Kolakowski was probably best know for his magisterial three-volume Main Currents of Marxism , published in the late 1970s and a monument to scholarly industry, intellectual penetration, and political common sense. Although Kolakowski had himself been a Marxist in his youth, he came to see, as he put it in the concluding pages of his book, that â€œMarxism has been the greatest fantasy of our century.â€ Kolakowskiâ€™s contribution to the library of political freedom was immense.
I highly recommend Kolakowski’s Modernity on Endless Trial (translated into English, of course), wherein he gives us, inter alia, even as an agnostic, the line “To reject the sacred is also to reject the idea of evil.” He wrote that in the 90s. Prescient, no?
We’ll have to do a full review of the book in time.
Update: 21 July Christopher Hitchens has an obituary at Slate.
Update: 22 July Head on over to Arts & Letters Daily (‘natch) to the upper-left column for a slew of obits. Beware, however, that the New York Times’s has the sentence, “In 2003 he became the first recipient of the United States Library of Congressâ€™s $1 million John W. Kluge Prize for Lifetime Achievement in the Humanities and Social Sciences, given in fields where there are no Nobel Prizes.” I shouldn’t have to say this, but a prize from that group is not a guarantee of man’s or an idea’s profundity or lastingness.