We all know people who have led charmed lives, either by grace of high birth or, perhaps compensating for one’s birth, by extraordinary effort. Certainly, luck plays no small role in these cases, for even the most fortuitous beginning requires constant attention.

Raymond Klibansky, born in 1905, is still leading such a life. His recently published autobiography (more accurately, an extended conversation with a former pupil originally prepared for radio broadcast in Canada) is a stunning testimony to how an individual can tap some of our civilization’s deepest intellectual roots and play significant roles in our time’s most demanding conflicts, all the while maintaining contact with some of the leading players of nineteenth- and twentieth-century intellectual history.

Klibansky is probably best known for a collaboration with art historians Erwin Panofsky and Fritz Saxl on Saturn and...


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