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Leonid Bershidsky

Angela Merkel's Holiday Reading? It's All About Tyrants

Who could she have in mind?

“Grim-visaged War hath smoothed his wrinkled front.”

“Grim-visaged War hath smoothed his wrinkled front.”

Photographer: Benoit Tessier/AFP/Getty Images.

Every summer, German Chancellor Angela Merkel goes on vacation in South Tyrol to hike – and read a few books. This year, she made an interesting choice: Photographers caught her with Harvard Professor Stephen Greenblatt’s “Tyrant: Shakespeare on Politics,” an attack on U.S. President Donald Trump that masquerades as an analysis of the playwright’s views of tyrannical rulers and the reasons nations accept them.

Her selection is quite in character. Merkel described her reading habits in a video last year. She tends to tackle shorter books so she can get through several in the course of a vacation. As she has grown older, she has acquired a taste for history; specifically, she looks for parallels between history and modernity. She is a fan of the classics: Tolstoy’s “War and Peace”, Shakespeare, Goethe, Schiller. “All of them are very, very modern today,” she said. “Tyrant” – which runs to fewer than 300 pages – appears to tick all the boxes.