Hannah Arendt focuses on her life in New York during the prime of her academic career. In 1961, she was asked by William Shawn, the editor of The New Yorker, to write an eyewitness account of the trial, in Israel, of Otto Adolf Eichmann, the German Nazi colonel and a major organiser of the Holocaust.

In the spring of 2010, the Istanbul high-brow literary afficionados were treated to a feast. V.S. Naipaul, Hanif Kureishi and Gore Vidal were coming to the town.

‘You’ve been highly recommended’, the caller said before going on to identify herself as the personal assistant of a certain Professor Y, who pending the results of the investigation, preferred to remain anonymous.

On the evening before his execution in Baghdad for heresy in 922, Husayn ibn Mansur al-Hallaj faced Mecca and, in a state of ecstasy, conversed with God. The following day he was dancing in his chains and laughing as he was taken to the place of execution and that laughter grew to a crescendo when he saw the gibbet.

Freethinking is characterised by a reliance on reason and autonomy rather than authority or institution. It is an inquisitive and questioning state of mind, one that readily slips into scepticism and possibly even relativism.