Stephen Cave

Nothing New under the Sun

The Soul of the Marionette: A Short Inquiry into Human Freedom


Allen Lane/The Penguin Press 179pp £17.99 order from our bookshop

Early in this book, John Gray tells the story of Heinrich von Kleist, who tells the story of a Herr C, who tells the story of how he once fenced with a bear. Herr C was a fine swordsman, able easily to defeat most human opponents; ‘but the animal,’ the gentleman recounts, ‘seemingly without any effort, avoided any harm’, parrying all thrusts with a swipe of its paw. Herr C soon began to sweat as he thrusted and feinted, only for the bear to see through all these ploys: ‘looking me in the eye, as though he could read my soul in it, he stood with his paw lifted in readiness and when my thrusts were not seriously intended he did not move.’

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • Something of an 'eccentric billionaire’s hobby': reviews 'The Space Barons: Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and… ,
    • "At the age of fifteen, drunk on stolen Chardonnay or stoned on pot at a swimming party, the thoughts that come imm… ,
    • For the latest Bookends, here's Alan Taylor musing on his stint as an assistant librarian. ,
    • A ‘pretentious ass and impotent arriviste’ who surrounded himself with ‘degenerates, hooligans, childish layabouts,… ,
    • . reviews 'Aristotle’s Way: How Ancient Wisdom Can Change Your Life' by ,
    • "As Beevor shows, it was one of the most daring, dangerous and fiercely fought operations of the whole war. It was… ,
    • "The characters are very rich and very male, with astronomical ambitions. The potted biographies in this book sugge… ,