To mark the publication of Martin Peretz’s autobiography, The Controversialist: Arguments with Everyone, Left Right and Center, the Center for Jewish History invites you to a conversation between Peretz and longtime New Republic literary editor, Leon Wieseltier.
From 1974 to 2012, during his years as publisher and editor-in-chief of the New Republic, Martin Peretz was a familiar presence on the American political scene. In its time under his leadership, the magazine was always fresh, erudite, contrarian, and brave. Anyone interested in finding out the most distinctive expert takes on the issues that mattered—whether they be domestic or international, cultural, or political—knew that the New Republic was required reading. In addition, Peretz spent over 40 years as a teacher in the Social Studies program at Harvard. The list of his former students is a who's who of American political life, including former vice president Al Gore, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., and many more.
The Controversialist begins in a vibrant but tragedy-stricken community of Yiddish Jews in his native Bronx and takes Peretz, blessed with that rare trait of always being in the right place at the right time, into the same rooms as some of the most prominent writers, thinkers, businessmen, activists, and politicians of the 20th and 21st centuries. Peretz’s insights into his relationships with these men and women—many of them his students, teachers, colleagues, friends, and, of course, enemies—are both original and illuminating.
Through his examination of the personalities, not least his own, at the center of the events that have defined the postwar and neoliberal decades, Peretz makes a rich and compelling argument for the ideals that have been the focus of his life: liberalism, democracy, and Zionism. In revisiting this rich life, he considers, too, what will come next now that those ideals are no longer assured.
The conversation will be followed by a reception, book sales, and signing.