Building the City of Heroes

Sohrab Ahmari’s new book, The Unbroken Thread, draws the modern reader’s attention, possibly for the first time, to twelve perennial questions that concern the meaning of life. He explores what he calls the traditional approach to those questions and challenges liberal ideology’s answers. In a world where most Americans’ moral education is derived from inspirational posters featuring kittens and platitudes (“Believe in Yourself”), this is a welcome reprieve. Although Ahmari is gentle with the reader, his aim is daring. He seeks nothing less than to build a city of heroes.

This much is clear from the outset. In the introduction, Ahmari says the book came out of his meditations on the life and, most importantly, death of St. Maximilian Kolbe, the Polish Franciscan priest who was martyred in Auschwitz in exchange for the life of a fellow prisoner who had a family. Reflecting on the luminous beauty of this saint’s heroic sacrifice, Ahmari asks what kind of polity and mindset shapes men and women of this caliber and questions whether liberal society does so. These are no idle investigations—he tells the reader he’s asking these questions for the sake of his son, also named Maximilian.

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