The American writer Jonathan Schell died last night, of cancer, in his home in Brooklyn. From his early work as a young Vietnam War correspondent for the New Yorker, through his meticulous yet sweeping case for nuclear disarmament in The Fate of the Earth, to his magisterial rethinking of state and popular power in The Unconquerable World: Power, Nonviolence, and the Will of the People, Schell embodied the best of a distinctively American, progressive civic-republican tradition—and of a WASP cultural sensibility about which he was ambivalent and humorously self-deprecating. Schell set a powerful example of dissent while showing defenders of conventional wisdom that they, too, have good intentions that they ought to live up to. Our future is dimmed by the loss of what would have been Schell’s continuing insight, magnanimity, and love. — Jim Sleeper
Here is Schell in Bookforum on Nicholson Baker’s Human Smoke.