Beacons: 24 Destinies
Number of pages
Jacques Attali, the world-renowned French writer and scholar, has been inspired by a diverse and often unexpected range of creative thinkers. In Beacons 24 Destinies, he presents twenty-four short biographies of people who have made an impact on his life. He writes of the extraordinary lives and contributions of these “beacons”—of those who lit up the dark from as early as the sixth century B.C. and still permeate current thought.
Over the centuries, philosophers and theologists, artists and visionaries, have shaped the way we construct our reality and illuminate the way we see ourselves in it. Attali describes their contributions, starting with Confucius and moving onward to Aristotle; Ashoka, the Indian emperor who became Buddhist; Boece, the Roman consul and philosopher; and Hildegard of Bingen, a poet, playwright, composer, and scientist, whose influence on arts, theology, and medicine in medieval Europe still resonates around the world today.
Attali explores the key thinkers of the core religions, presenting biographies of Averroes, the Muslim polymath of the twelfth century who sought to reconcile Greek philosophy with Islamic theology; the Catholic Thomas Aquinas, who opened the way for autonomous rationality; and Moses Maimonides, the Jewish philosopher/physician who attempted to reconcile philosophy and science. On the political side, Attali considers personalities as disparate as Ho Chi Minh of Vietnam; Bolivar, the “liberator” of Latin America; and Abd-el-Kader in North Africa.
Among the twenty-four beacons are artists with a European sensibility: the Italian painter Caravaggio, the French author Madame de Staël, the German composer Richard Strauss, and the Russian poet Marina Tsvetaeva. The English-speaking world is represented by the English naturalist Charles Darwin and the Americans Walt Whitman and Thomas Edison. Attali closes his gallery of portraits with the twentieth-century Malian ethnologist and guardian of memory, Amadou Hampâté Bâ¬. The book ends with Bâ’s advice from the last year of his life: “If you want to build a lasting legacy, be patient, be good, be alive, be human!”
Jacques Attali : Foreign Policy Magazine has selected Jacques Attali as one of the top 100 public intellectuals in the world. Attali has written fifty books, which have been translated into more than twenty languages, with over six million copies sold worldwide. He has been published in the United States since 1985 with books such as Noise: The Political Economy of Music (University of Minnesota Press), Millennium: Winners and Losers in the Coming Order (Three Rivers Press), The Labyrinth in Culture and Society: Pathways to Wisdom (North Atlantic Books), and A Brief History of the Future: A Brave and Controversial Look at the Twenty-First Century, to be published by Arcade Books in July 2011.
A professor, writer, and founder and first president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development in London from 1991 to 1993, and the organization Action Contre la Faim (Action Against Hunger), Attali (www.attali.com) is currently President of PlaNet Finance (www.planetfinance.org), an international nonprofit organization assisting microfinance institutions.