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Wolf Lepenies is one of Germany’s most original homme de lettres. He is known to us for his sweeping essays and books, his prominence as president of the Wissenschaftskolleg in Berlin and as a professor of sociology at the Free University. But we introduce him here as a friend of Albert O. Hirschman’s, as a close associate for many creative years for both of them at the Institute for Advanced Study, and as a key figure in the introduction of Hirschman – personally and intellectually – back to his home city of Berlin. This conversation bears testimony to Hirschman’s contribution to intellectual life at the Institute, to the legacies of German culture in Hirschman’s own thinking, and to his return to Berlin in the 1980s where he witnessed the transformations that would restore a democracy he had watched fail five decades earlier.