In these essays Deutscher speaks of the emotional heritage of the European Jew with calmness and clear-sightedness; as a historian he writes without anger but with compassion; as a non-Jewish Jew he writes without religious belief, but with a generous breadth of understanding. As a philosopher he writes first of some of the great Jews of Europe: Spinoza, Heine, Marx, Trotsky, Rosa Luxemburg, and Freud. He explores the Jewish imagination through the painter Chagall. He writes of the Jews under Stalin and of the 'remnants of a race' after Hitler; of the Zionist ideal, of the establishment of the state of Israel, of the war of June 1967, and of the perils ahead.
Isaac Deutscher was born in 1907 near Krakow and joined the Polish Communist Party, from which he was expelled in1932. He then moved to London where he died in 1967. His books include Stalin and The Unfinished Revolution, and the three-part biography of Trotsky, hailed by Graham Greene as 'among the greatest biographies in the English language.