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Publishers Weekly, March 11, 2013

Two Reviews: A Starting Point

Reviews of Hammarskjöld: A Life by Prof. Michael Ignatieff and Dr. Rowan Williams brilliantly exemplify the range of possible responses to the public life and private concerns of Dag Hammarskjöld. Prof. Ignatieff looks from the perspective of a political scientist and participant in Canadian politics who is not uncomfortable with Hammarskjöld's spirituality; he understands how to honor and include it although it is not his first concern. Dr. Williams, recently returned to university life from years of service as Archbishop of Canterbury, is an exceptionally insightful interpreter of spirituality whose experience in public life underlies his understanding of Hammarskjöld's integration of public service and private spirituality.
Lipsey (Angelic Mistakes) revisits the legacy of the Swedish diplomat and thinker 50 years after he perished in a plane crash while on a secret mission in Africa. Youngest son of an aristocratic family, Hammarskjöld held top posts with the Swedish government before the UN recruited him to succeed Trygve Lie in 1953. Lipsey tackles the tricky question of Hammarskjöld's private life: the fact he was a "confirmed bachelor" and good friend of poet W.H. Auden generated widespread speculation; denial was the only option at the time. Like Henry David Thoreau, Hammarskjöld preferred solitude and kept a journal that posthumously became the bestseller Markings. Lipsey views his subject as a man of deep faith who showed remarkable courage in the face of numerous Cold War crises, and his spirit lives on at the UN thanks to the Room of Quiet, a sanctuary built during his tenure. Meticulously researched, new evidence shows that his death may have been an assassination, an interpretation sure to intrigue conspiracy theorists. Murky scandals aside, political junkies and history buffs will relish this definitive, painstakingly thorough treatment of a great statesman and consummate diplomat.

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