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11+ Works 363 Membros 11 Críticas

About the Author

Robert Zaretsky is an associate professor in the Honors College and Department of Modern and Classical Languages at the University of Houston.

Obras por Robert Zaretsky

Associated Works

Voices from the Gulag: Life and Death in Communist Bulgaria (1999) — Tradutor, algumas edições13 exemplares
The Analog Sea Review: Number Four (2022) — Contribuidor — 4 exemplares


Conhecimento Comum

Data de nascimento
University of Virginia (PhD|History)
University of Vermont (MA|History)
McGill University (BA|Philosophy)
university professor
University of Houston
New York Times
Foreign Policy
Chronicle of Higher Education
Los Angeles Review of Books
Marly Rusoff

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Robert Zaretsky is a literary biographer and historian of France. He is Professor of Humanities at the Honors College, University of Houston, and the author of many books, including A Life Worth Living: Albert Camus and the Quest for Meaning and Boswell’s Enlightenment. Zaretsky is the history editor for the Los Angeles Review of Books, a regular columnist for The Forward, and a frequent contributor to The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and Foreign Policy.



March 2020 the world changed. Robert Zaretsky’s university went to online classes. He volunteered at a nursing home, delivering and feeding meals to the elderly. For insight and clarity, Robert Zaretsky turned to writers who had written about the plagues they had lived through.

Victories Never Last looks to the past to understand our present. Pandemics have riddled human history; the result of the growth of cities and trade which fostered the spread of disease. The numbers of lives claimed by plagues is startling–until we consider that one of of four Americans have contracted Covid-19, and without the medical advancements and health care we enjoy, for our ancestors that meant one out of four died.

Fear and disorder were byproducts of disease, breaking down social, political, and religious order. Thucydides described the Athenian plague as stripping “society to its bones, baring a world of naked self-interest and preservation” Zaretsky shares.

Marcus Aurelius responded by writing his Meditations, his personal journal to aid his adherence to his Stoic philosophy.

Montaigne was still mayor of Bordeaux when the Bubonic Plague struck, taking nearly half the population. Retiring to a life of contemplation to write his essays, he concluded that “It is not what will be or what has been that counts, but our being at this moment that we should embrace.”

In his A Journal of the Plague Year, Daniel Defoe chronicled the Great Plague in 1665 London.

Albert Camus responded to the ‘brown plague’ of the Nazis; he noted that the plague in his novel has both “a social and metaphysical sense.”

Zaretsky compares Mary Wollstonecraft’s’ novel of plague The Last Man and Camus’ last, unfinished novel The First Man.

Throughout the book, Zaretsky relates his experiences in the nursing home and his own struggles with mortality. We are all frail and flawed human beings, he ends, all both the first and last of women and men.

Over these last years, many have turned to the past to help understand the present. These histories sadly show that the divisiveness which has upended our social welfare under Covid-19 is not new. These writers offer philosophies that can help us cope with our awareness of mortality.

I received a free egalley from the publisher through NetGalley. My review is fair and unbiased.
… (mais)
nancyadair | 1 outra crítica | Mar 11, 2022 |
As the subheader states: a work exploring reading and caregiving through the COVID-19 epidemic.

The author intersperses discussions of Thucydides, Defore, Camus, and others with his own experiences of helping to care for the elderly in a nursing home facility.

The discussions on the books are well historically informed and well nuanced. The choice of The Plague as opposed to finding something more related to H1N1 in 1918 is interesting but understandable in light of the veil of silence which covered that H1N1 outbreak.

The author makes good reflections. A history of pandemics, however, this is not.

**--galley received as part of early review program
… (mais)
deusvitae | 1 outra crítica | Nov 30, 2021 |
Amazing book. Camus is très sympa, wise and humane. He nails much of what ails us—insights drawn from his experiences in Algeria and in WW2 are startlingly relevant. Especially good on means and ends, on rebellion vs revolution, according to his way of understanding these words. Infinitely quotable.
jdukuray | 5 outras críticas | Jun 23, 2021 |
Zaretsky is charming; Boswell is charming; this is a somewhat aimless but very enjoyable, essayistic biography. The point, insofar as there is one, is to detail Boswell's relationships with or thoughts about other enlightenment bigwigs, including Smith, Rousseau, and of course Johnson. An ideal weekend read... if it hadn't been published by Harvard.

I'm not sure what's going on, but I can't remember reading a book published by Harvard that wasn't, apparently, edited by machines or perhaps ill-trained monkeys. Aside from general typos (really? you can spend thousands giving a book fancy end-papers, but can't pay a graduate student somewhere fifty bucks to get rid of typos?), we also have:

* the same anecdote about Hume repeated, I think, three times;
* Adam Smith called 'Author of the Theory of Moral Sentiments' multiple times within two pages;
* a joke about Mrs. Cowper before Mrs. Cowper has even entered the narrative;
* the story about Boswell getting into bed with Erskine repeated at least three times;
* Esse est percipi spelled Essi est percipi

That's a sample of cock-ups, not an exhaustive list. And this in a 'Balknap' book, supposedly the high-end of the press. Harvard, I edit books. Hire me.
… (mais)
stillatim | Oct 23, 2020 |


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