A Life

Book - 2011
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Bismarck makes Macleans Top 10 Bestsellers List.This is the life story of one of the most interesting human beings who ever lived. A political genius who remade Europe and united Germany between 1862 and 1890 by the sheer power of his great personality. It takes the reader into close proximity with a human being of almost superhuman abilities. Wesee him through the eyes of his secretaries, his old friends, his neighbours, his enemies and the press.Otto von Bismarck 'made' Germany but never 'ruled' it. For twenty eight years he acted as a prime minister without a party. He made speeches, brilliant in content but hesitant in delivery, and rarely addressed a public meeting. He planned three wars and after a certain stage in his career alwayswore military uniform to which he had no claim. The 'Iron Chancellor', the image of Prussian militarism, suffered from hypochondria and hysteria.Contemporaries called him a 'dictator' and several observers credited him with 'demonic' powers'. They were not wrong. The sheer power of his remarkable 'sovereign sel' awed even his enemies. William I observed that it was hard to be emperor under a man like Bismarck. He towered physically andintellectually over his contemporaries. His spoken and written prose sparkled with wit, insight, grand visions and petty malice. He united Germany and transformed Europe like Napoleon before and Hitler after him but with neither their control of the state nor command of great armies. He was andremained a royal servant.This new biography explores the greatness and limits of a huge and ultimately destructive self. It uses the diaries and letters of his contemporaries to explore the most remarkable figure of the nineteenth century, a man who never said a dull thing or wrote a slack sentence. A political genius whocombined creative and destructive traits, generosity and pettiness, tolerance and ferocious enmity, courtesy and rudeness - in short, not only the most important nineteenth-century statesman but by far the most entertaining.
Publisher: Oxford : Oxford University Press, 2011.
ISBN: 9780199599011
Characteristics: viii, 577 pages, [16] pages of plates :,illustrations, maps ;,24 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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