The Paradox Machine

ORIGINAL TITLE: Paradoxmaskinen: Kritik 1990-2020


AUTHOR: Peter Englund


GENRE: Current Books, Non-fiction

Some brilliant writers are equally brilliant readers. Such a writer is Peter Englund, and the logical consequence has been for him to combine those talents as a critic.

In The Paradox Machine, we are treated to a collection of Englund’s most outstanding criticism from 1990 on. We meet persons as different as Caravaggio, Rosa Luxemburg and Donald Trump, subjects as varied as the Dutch Golden Age, the Cold War and the role of play in culture, questions as diverse as the US invasion of Iraq, the history of breasts and the nature of modern terrorism.

Any history enthusiast can count upon both many and varied lessons, but in addition, we learn a great deal about what history is and could be, as well as enjoying the characteristics of excellent criticism. Finally, the book tells the story of the development of both the subject of history and of criticism during the thirty years encompassed by Englund’s pieces.



"With his exquisite analysis and sense of drama, he manages to shame most art critics. Writing well is one thing, writing with reason and soul is another."

"The mixture is superficially diverse, but still forms a whole. The author has a real purpose, not just to entertain, or to educate for that matter .’

‘Well-composed and constantly readable, the oldest texts in “The Paradox machine” were written before the fall of the Berlin Wall. This book’s a real trip.”
Dagens Nyheter

"Peter Englund's criticism is an enriching read, a smorgasbord of pleasurable education and anecdotal history [...] He shows that at his best, a writer of history can provide a keen eye on the present.”
Norrbottens Kuriren

"From the first text to the last, there’s the distinctly Englundian style. An obvious penchant for recounting and travesty, whereby old-fashioned phrases are accorded new life "

"Peter Englund is a highly competent critic: stylish, analytical and knowledgeable.”
Uppsala Nya tidning

"Peter Englund is a brilliant stylist and historian."

"The Paradox Machine is a brilliant collection of texts, which should make anyone interested in history immediately to want to block out the present and embark upon a winding journey through the events and regions of the past.’


"There are some books that one has longed for without knowing it. Here’s one of those: The Paradox Machine.

”Peter Englund excels both as a man of knowledge and as a writer”