Christopher Coker

History’s Crooked Lives

The Legacy of the Second World War

By

Yale University Press 201pp £16.99 order from our bookshop

During the Nuremberg Trials, Hermann Goering spent much of his time in the dock reading a work of philosophy, a contemporary bestseller, by a Chinese-American philosopher, Lin Yutang. The book, The Importance of Living, had been through several editions in the 1930s. One of its principal contentions was that nations, like individuals, have their own conceptual understanding of the world. It is difficult to know what Goering made of the philosopher’s discussion of national characteristics in an era that took them for granted. Taking R for a sense of Reality (or Realism), D for Dreams (or Idealism), H for a sense of Humour and S for Sensitivity, Yutang rated the three main protagonists of the twentieth century as follows:

R3, D3, H2, S2 = Americans

R3, D4, H1, S2 = Germans

R2, D4, H1, S1 = Russians

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