finished it. It has a framework and a formula, but I only discovered both when I had written all except the first and last words. ...'
The first sentence is: 'To all who are capable of new impressions and fresh thought, some modification of former beliefs and hopes has been brought by the war.' Last is: 'Out of their ghosts must come life, and it is we whom they must vivify.'

Russell's chapter on 'The First War' reveals him to have been ineffectual--writing articles, addressing audiences. Despite knowing Keynes, and despite his family connections, and familiarity with Prime Ministers, and visits to the USA, his chapter shows his helplessness. The dark side of British, or Anglo-Jewish, power, showed itself in jailings, for himself in the 'first division' and hard labour for E D Morel. And in compulsory call-up, when 'popular feeling about the war' proved insufficient. And of course in censorship. And in control over money 'for the duration'. And of course loans. The 1913 Federal Reserve and its other organisations set the stage. Anyone who takes Russell seriously must feel the tragedy of all this: he might have accomplished substantial work in deciphering events, as Europe's aristocrats fell and civilisation retrogressed; but he didn't.

Chapters II and III deal with Russell's visits to Russia after the Jewish coup, and then China. In the first case, he was an observer. He praised his hosts, but in such a vast territory, and with no Russian, it's difficult to see how he could expect to report reliably in such a land. He might have said he simply didn't know. But intellectuals dislike steps of that sort. In just one of his letters he talks of tyrannical Jews. Russell then visited, and loved, China. He lectured, and his new companion, Dora, lectured on things like women's issues. (Russell realised he 'no longer loved Alys', on a bike ride). Russell's letters are moving and heartfelt, though understandably his grasp of the history of these vast regions was sketchy, mostly nourished by British Victorian history, in which Constantinople, ruination of the Peking Summer Palace, opium, Hong Kong and so on were treated in the way distorted modern history is fed to gullible undergraduates.

The second parts of Volume II deal with Russell's second marriage, and a school Russell tried to set up in Telegraph House, which he bought from his bankrupt brother. This was a great period for experimental schools, because the memories of 19th century paying schools (H G Wells wrote on this) were still alive. There was scope for a combination of business with idealistic education. Taxation, and legal restrictions, are now so high that perhaps home-schooling will become the 21st-century equivalent. Musing over Russell at the time, writing newspaper columns and collections of essays, and a potboiler or two, in a school he couldn't manage, trying to write great books and short of money, suggests he was at the nadir of his fortunes. His history of the 19th century Freedom and Organization: 1814-1914, written in two parts Legitimacy vs Industrialism 1814 to 1848 and Freedom vs Organization 1776 to 1914 (1934), shows his struggle to make sense of the world whilst omitting the Jewish issue. Russell's literary non-starts are not stressed in his autobiography, but it's clear from McMaster University Archives that he tried, and failed, to write on 'fascism'. He said in a TV interview (not in his autobiography) that he had a new idea for a book almost every day.

Russell was invited to the USA to take up an academic position. If there were retirement and pension implications, Russell doesn't state them, though he does of course discuss his adventures when opposition was stirred up in the 'chair of indecency' incidents. He spent his time until the end of the Second World War in the USA. It's clear from his letters that he had no clue about Hitler or the Second World War.

During Russell's time in the USA, arms were shipped to the USSR in huge quantities, largely secretly as not everybody liked Stalin. Bear this in mind when reading Volume II. The final part of this book has Russell working on History of Western Philosophy, as Jewish influence over the world sank deeper. Russell had theories on the rise and fall of civilisations and worldview: 'Three cycles: Greek, Catholic, Protestant. In each case.. decay of .. dogma leads to anarchy and thence to dictatorship. I like the growth of Catholicism out of Greek decadence, and of Luther out of Machiavelli's outlook'. This may have been related to the feeling that the world was amid a huge war--though very few people could explain why a tiny country like Germany should be taken so seriously. Thus Gilbert Murray, in typical confusion, to Russell: '.. not quite clear what the two sides were: Communism or Socialism against Fascism.. Christianity against ungodliness. But now.. Britain and America .. against the various autocracies, which means Liberalism v Tyranny..' Russell was not very secure in these categories. He was comfortable with philosophers and their schools, largely because some sort of consensus had been decided upon. But, despite his efforts, he never found convincing historical impulses and motives, as his book Power shows. Nor of course did for example Toynbee, at more or less the same time.

History of Western Philosophy can now be seen to be marred by errors, all to do with misunderstandings of Jews. No doubt others will become clear, for example related to science. Anyway, by Volume II Russell was convinced that Rousseau and Romanticism had led to 'Fascism'--Russell never seemed to use the expression 'NSDAP'. The NSDAP's name being a socialist workers party, and Russell advocating 'socialism', must have been a problem for him. However, the Labour Party leadership had decreed that Hitler was not left wing, after all, but right wing. Russell was primed to announce Rousseau 'led to Auschwitz' though this phrase is not present in History of Western Philosophy.

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Volume III 1944-1967
After the success of the first volumes of Russell's autobiography, there were problems with this. It seems the American publisher declined to publish. (I don't know any contractual or other details). Anyway, it was published eventually. The problems were with war crimes and atrocities, which of course the Jewish media censor. The final quarter-century of Russell's life included his activism against the West--Russell knew nothing of ZOG, except, just possibly, at the very end of his life. Certainly this volume is very much unlike the author's preceding volumes. Russell records his reactions to public events: the Second World War, the Cold War, the BBC, nuclear weapons, the Korean War, Kennedy's murder, the Cuba Crisis, the Vietnam War. Chapter III - Trafalgar Square looks at protests against nuclear weapons. Chapter IV - The Foundation is on the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation.

That at least is the formal version. Russell probably had no idea about Eisenhower (Jew from Sweden) starving Germans after the war. Or the fraud of what was later called 'the Holocaust', curious Greek expression as it is. Or the BBC frauds, of which the plump and oily Dimbleby, a Jew from London, started anti-German post-war propaganda in earnest. Or the fact, suppressed for decades, that mail bombs were sent to Labour Party leaders by Jews, over Israel. Russell had been to Germany: he accepted the figure of 135,000 Germans 'but also their houses and countless treasures'. 'By giving part of Germany to Russia and part to the West, the victorious Governments ensured the continuation of strife between East and West, particularly as Berlin was partitioned and there was no guarantee of access by the West to its part of Berlin except by air.' Note Russell's assumption that the Governments, all of course Jewish controlled, wanted to stop strife. He must have been laughed at, for his gullibility.

Russell made a public announcement that Stalin's USSR should be invaded. He later denied his words, but the important point is that Jews in Russia felt they had to pretend to 'explode their first bomb in August, 1949'. Perhaps readers who have not met the nuclear revisionist view before might reread the above few sentences. A typical example of Russell's activism was his campaign on the Cuba Crisis--clearly at this distance a fake rigged up by Jews, along with the marrano Castro. About a year later, Kennedy was murdered; again there's a clear Jewish link.

Russell's public views appeared on BBC radio as the first Reith Lectures, in 1948, a series of six, Authority and the Individual. Probably suggested by Sir Arthur Keith, and by nuclear myths, part of his talk stated that war had been a leading cause of innovation--very probably the reverse of the truth. Russell took little effective interest in the 'United Nations', unfortunately. For example, one of its foundational bases was the idea that races were of no importance--naturally, Jewish input was important here. Russell therefore was weak on actual possible world government, which he considered essential, since he swallowed the myth of nuclear annihilation. Volume III has Russell meditating on the future: the population problem. And 'economic justice'. Russell, misreading the world, thought political democracy applies in industrialised countries, no doubt accepting the Jewish view; but economic justice is 'still a painfully-sought goal.' Fascinating to read this elderly man's lucubrations on likely events of the next few centuries, especially from a revisionist viewpoint.

Russell was given a Nobel Prize (for Literature) in 1950--most of which went in alimony payments, he writes here. Among other things, Russell in 1952 visited Greece, troubled by the US Army; 1953, Scotland; 1954, Paris; in 1955 made a speech in Glasgow for a Labour candidate (which Alistair Cooke, a BBC hack, wrote about). And in 1955, Russell tried to get eminent scientists make a statement calling for joint action; Neils Bohr, Russian Academicians, Otto Hahn, Lord Adrian and others refused, and there was no reply from China. Josef Rotblat agreed to act as Chairman; I believe he was a Jew from Hungary. In 1957, Cyrus Eaton, a Jew in Canada, put up money for a meeting in Pugwash. It can be seen that Jews were circling, just in case. Ralph Schoenman is reported to have met Russell in 1960, the story being he hitch-hiked; but who knows?

The Foundation: Russell's first speech to members of the Vietnam War crimes Tribunal was November 13th, 1966. This met some ridicule from the Jewish media; I doubt if anyone yet has researched into archives of (for example) the New York Times. Russell was uncomprehending about the Jewish media: newspapers exist to facilitate truth, and improve the world; surely that's an ethical ground rule? Russell uncomprehendingly faced the Jewish liars of the world, to whom bombs meant money and young Vietnamese girls raped were good for a Jewish laugh. His final paragraph is about the 'essential unity of American military, economic and cold war policies.. search for raw materials and markets.. cruelty of the war in Vietnam.. Most difficult for many in the West to admit.' Russell faced opposition, but never fathomed the truth.
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Russell's Autobiography is a landmark on the road to reversing several centuries of evil. It is well worth reading in entirety. He was not completely honest; and he missed some important truths. But he has one thing which Jews and their allies can never have: they will never present their lives to genuinely interested audiences.

[Version with links on my big-lies site]
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on 9 September 2015
classical - maybe the best autobiography ever
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on 1 October 2015
Heavy going but enjoyable.
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