Tim Duggan Books; 1st Edition
Timothy Snyder, Professor of History at Yale Univeristy and permanent fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna, breaks down big concepts into easy-to-digest bites here in a deliberately taut, concise set of fragment-essays that offers a geo-political, historical and philosophical view of some of the biggest failings of the 20th Century; the aim is to make the “learn from the mistakes of the past” philosophical grab resemble something of an edict, live and learn and the learnings here come from some crude, hard, rude, selfish living.
The book is an easy read – full of big ideas. It’s a remarkable feat of writing with one huge problem: it’s the sort of book that will appeal to people who already know a lot of the key concepts and believe in the aims of this slim volume; it’s a book that’s message needs repeating and sharing but the buyers are no doubt already on board.
The best thing that could have happened with this book was to marketing it as a 2-for-1, pay one price receive two copies, pass one along, pick the thickest, most bigoted person in your Facebook feed, or the real-life friend that still manages to baffle you with their selfishness, their lack of awareness, their lack of thought for anyone else and gift them a copy.
On Tyranny has some lovely, sweet ideas – including a love of language and the protection of the printed page, the idea that books are a thing of beauty, that reading for knowledge and pleasure can (and should) be one and the same; that simple philosophy should be the pursuit of anyone. It would be nice to see those ideas put in front of the noses of the least suspecting, not just the people so keen and aware and alert and hopeful already.
There’s also some grave reminders of the hopelessness and hard-heartedness of wars, of conflict, of terror.
They’re smart, deceptively simple essay-vignettes, big concepts broken down into easy-to-read morsels. No mean feat.