*Professor of Apocalypse: The Many Lives of Jacob Taubes*

Muslim woman carrying placard with freedom inscription while protesting with crowd of people on the streets.
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The author is Jerry Z. Muller, and I am sorry I did not have the chance to read this book last year when it came out.  Taubes is one of the most underrated deep thinkers, and this is the definitive biography of him.  Think of Taubes as a mid-twentieth century Germanic-Jewish but also partly Christian thinker who tried to integrate philosophy, theology, and science, yet without ever committing to a serious enough level of written investigation to have a chance of pulling that off.  He nonetheless was capable of depth, and pearls of insight, that few other thinkers can pull off.  From the biography, here is one of the more personal excerpts:

Some of Margherita’s friends wondered at the pairing.  Some thought her more attracted to women than to men.  The partners seemed so different.  She had a fashion sense that Jacob lacked.  She drove a white Alfa Romeo, while after his move to Berlin, Jacob did not drive at all.  She was proper and reserved.  Jacob was neither.  Jacob was ironic, skeptical, and witty; Margherita more strict and earnest.  Jacob had a mind that was explorative and associative, while Margherita did not.  She was a dog lover, a not unusual taste among Germans of her background, but foreign to Jacob’s.  She owned a small house in the Black Forest, to which she withdrew from time to time, a practice Jacob scorned as “Heideggerei.”

I had not known Susan Sontag was his research assistant.  I am less surprised that he hung out with Cioran and Hans Blumenberg (both insufficiently read in the English-speaking world as well).  This book is not for everyone (500 + pp. about a thinker you probably have not read), but it is for some people.

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