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A Catholic for All Seasons

by Mary Eberstadt

Writing from Left to Right: My Journey from Liberal to Conservative, by Michael Novak (Image, 338 pp., $24)

Novelist, ambassador, vizier, poet: how fitting that some of Michael Novak’s monikers should parallel the rhythms of “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy,” that classic Cold War title by John le Carré.

It is fitting, for starters, because a significant chunk of Novak’s daunting body of writing not only coincided with the years of that long war, but also influenced certain of its seminal events. His 1982 masterwork, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism, to offer the most obvious example, was read and digested on both sides of the Iron Curtain—but with extra appetite in an East starved for alternative moral and economic ideas. Vaclav Havel, later to become president of the Czech Republic, read the book in (illegal) translation with friends, and others behind the Iron Curtain would join Havel in finding in Novak’s writing a unique source of intellectual and spiritual morale. The coincidence of Spirit’s appearance on the eve of the Velvet Revolution could not have been more fortunate.

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