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Tower of Basel by Adam LeBor

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CHAPTER SIXTEEN

THE CITADEL CRACKS

          “And they said, ‘Come, let us build a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed across the whole earth.’” 1

           — Genesis 11.3, The Tower of Babel

The story of the Tower of Babel is often read as a parable of the price of arrogance. Its builders started to construct the tallest building in the world, one that would reach to the very heavens as a physical manifestation of their greatness and ambition. Things ended badly.

The BIS tower, at Centralbahnplatz 2, in Basel does not reach to the heavens, but many of those working inside believe themselves possessed of a near-celestial mandate. Now seventy-three years old, the bank has ...

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