Un livre que J'achetai trois francs clinquantes chez un bouquiniste au borde du Seine en 1977 et que n'arrive pas à lire en 2015. Je suis enchanté! FrUn livre que J'achetai trois francs clinquantes chez un bouquiniste au borde du Seine en 1977 et que n'arrive pas à lire en 2015. Je suis enchanté! Franchement je suis plus impressionné que par les essais un peu de même genre de Maurois. L'auteur nous propose comme le titre indique des silhouettes de personnages non pas le plus connus souvent mais pas toujours, de la haute société anglaise du fin de siècle (19ième) amis des personnalités qui ont joué un rôle plutôt marginal dans l'historie, pour le plupart ces silhouettes attirent l'admiration du raconteur et c'est la sympathie, le manque du cynisme habituel qui me charme. Ces silhouettes peuvent s'appeler aussi bien je crois des anecdotes marginaux. Parce que il s'agit des personnalités moins connues, on apprend beaucoup qu'on ne savait pas à propos par exemple du Lord Clanrackrent (qui donna à la langue anglais le mot "rackrent") Orkins le Pendeur, le Duc de Rutland ..Le lecteur est un délice. L'auteur ne cache pas son enthousiasme pour l'empire le plus grande que le monde n´'ai jamais connu, qui est passé (si vite, trop trop vite!) dans les ondes de l'histoire impitoyable et dont nous reste des souvenirs ici très affectueuses et dont le lecteur ici est un délice....more
"Drieu la Rochelle, ou Le Seducteur Mystifié" par Dominique Desanti est une biographie qui me dérange beaucoup. Comme l'affirme la biographe elle-même"Drieu la Rochelle, ou Le Seducteur Mystifié" par Dominique Desanti est une biographie qui me dérange beaucoup. Comme l'affirme la biographe elle-même, l'oeuvre biographique mélange volontièrement les récits, des grands romans de Drieu avec sa vie, et bien entendu les romans sont biographiques dans un sens très fort. Drieu la Rochelle était un romancier collaborationist, un "fascist socialist", soldat deux fois blessé, surrealist, Don Juan, trois fois épousé, la première fois avec un femme Colette Jeramec, dont la mére était juive. Dans ses écris il manifeste une haine vivace même meutrier pour des juifs, pourtant il sauva son ex-femme de la déportation, comme il a sauvé par mal des gens pendant les ans de l'occupation allemande. En verité c'est un homme plein de contradictions, des amitiés tronquées (par éxample, avec le communist Louis Aragon) et finalement en 1945, a reconnue la defaite totale de ses espoirs de sa foi, de sa vie, il s'est donné la mort qui était toujours la femme la plus recherchée, mais quelle courage avait cet homme, qulle noblesse d'ésprit au fin, pendant que des milliers des gens sourtout en Allemagne même, après la defaite chercheraient de s'excuser. Les pires criminels se sont sauvés. Selon cette biographie, Drieu était decu par la faiblesse de la defence des collaborationists mis en procès. "Pas un seul au cours de procès ne semble avoir montré de fierté", mais il écrit ces mots avant le procès de Robert Brasillach. Drieu était très dur avec lui même et surtout concernant ses écrits. Il éxcrit à une femme Beloukia qui comme pas mal de femmes il a bien aimé, "Il a autre chose que le détachement de la vie et l'eloignement de toi, il y a l'orgueil." Dommage pour lui que la dernière femme qui s'est donnée, était son type "physique et moral". Comem il dit lui même "comme la vie est voluptueusement cruelle"....more
The description of this book in Goodreads suggests that the reader will be introduced to a donnish enclosed garden world of cloisters and tea-at-four.The description of this book in Goodreads suggests that the reader will be introduced to a donnish enclosed garden world of cloisters and tea-at-four. We might indeed expect such an account or at least influence in a biography of F.R. Leavis but Ian MacKillop does not provide it, for better and for worse, for worse because this biography arguably lacks colour, for better because the writer avoids the temptation of concentrating so far on Leavis as a character or his life as so much a life of Cambridge that he would lose focus on the issues at stake. (Ironically, it is CP Snow, the notorious scientist challenger of the Leavis vision who provides the reader with that very nostalgic cloistered, tea-at-four world in his Strangers and Brothers novels.) This biography is monotonous without being boring. It does not change pace and does not allow itself to be diverted by entertaining anecdote by peeps into the private lives of the protagonists of the story, other than is absolutely necessary when writing any biography. The account of a life in criticism is sympathetic and resolute but its sobriety sometimes detracts from the clarity. In the first place the biographer, perhaps out of extreme scrupulousness, fails to account for the relation between personal antipathy and opinion and action which seems to be so crucial in accounting for both the actions and attitudes of Leavis himself and those of his enemies. I may have missed a beat but I cannot find out for what Leavis is accused of being a liar by his opponents. I cannot find why his wife so loathed one of the players in this saga (Harold Mason I think). This biographer does not highlight what is really important by describing it in a louder, more stressed, more emphatic tone. There should be no mistake: the issues at stake here are important, are not parochial concerns of one or two dons or lecturers alone but issues which concern the nature and aim of education itself. Leavis targeted, if I have understood this account correctly ( and I have not, so far as I am aware, read Leavis myself so I am relying on this biography) the tradition of regarding works of art integrated within classes and trends and genres to the detriment of an intense understanding of a given work of art itself. For example Wordsworth's poem the Lonely Reaper, instead of being appreciated for itself might be dismissed or classified to death as a typical instance of romanticism. It seems however, that Leavis replaced the tradition of genre description with that of pedestals, pedestals of English literature and a small number of writers. No doubt this incurred envy and resentment: who is this doctor to tell us which writers are to be placed on pedestal? Certainly, this seems to me to be very problematic when English writers are to be compared favourably with writers in another language. Here I found the biography inadequate. Mentioned in passing is Leavis' irritation at TS Eliot's preference of Dante to Chaucer. Does Leavis give us an account of why Chaucer belongs on a pedestal denied to Dante? There are similarities between the two writers at least in respect of their establishment of a vernacular as a language of the literature of their emerging nations or national entities. Does not English literature begin with Chaucer and Italian with Dante? However the entire vexed question of how we may usefully compare works written in different languages and to what extent it is is even helpful to do so, is not broached nor do we learn whether Leavis examined this question or not. If he did, we are not told, if he did not, is this not a lack? Does Leavis have nothing to say about a Western canon of literature, he who wrote so much about the contribution of the English novel to the English canon and to literature? Admirable and well examined on the other hand, is Leavis's commitment to education in the true sense of the word of leading young people out of ignorance and purely emotional response or categorising and attenuating, with an intense analysis and appreciation of individual works which offer the reader a judgement of life. FR Leavis seems to have been very shoddily treated by Cambridge over the years. At his death we are told that Leavis' wife was "astonished to receive letters of condolence from Labour politicians Shirley Williams and Dennis Healey. There were no letters from Cambridge professors, except one from the Secretary of the English Faculty, John Stevens of Magdalene College, saying that his colleagues had asked him to write." Comment superfluous I think. His wife wrote a book which I shall try to acquire called "Fiction and the Reading Public" which by the sound of it contain theses centred on a commitment to excellence, with which I am full agreement myself.
Reading this biography I felt inspired to pen a short tribute to this man. Here it is:
For F.R. Leavis
For years I thought of you If I thought at all As a don who put The Lady C. Lover man On some such exalted pedestal As generals buoy in city parks A man I had no time to scrutinise. Too late I realise You meant the work is all All you know All you need to know Pedestals are dead and stone Our knowledge groans In first perceptions It grows out of them And you show We learn and learn What we know and What we need to know....more
I presume this is Mein Leben mit Celine which I read in German! I had a strong feeling that Lucette Destouches was leant on to write this account, proI presume this is Mein Leben mit Celine which I read in German! I had a strong feeling that Lucette Destouches was leant on to write this account, probably in the hope of raising a little money. I did not much enjoy it. It contained all the depression of Celine without his perverse dark lyricism. On the other hand, it provides some insights into the writer's private sphere which are intriguing; intriguing too I found the writer's devotion, I would say slavish devotion, to an extremely difficult and not apparently very grateful man. However two things I learnt from this account about Celine and his wife which struck me forcibly and I had not been aware of. One is Celine's devotion to the French language, an observation made here by his wife which requires thought and analysis; after all, at first glance, a work by Celine at least any work after Mort à Credit, reads more like a massacre and supreme disregard of the French language than a hommage to it. Such is certainly a superficial reaction but an understandable reaction, all the more given Celine's notorious and all pervasive pessimism, which his wife assures us was in no way an artistic pose or affectation or mask but rather an earnest intonation of his depeest dark nature. The second significant fact is the preference to animals over humans which husband and wife shared. His wife kept a menangerie of animals especially cats (core, her home must have been whiffy!) and in Nord Bebert's name seems to feature more prominently than that of Lucette or his actor friend whose name, perhaps this is no coincidence, I have forgotten. Wait de Vigan I think he was called, obviously a character who is not portrayed in Nord at all, as though Celine could not be bothered to present a close friend in any kind of light. Celine's characters come and go as beings, "characters" with charcateristics and individuality but without soul. That is not surprising. Celine is the last person to believe in anything so optimistic, lyrical or sentimental as a human soul. They are manifestations of vice (hardly ever virtue and the vitims or perpetrators of terrible or bizarre acts. For Lucette, instead of the language of literature there is the language of dance, and is in dance and not in words that she sought to express her emotions, her sorrow and sadness and joy too, although there is little joy in this deeply sad book. After all, perhaps they were deeply right for one another, misogynists of a feather. ...more
"Rupert Hart-Davis Man of Letters" is an affectionate and well written biography of the well known publisher. Philip Ziegler offers an account which i"Rupert Hart-Davis Man of Letters" is an affectionate and well written biography of the well known publisher. Philip Ziegler offers an account which is sympathetic without being a hagiography and without any of the point scoring which can be found in some biographies, the proverbial "hatchet job" which seems to have been started by Lyton Strachey in Eminent Victorians. It is a complete life, a view of a life which is compassionate, interesting and will interest anyone interested in books and writers and probably not interest anyone else. It is the account of a life in no way sensational nor indeed especially eventful, although Rupert Hart Davis was sufficiently at the heart of things in the literary world of the last century in England, that the account is full of anecdotes about writers. The book has led me to look with more interest at my own collection of books from the perspective of the publisher, something which I had previously neglected. The style of writing is reminiscent of Anthony Powell in Dance to the Music of Time, Ziegler is a master of understatement. This is a discreet account. The biographer does not pry far into the reasons for his subjects quirks and habits, he simply presents them. I have not read Hart-Davis on Hugh Walpole but suspect that the same could be said of that biography too. It is all very English and polite. Missing is closer examination of facts about Hart Davis which I would have liked to know more about. It seems that his knowledge of literature was profound but provincial and that he knew little about foreign literature. I should have liked to have learned more about the whys and wherefores of such provincialism. Could Hart Davis speak foreign languages? There is also very little detail offered about his private life except by way of anecdote. Another aspect of the life of this man which I felt would have benefited with more elucidation from Professor Ziegler, was Hart Davis health. Ill health, his own and that of many of his friends loves and acquaintances, obviously played a major role in his life but Ziegler does little more than refer to some illnesses on occasion as anecdote. For example, reference is made to Hart Davis psoriasis, which Ziegler seems to think is necessary to explain, although I imagine nearly every reader of the book will know what psoriasis is. Hart Dais undergoes a remarkable and somewhat grotesque treatment. "By way of treatment he had to be smothered in yellow ointment, powdered and then swaddled in a complete set of mutton cloth-tow legs, two arms and a vest, all tied together with fiddly little tapes...The treatment worked but the doctor cheerfully told him that the relief would probably only be temporary, he must expect the condition to recur again and again." The reader is left hanging. Ziegler does not tell us if the condition reoccurred or not. In 1972 Hart Davis, who was then sixty-five years old, had the rotting stumps of five teeth removed later nine stoppings and later that year one tooth and two further stumps were removed." How on earth did this civilised man who presumably cared about his appearance and his well being get into such an abysmal state of dental desolation? Again the reader is not told. This biography offers many such anecdotes which I felt needed explanation or elucidation. If I heard of anyone whose teeth were in such an appalling condition I would expect them to be a drug addict or be suffering the results of radiation or to have never practised dental hygiene in their lives. Ziegler leaves us to speculate.
This reticence, tendency not to explain the background to development or habits cannot be owing to over-scrupulousness on the biographer's part because he several times quotes quite intimate sections of Hart Davis's private correspondence. I should have liked to have some more details of the routines for which the man was apparently such a stickler. I was also confused about his level of interest in arts other than literature. At one stage we are told that he had little interest in music but there are indications that he did enjoy music. Similarly, it is unclear to what extent if any he was moved by the plastic arts. There is a lack of theorising in the book which at times left me with the feeling of wanting to know more and having been slightly short changed. Nevertheless, this biography is all in all a great success, a kind and probably accurate portrait of a man who was as the biographer calls himself "the conscience of literature" The concluding sentence of the biography I found very satisfying: "A conscience can be irritating, boring, sometimes even debilitating but woe betide the world that does not hear its voice."...more
This is a classic of revisionism, a reexamination of a king who was undoubtedly a victim of Tudor and notoriously Shakespearian propaganda, which is nThis is a classic of revisionism, a reexamination of a king who was undoubtedly a victim of Tudor and notoriously Shakespearian propaganda, which is not to say that he did not murder the princes in the tower, for I still think the evidence against him looks bad. If I remember correctly, King Richard was put in the dock in a television trial about 30 years ago and was found not guilty by a jury. Certainly Shakespeare was unscrupulous sofar as manipulating history was concerned. Macbeth and Joan of Arc were other victims of his manipulation of historical events to serve his political and poetic turn. The account given in Josephine Tey's book is the investigation by a bed-ridden sleuth who has started to wonder about Richard III's supposed culpability. In some ways this book represents a turning point, just as the Warren Commission (or rather the widespread rejection of the findings of the Warren Commission) represent a turning point, in popular attitudes to the pronouncements of experts and representatives of sovereign might. Thinking people are now instinctively sceptical about pronouncements from the high and mighty, about historical events about contemporary events. This is a highly readable account of a reexamination of the evidence against Richard III: was he indeed the hunchbacked, cruel, resentful, vindictive and bloodthirsty tyrant presented to us by William Shakespeare? Very probably not. Shakespeare was not one to baulk at bias. One should bear in mind however, that Mrs Tey's account itself is not an objective summing up, but the case for the defence, which stresses what serves her argument and attenuates facts which do not serve the purpüose of rehabilitation. The way I read this book is that Richard III is on trial and the judge has just called on Josephine Tey, lawyer for the defendant, to state her case. She does so magnificently....more
J'ai lu la moitié et je suis fasciné. Imaginez un melange de que sais-je? Virginia Woolf et Ernst Junger, peut-être cas donne une idée de cet débordemJ'ai lu la moitié et je suis fasciné. Imaginez un melange de que sais-je? Virginia Woolf et Ernst Junger, peut-être cas donne une idée de cet débordement des récits, obervations, exclamations. Nous sommes aux temps des derniers mois du Troisième Reich. Celine, "collabo" s'échappa de Paris afin de se sauver d'une France invahie par les alliés et les "francais libres" de de Gaulle, une Franmce où il serait surement éxecuté. Comme le francais n'est pas ma langue maternelle j'ai rencontré pas mal des most nouveaux pour moi qui ne se trouvent pas ni dans mon dictionnaire Cassels ni dans mon "petit Robert". Afin de les trouver, je peux prendre mon ordinateur..Bravo la toile! L'energie, le drole d'humeur, le perspective-tous assurent que le récit ne soit jamais ennuyeux. La neutralité parfaite du raconteur fait partie de l'humeur ironique, distance stoicienne, le dieux raconteur, ce qui me fait penser, bizarreemnt peut-être à Jeremy Clarke du "Low Life" dans le "Spectator". ...more
Je l'ai bien aimé cet livre meditatif, intelligent, smypathique et qui enfin present un epoc de l'histoire sans le negativisme complét qui est quasimeJe l'ai bien aimé cet livre meditatif, intelligent, smypathique et qui enfin present un epoc de l'histoire sans le negativisme complét qui est quasiment obligatoire quand il s'agit de l'Empire roman. Il me semble que l'auteur n'aime pas beaucoup le christianism et regarde l'emperuer Hadrien comme un homme libre avant le grand deluge de tyrannie qui était le christianism. Bien qu'il soit très intelligent et bien écrit je me demande si il s'agot ici d'un roman très profonde. Je crois enfin que non. On glisse un peu trop facilemetn au moins c'était mon impression sur les surfaces de l'historire. En tous cas j'admire beaucoup Marguerite Yourcenar et un effet cureise du lecteur de M'emoires d'Hadrien c'est que je commence à m'interesser pour les monnaies du monde ancien des grecs et romans!...more
C'est un compte-rendu de l'experience exactement comme dit le titre de la morte de sa mère, et on sense très fort comme c'est authentique, précise, coC'est un compte-rendu de l'experience exactement comme dit le titre de la morte de sa mère, et on sense très fort comme c'est authentique, précise, comme l'expérience est bien rendue et exacte. Comme on change vis à vis une certaine idée de la mort, comme on a des regrets pourtant au même temps une sense vif de liberation du dechainement. La mort d'une mère est pour beaucoup une experience defintife, un temps d'ârret, un point d'ârret et de commencement, une réorientation. Il y la vie avant et la vie après la morrt d'une mère. Comme Peyrefitte a bein compris et saisi la signfiication de cet evenment, avec tous les memoires que l'accompagnent. Il y pourtant entre lui et moi des differences importants-je ne partage pas avec lui le sentiment que les affairs amoueux en comparison avec l'amitiè avec ma propre mère n'etaient plus que des aventures facilement oubliées. En plus ma mère n'était pas du même character que la sienne-c'est normal bien entendu qu'on a des mère differentes donc que les sentiments et reactions sont très differents. Sa mère devrait manque très profondement à Roger Peyrefitte. Il écrit au fin du livre ces lignes extraordinaires mais très pessimiste pourtant dans un sense que je ne peux pas même bien expliquze à moi même, dans uns sense Nietszchean du pessimisme, les lignes du joie et même d'une joie de vie:
"Je sais que rien ne me rendra ma mère, qu'elle est morte à jaimais, qu'elle n'est pas en moi, que sa présence inviisble n'est qu'un leurre, que sa protection ne sera pas réelle que celle de mes dieux. Mais je dois faire comme si je ne le savais pas, pour avoir le courage de vivre."...more
This was quite entertaining. I read the book in German translation and for obvious reasons that is a disadvantage. Apparently Peter Ackroyd has writteThis was quite entertaining. I read the book in German translation and for obvious reasons that is a disadvantage. Apparently Peter Ackroyd has written a Shakespeare biography, which seems poignant to me, given the subject of this book, which is about forgery. Since the Shakespeare authorship debate involves mutual accusations of imposture and fraud and forgery, it tickles me that someone who presumably believes that the writer Shakespeare was the same person as Shakspear from Stratford provides here a loving account of verification, authenticity, gullability, imposture and conspiracy. After all, this book is a historical novel which mixes fantasy and reality. It could be read as a self-parody. I am naturally curious to read Ackroyd's Shakeaspeare biography. This novel is a spur to more reading and re-reading on a subject which like an old mansion, has winding corridors, forgotten store rooms, hidden stairways and secret passages....more
John Tyndall was a leading light of British nationalism for many years. He had some major faults and some major qualities. This book is an overview ofJohn Tyndall was a leading light of British nationalism for many years. He had some major faults and some major qualities. This book is an overview of the political situation as seen by a prominent nationalist activist interwoven with biographical reminiscences. It is neither fully satisfactory as biography nor poltiical statement. The great strength both of the book and of the man lies in the tenacity and coherence of the work and the life. John Tyndall was quite clear about where he wanted to go and why and there are no double standards and no prevaricating. A major weakness, it seems to me, and that emerges in the book as throughout his life and in what he wrote, is a failure to distinguish adequately between the ephemeral and the eternal. What I mean by that is that John Tyndall seems to me to attach far too much importance to political figures and political events who/which will and are forgotten in a short time. They are only shadows. Consequently effort and work is always conceived in a short term perspective, ditto such relatively unimportant events as democratic "general elections" which this man scorned in principle but attached a somewhat exaggerated importance to in real life. While the underlying worldview is one of pessimism, the day to day view is excessively optimistic and the danger of short term optimism is that when it is disappointed, the psychological effects on supporters are far worse than had they been hardened to a long struggle of the kind "you will never see victory in our lifetime". JT never said that, on the contrary, great success was always promised round the next corner, the NF or BNP or whatever his party was called was always about to breakthrough was always scaring the establsihment. Waiting for Godot can be lietrally dispiriting and John Tyndall should accept a good deal of responsibility for attenuating the fighting spirit through too much optimism, an optimism which resulted to a greta extent from his won over-estimation of his own abilities, an over-estimation unfortunately fuelled by sychophantic admirers. The entire British nationalist movement and not only British but movements of this kind around the world, chronically lack constructive criticism, to the extent that any criticism at all is automatically labelled as "factionalism" or direct opposition. The book is written with a striking lack of modesty. Everything is penned with a view to showing the writer in the best possible light and even admissions of error are presented in that way. There is not much humour in the book but one incident was really funny-Tyndall recounts that after his arrest for organizating a "summer camp" attended by Colin Jordan and Lincoln Rockwell, he was arrested. Other prisoners asked him where he had learnt such excellent English. The view was that only Germans could be national socialists and so John Tyndall must be German! What is left of his efforts? What are his achievements? In my opinion, not very much. To a considerable extent this may be seen as not his fault, since the democratic system is notoriously slanted against any movement which hints at racial segregation or nationalism. On the other hand I am convinced that any movement which charges at the system without having a long background of cultural and notional sympathy behind it, is doomed to fail. As a footnote, his sudden death was a surprise. I do not wish to hint at the usual conspiracy here but consider it another mark against modern medicine. JT believed in "common sense" regarding one's health, keeping fit, not smoking, having regular check ups. I am told he died of a heart attack soon after a checkup, which does make me wonder about the sense of a check up with doctors, who are all in the pay of the pharmaceutical industry. Another point: consipracies and probelms such as energy and medicine never reahced the top of this man's prioroty list when not clearly idenfiable as matters of specifically national concern. Thsi book and the man's career is a long history of separation of wanting to break out of a social and political ghetto but not changing focus in order to do so. Finally, whatever his many faults, John Tyndall is worth a good many of the career politicians and career journalists who have presided over their country's decline and sold such a decline as "inevitable" if not desriable too. In one respect he was surprisingly modest. He does not seem to have considered or cared much about his possible appeal to women but I think he could have made much more impression in that direction had he wanted to and that would have had very definite political cosnequences. Perhaps he was too honest and had too much integrity to be very successful in politics. Finally: I share John Tyndall's nostalgia for the British Empire. The world would be a better place today if it had survived but to have survived it would have required many more people of this man's mettle. He rests with an easy conscience. I am not sure that will be said about Vladimir Putin or Anthony Blair when they have passed on....more
I found this an entertaining and instructive read. It was chance (serendipity?) that I got to read it. My flight from San José to Frankfurt having beeI found this an entertaining and instructive read. It was chance (serendipity?) that I got to read it. My flight from San José to Frankfurt having been delayed by 24 hours (sic) I wondered over to the book stall at the airport to find something to read during the long wait. The selection of books was small and rather eccentric. Several copies of this book took up a considerable amount of the small space alloted to books. The introduction in which Hitch notes that someone prematurely referred to him as the "late Mr Hitchens" followed by reflections on death in view of a diagnosis of terminal cancer, made for poignnat reading as CH had become "late" only a few months before.
Reading the book I was struck by two things, one how very light-weight a thinker this man was and secondly how compassionate. Hitchens was an indefatigable journalist who positively relished rushing to scenes of conflict and then rushing out his views (he claims never to have missed a deadline). He followed the trajectory of rowdy lefty to "neocom" which many have followed, but so far as I know he is the only "neocom" to present readers with the story of what he calls growing awareness and others would call and indeed have called, a shift.
His book, which is a very selective autobiography that excludes all personal events which the writer does not consider relevant to his narrative, highlighted a number of very interesting points. He was born into an upper-middle class family, his father was a naval commander who faught with disctinction in the War. He attended Public School and Balliol College Oxford, where he became a fairly typical but especially committed student lefty. He was a student at the time of the anti-Vietnam war protests. He met someone who introduced him to the International Socialists (today the Socialist Workers' Party), later he joined the Labour Party. Like the majority of leftists and Labour party supporters hailing from the upper rungs of the social and economic ladder, he was from the beginning much more interested in notions of international causes, human rights, anti-racism than fair wages, education of the working classes, the ending of class society, parity of wealth. So far so usual. For many on the left he isregarded as a traitor because he later turned away from knee jerk left-wing causes, mnotably those involving the Middle East.
It is fascinating reading this book to read his references to the turning points which compelled him to reassess his positions on various issues. Most observant people are intelligent, most compassionate people have a rich imagination. Hitchens was unusual in being extremely observant (which made him a fine journalist) but not especially able to draw intelligent conclusions from what he observed and to be compassionate but singularly lacking in imagination.
These lines from John Whittier could refer to Hitch: "A hate of tyranny intense/And hearty in its vehemence,/As if my brother's pain and sorrow were my own" For some people his support of the war on Serbia and later Iraq was a change a regression, a shift to the right. It is true that there is an apparent lack of coherence-how can someone who opposed the US in Vietnam passionaltely supported Nelson Mandela be in favour of the invasion of Iraq. What is the difference? The difference is that this man, so much more heart than head, was there. In his own words he could smell the gas in Iraq which Sadam had used to wipe out Kurdish villages. He was in Argentina and met the victims of the junta. Having done so, having been made to see what the Argentian dictatorship had done, there could be no question for him that Britain should not be supported in the Argentian war. Prevarication on the left appalled him. Likewise Sadam Hussein. Likewise Salman Rushdie. When he wasclose enough to injustice, then no previous statement or commitment would impede him. He would defend what was right. I am convinced that had Hitch been taken in a time machine to Algeria at the time of the Algerian war and seen what the rebels did, had he been taken to see the victims of ANC "necklacing" and talk to the relatives, he would not have supported Nelson Mandela and he would not have supported the FLN had he witnessed their handiwork. Once he was convinced of the righteousness of a cause he was remorseless in pursuit of justice. His compassion was a burning fire. He was a political Peter Pan. He always cried for justice. He liked to provoke by using puerile words and making exagerrrated claims which he knew were exaggerated.
The second highly revealing elenment of this book is the fact that "blood will out". The son of a naval officer cannot contain his pride at the defeat of Argentina by the British army, cannot but feel for beleagured Israel once he has discovered (not rediscovered) his Jewish ancestry. Like it or not, there is an element of ethnic or national or religious (I am sure he would reject all these but there is something call it cultural if one will) fervour in his denunciation of Mohammedan potentates and dictators.
The man is naive but genuine and his naivity leads him to many a truth. His comment on deconstructivist and other theories of literature strikes at the core of the matter: what matters, he notes is not so much the theory, as a love of the writer and a love of literature. Only someone who is "pure" in the best sense of the word could think or write that. A simple but devestating truth which should be flung in the face of every weary cynical commentator and academic whose only interest is in the use of literature as the vehicle for an idea or worse, system theory. He was no friend of religion or a belief in the aftelife (what he could not see or observe he could not believe) but his commitment and compassion would or should put many a Christian to shame. Mohammedan too, come to think of it. ...more
An all time favourite for many people. Hardly "great literature" although if one looks closely, the writing is more sophisticated than one might thinkAn all time favourite for many people. Hardly "great literature" although if one looks closely, the writing is more sophisticated than one might think at first glance. Anyway, that is not the point, the point is that here is a person who cares deeply about animals and also about people. For all his scepticism and cynicism, he is also a freind of human beings, but not at all of the mdoern world that Homo sapiens is creating with so little room for non-human species.
This book is an account, a truly funny account, of his sun drenched life as a boy with his family on the island of Corfu. There is something in his account of his chilchood love of insects and his encounters with his family, a yearning for the fogotten isalnd paradise which runs through European literature and which his loved and hated brother Lawrence, deeply shared. This is a book I remember from childhood with deep affection. It is a book of innocence3 in the very best sense of that oft misused term. This is Crofu and Greece before the dubious benefits of mas stourism and direct flights from Birmingham to Skathos. This man worked long and hard to try to save the species threatened by over population and over exploitation. Gerald Durrel is much missed, and by the way, one Gerald Durrell is worth a whole chamber full of modern politicians both in terms of his ability to write English and his clear vision of right and wrong. ...more
irgendwie hatte ich den Eindruck, der Verfasser dieser Biografie wollte nur eine Biographie über Ernst Jünger schrieben und dann weiter zum nächster Kirgendwie hatte ich den Eindruck, der Verfasser dieser Biografie wollte nur eine Biographie über Ernst Jünger schrieben und dann weiter zum nächster Karrierschritte. Es hätte genau mso gut Gottfried Benn oder Martin Heidegger sein können. Vielleicht tue ich ihm dabei einen Unrecht, aber meines Erachtens fehlte jeden Spur von Leidenschaft oder Engagement von Seite Heimo Schwilks. Obwohl Jünger mich im Prinzip sehr interessiert, jedes Mal wann ich will etwas über ihm erfahren bzw lesen, finde ich, daß alles mir "glitschig" unergrundlic und unfassbar vorkommt. Ich kann Ernst Jünger irgendwie nicht festnageln. Wie Nietzsche, scheint Jünger ein Schrifststeller zu sein, über dem viele wissen etwas aber von dem kaum jemand ernsthaft und genau gelesen hat. Diese Biografie machte mich nicht in dem Sinn schlauer, ganz im Gegenteil, meine Unzufriedenheit bezüglich Ernst JKünger aber ganz besonders gegenüber diejenigen die über Jünger schreiben, ist mweiter gestiegen. Die Biografie langweiltete mich bis zum Punkt halbweg durch, daß ich das Buch zu Seite legte. ...more
This is a delightful book to dip into from time to time. There is an innocence and verve and keeness to this correspondence which are more knowing, jaThis is a delightful book to dip into from time to time. There is an innocence and verve and keeness to this correspondence which are more knowing, jaded and muggy times cannot I fear reenact. It is a book I am happy to own, although I seldom look it but I am conscious of it, like a love of long ago that one "owns" and cannot reproduce reenact but will never forget so long as there is breath and awareness and the spirit lives. God bless them....more
A little personal background first. I studied Shakespeare at school and was struck at the time I did so by the fact that in class virtually no biograpA little personal background first. I studied Shakespeare at school and was struck at the time I did so by the fact that in class virtually no biography of the man was offered at all, in contrast to the biographical details which were readily supplied to us for Chaucer and Milton. There was always an aura of mystery about the man William Shakespeare. I had somewhat vaguely heard of doubts about the main referred to as the author. I think my mother once mentioned that some people questioned the official biography and a friend of mine lent me a book when I was quite young in which one of the main characters argues that Francis Bacon wrote the Shkespeare plays. In that book by the way, there is a hilarious review of a Shakespeare production in which the reviewer concludes by stating that the Shakespeare controvery will be settled by this production, for if the coffins of the Shakespeare contenders are opened one only has to see which corspe will have turned! Shortly after school I decided to buy a biography and picked up the one by AL Rowse I think it was. I was disappointed and uneasy. The work was replete with speculation and supposition. Astonishingly little was known as fact about the most famous writer in the Western world. The book wa sfull of hypotheses and suppositions "it may be" "probably", perhaps" etc. For years I let it rest. Shakespeare was a phenomenon rather than a person. Years later I came across this book in a British Council library and I found Charlton Ogburn echoing thoughts which had been slumbering within me so to speak for the last 30 years. This book is really two books, one pointing out what an edifice of fraudulent assurance has built on foudntationms of speculation and scant evidence and in so arguing, Ogburn denyiesauthorship to the man from Stratford. The second part of the book presents Edward de Vere, the Seventeeth Earl of Oxford Earl of Oxford, on avialable evidence, as the only conceivable writer of Shakespeare's works. I shall not enter into the details of the argument-that is what the book is for-but would like to make a few observations on the signficance of this debate and the issues at stake in conspiracy theories in general. Firstly, when a conspiracy is suspected and the cry of "hoax!" is raised in connection with some historical event-to take another example than this, Josephine Tay's challenge to Shakespeare's own portrayal of Richard III as the murderer of the two princes in the Tower in a book called "The Daughter of Time" BOTH sides become committed to their positions in such a manner that neither side is disinterested. Both sides in such debates in the great majority are highly partisan. In the case of the authorship debate both sides tend to have a political agendas in a broad sense of the word agenda, one eltist and one anti-elitist. Orthodox scholars never tire of insisting that challengers to the Stratford theory are motivated by snobbery and elitism, overlooking the fact that upholders of orthdoxy are equally inspired by the myth of a "man of the people" showing that genius can sprout up anywhere and that a man or woman of the humblest circumstances can be Shakespeare. Many of those involved in this debate on both sides have an agenda. More importantly however is the personal commitment. For example, if one has written a book like this it very hard and takes a deal of moral courage to retract one's views-even if the "smoking gun" had been produced, anti-Stratfordians would be denying it to the bitter end, they have invested too much in their case. Likewise orthdoxy-those who have committed themsleves in print to the Stratford cause will look very foolish accepting they were wrong. This should be borne in mind when considering arguemnts from either side. I am convinced by the argument that Shakespeare was not the the obscurecommoner from Stratford. Ogburn's enormous rivetting work goes to great length explaining how claiming authorship for the man from Stratford runs in the face of everything we know about human nature. The core of this work however, is the argument that Shakespeare's plays are the fruit of experience. If this is accepted, then the works, aristocratic and elitist through and through can only be accepted as having been written by a member of the aristocracy. Common sense prompts me to accept Ogburn's arguments. There is also an instinctive reason. The dismissive and defensive reaction of upholders of orthodoxy, who seem unwilling to even discuss the issue, does not give the impression of much self-assurance on their part. Their invective and abuse of doubters is remarkable and calls to mind the loud protests of someone rightly accused of some misdemeanour. In this context I would note especially 1) the cynical accusationm that "Oxfordians" blithely ignore the fact that the Earl of Oxford died in 1604, years before many major works were written. Those who use this argument, hoping thereby to make challengers to orthodoxy seem like "conspiracy nuts who ignore the facts when they are inconvenient" simply neglect to inform the unwary that nobody has any evidence as to exactly in what year Shakespeare's plays were written in any case. No original copies exist of any play and no date of composition. All is speculation. 2) the repeated statement or implication that alternative theories as to the true authorship have been "laid to rest". They have not. To my knowledge, nobody has made any systematic attempt to challenge Ogburn's arguments in this book. The usual reaction by the hostile is "elitist claptrap" "lunacy" and other even less complimentary comments. Another especially silly and fatuous argument (used by the late critic Bernard Levin among others) is that many people have been put forward as "candidates" which shows how shallow the anti-Stratford arguments are. That is like saying, -"three members of the jury disagree with the majority that the accused is guilty but disagree as to who is guilty. That proves that the accused is guilty." Whether conclusive evidence will ever be found I doubt but surely common sense and all evidence is weighed heavily against the authorship of the man from Stratford. Anyone sure that traditonal orthdoxy got it right should treat the many arguments which have gathered over the years with respect and point out in an intelligent and well informed way why they are wrong. To Stratfordians the question is: where is any measured, intellgient and densely argued risposte to this and other challenges to the orthdox biography? ...more