Fatal Discord: Erasmus, Luther, and the Fight for the Western Mind


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$45.00  $41.40
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6.4 X 2.0 X 9.1 inches | 2.8 pounds
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About the Author

Michael Massing is a former executive editor of the Columbia Journalism Review and a frequent contributor to the New York Review of Books. He is the author of The Fix, a critical study of the US war on drugs, and Now They Tell Us: The American Press and Iraq. He is a cofounder of the Committee to Protect Journalists and sits on its board. He received a bachelor's degree from Harvard College and a master's degree from the London School of Economics and Political Science. In 1992, he was named a MacArthur Fellow, and from 2010 to 2011, he was a fellow at the Leon Levy Center for Biography at CUNY. A native of Baltimore, he lives in New York City.


"Massing superbly accomplishes the mammoth task of writing a dual biography of Desiderus Erasmus (1466-1536) and Martin Luther (1483-1546) that places the pair within their historical context...this is a masterly work. Massing manages to juggle the complicated biographies and life work of both Erasmus and Luther while giving the reader a well-written, comprehensive background of pre-Reformation theology."--Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Brilliantly tracing the crisscrossing paths of the two most important thinkers of the sixteenth century, Michael Massing shows that where Martin Luther and Erasmus of Rotterdam parted ways--on the adequacy of human reason, the legibility of Scripture, and the nature of God--is where the grievous fracturing of the modern world begins. The stakes of their increasingly bitter conflict were high and enduring and we today are the heirs of it. The hero of Fatal Discord is the irenic, cosmopolitan Erasmus, who insisted until the end of his days, amid deepening religious violence between Protestants and Catholics across Europe, that men and women were capable of choosing to live generous and peaceful lives and that this is what a loving God wanted for them. A stunning work of historical detection, deeply learned and elegantly written, Fatal Discord adds depth and dimension to the most urgent questions of our times. "--Professor Robert A. Orsi, author of History and Presence and Between Heaven and Earth: The Religious Worlds People Make and the Scholars Who Study Them.
"In this riveting narrative, Massing recounts how the incendiary friar [Martin Luther] eventually quarrels with and finally repudiates his erstwhile leader, so sundering the church that Erasmus hopes to reform from within, and opening up an epoch-defining gap between Protestant evangelism and cosmopolitan humanism."--Booklist (starred review)
"In this dual biography, Massing deftly treats the lives of both [Erasmus and Luther], setting them in the context of the times... this engaging tale of the contentious relationship between two precursors of the modern world... provides much-needed historical background and reflection on a major period in church and world history."--Library Journal (starred review)
"A riveting dual biography [that] reveals the social, political, and religious tensions roiling 16th-century Europe. Massing focuses on the well-known rivalry between the Dutch humanist Desiderius Erasmus and the German reformer Martin Luther to create a majestic, deeply informed portrait of their tempestuous times... [Fatal Discord is] an impressive, powerful intellectual history."--Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"Fatal Discord is a striking departure for Mr. Massing, a distinguished journalist whose work has appeared in outlets like the New York Review of Books and the Columbia Journalism Review. . . . Mr. Massing has read widely and intelligently, and he writes superbly. Fatal Discord is surely the only book on either Erasmus or Luther that general readers will ever require. It reads like a lively lecture series in that most beleaguered of university subjects, Western civilization."--Wall Street Journal
"Michael Massing, a former executive editor of the Columbia Journalism Review, thinks these theological differences fatefully divided Christianity in ways that reverberate now in American evangelicalism. In his new book Fatal Discord, he brilliantly chronicles how the rift between both men deepened."--Financial Times