For the first biography of this man of letters, diplomat, and scholar, Donald Harman Akenson had unrestricted access to O'Brien's personal papers. The intimate drama of people and events that emerges is not only a portrait of one man but also the story of modern history unfolding. "Conor Cruise O'Brien . . . has certainly found a splendid biographer in historian Akenson. . . . [This] is a very fine biography, full of wit, verve, candor, and a critical appreciation of its subject."--Kirkus Reviews
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The author of 12 history books, including God's People: Covenant and Land in South Africa, Israel and Ulster (LJ 9/1/92), Akenson is a most appropriate scholar to undertake the biography of O'Brien, one of Ireland's political and literary luminaries. Born in 1917, O'Brien rose through the ranks of the Irish foreign office to join the U.N. delegation at a time when Ireland served as an anti-imperial voice in that body. During the Belgian Congo crisis, he was Dag Hammarskjold's special representative-a post he resigned on a matter of principle to write To Katanga and Back in 1962. Becoming the vice chancellor of the University of Ghana, O'Brien crossed swords with Kwame Nkrumah, the first president of independent Ghana. Moving from African politics to literary and academic politics, O'Brien held the Schweitzer Chair at New York University and was embroiled in the left-of-center literary currents of the day. In addition, he served as a member of the Irish Cabinet in the 1970s and as editor of the Observer. Aksenson's care in reviewing O'Brien's papers, his interviews, and his integration of his sources into the chronicle of O'Brien's life are done masterfully. Avoiding a rehash of gossip while still presenting the darker corners of O'Brien's life and personality, Akenson accomplishes what we seek of an excellent biography. Highly recommended. To accompany his biography, Akenson has chosen selections of O'Brien's writings, arranged chronologically to illuminate O'Brien's work and thought at particular points in his life. The anthology is best read with the biography for it is not a collection of O'Brien's "best" or "recent" writing but rather a collection that charts the evolution of his extraordinary literary skills from those of a young student to his more recent work on Edmund Burke. This book could stand alone for the more serious scholar of O'Brien, but it is recommended especially as a companion to the biography.
Richard B. Finnegan, Stonehill Coll., North Easton, Mass.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.
O'Brien is an anachronistic figure--and an anomalous one. This century has produced only a handful of writer/scholar/diplomat/politicians, and the Republic of Ireland's leaders have included few divorced agnostics. Yet there O'Brien is: Irish civil servant; UN functionary in the Congo in the final months of the Katanga secession; University of Ghana vice-chancellor under chancellor (and president) Nkrumah; professor and founder of New York University's "Literature and Society" program; Irish Labour Party legislator and cabinet minister; editor in chief of the Observer (London); and, throughout his life, superb newspaper and magazine journalist and skilled historian, most recently author of a notable biography of Edmund Burke, The Great Melody (1992). Akenson, who is a history professor at Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada, has studied many of the same aspects of Irish and international history that have been O'Brien's central concerns and was given unrestricted access to O'Brien himself and to his subject's papers, friends, and (many of his) enemies. Respectful but not uncritical and thoroughly fascinating, Conor achieves much more than Akenson's quite modest aim: "to appreciate [O'Brien] alive, before analyzing him to death." Mary Carroll
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Descripción Cornell University Press, 1994. Hardcover. Estado de conservación: New. Nº de ref. de la librería DADAX0801430879