David Oshinsky at the New York Times:
The evenhanded approach of Louis Menand, who won a Pulitzer Prize for “The Metaphysical Club,” is like a breath of fresh air. “The Free World” sparkles. Fully original, beautifully written, it covers the interchange of arts and ideas between the United States and Europe in the decades following World War II. Menand is no cheerleader; his assessment of America’s failures can be withering. But his larger point, backed by a mountain of research and reams of thoughtful commentary, is that American culture ascended in this era for the right reasons. “Ideas mattered. Painting mattered. Movies mattered. Poetry mattered,” he tells us.
Much of this was the result of the forced migration of intellectual talent after Mussolini and Hitler came to power. We tend to remember the scientists who fled — like Albert Einstein — much more than the composers, performers, writers, poets, philosophers and political theorists.