Nobility of Spirit

A Forgotten Ideal

Rob Riemen; Translated by Marjolijn de Jager

View Inside Price: $13.00

September 29, 2009
160 pages, 4 7/8 x 7 7/8
ISBN: 9780300158533
PB-with Flaps

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Already translated into ten languages, this brief testament to the transformative power of ideas is resonating with readers—especially the rising generation—throughout the world. 

Nobility of Spirit is a spiritual journey to the source of those values—especially truth, freedom and dignity—that must be sustained in order for civilization to flourish. Riemen explores the tradition from Socrates and Spinoza, to Goethe, Whitman, and Thomas Mann—singular individuals who courageously refused to compromise their ideals, and he engages with them with great insight, intimacy and invention. It is the anti-fascist Mann with whom Riemen feels a particular affinity, and who serves as a beacon to a world free of barbarism. Mann’s 1945 volume, Nobility of Spirit: Sixteen Essays on the Problem of Humanity, inspires the form of Riemen’s inquiry. Indeed, Riemen’s eloquent meditation on "nobility of spirit" begins with an extraordinary encounter with Elisabeth Mann Borghese, guardian of the oceans, and the last surviving daughter of the great author of The Magic Mountain and other masterworks. Riemen’s slim, powerful volume ends with an essay on Leone Ginsberg, an Italian Jewish intellectual murdered by the Nazis, who implores his wife—the  novelist Natalia Ginsburg—to “be brave” as he is taken to his death. Ultimately, Riemen calls for all of us to “be brave” as we battle those forces—terror, hate and ignorance—that are conspiring against humanity.

Rob Riemen, an essayist and cultural philosopher, is founder of the Nexus Institute, an international center devoted to intellectual reflection and to inspiring Western cultural and philosophical debate. He lives in the Netherlands.


"This slim volume . . . stands as the most stirring redoubt against the ascendant forces of know-nothingness that we’ve come across in a long time. . . . Nobility of Spirit might well be the most prescient book we've yet read on what's at stake in the current election cycle and in the developing global situation. Agree or disagree with Riemen's profound, ambitious and high-minded plea, you will be thinking about his words for a long time. It's been ages since a work of non-fiction moved us this way. Read it."—Mark Sarvas, The Elegant Variation (Blog)

“Rob Riemen has written a rare and much needed book, one which we appreciate not because we necessarily agree with its views, but for its commitment to ideas and its passion for imagination. It is a timely reminder of how imaginative knowledge can become a way of questioning, connecting to and changing the world as well as ourselves.”—Azar Nafisi

“The author’s vast cultural knowledge, his firm commitment to liberal ideals and the agility of his pen make these essays an invaluable guide to orient us amid the great political and cultural problems—and the ideological confusions—of the world in which we live.”—Mario Vargas Llosa

“Rob Riemen's essays spring from a deep and firm conviction—they are like water from artesian wells and this is, I think, the main reason why they are so important and refreshing.”—Adam Zagajewski

“Written with such elegance, erudition and skill, a singular reflection of fundamental problems, virtues and vices, of our time.”—Ivan Klima

"Mr. Riemen's Nobility of Spirit is intended as a meditation on the forces that threaten civilization and, no less important, on the forces that are desperately needed to sustain it."—Darrin M. McMahon, Wall Street Journal

"Riemen's study is beautifully crafted and luminously intelligent."—Richard Wolin, Dissent

"With beautiful clarity, Rob Riemen renders complex ideas simple and accessible to every earnest reader. His work is the embodiment of civilization: what it has sometimes briefly been, and what it can be again."—Cynthia Ozick