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George Steiner, 5 June 1980

Instaurations: Essays in and out of Literature Pindar to Pound 
by D.S. Carne-Ross.
California, 275 pp., £10.50, December 1979, 0 520 03619 0
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... Critics are legion. Good readers, i.e. those with a complete philological mastery of a major text and the ability to bring this text home to us in its own terms, are rare. Rarer, perhaps, says Borges, than good writers. Because the gifts required are infrequent: technical scruple, historical tact, a just sense for what is both untranslatable, resistant to paraphrase in a classical text, and, at the same time, a vivid enough commitment to the belief that even this ‘untranslatability’, or, indeed, it especially, will, if carefully circumscribed, have a vital presentness to the current reader ...


George Steiner, 23 May 1996

The Modern Epic: The World System from Goethe to García Márquez 
by Franco Moretti, translated by Quentin Hoare.
Verso, 250 pp., £44, March 1996, 1 85984 934 2
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... A theory becomes ‘classical’ when it is thought to have been understood, which is to say left behind or constructively challenged. Where a theory is forceful enough, there is, inevitably, a sense in which it consumes its object and, thus, itself. These are Hegelian concepts and they bear directly on the theory of the evolution of literary forms which Lukács derived critically from Hegel ...


George Steiner, 5 May 1988

Visions and Blueprints: Avant-Garde Culture and Radical Politics in Early 20th-century Europe 
edited by Edward Timms and Peter Collier.
Manchester, 328 pp., £29.50, February 1988, 0 7190 2260 6
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... from the list of significant British writers involved in the Spanish cockpit, the very name of George Orwell! Or how ambiguous are the criteria which impel Peter Collier to cite, with almost breathless admiration, Auden’s commendation of ‘the necessary murder’. Ritchie Robertson is concise and authoritative on the Zionist impulse in Herzl and ...


George Steiner, 19 April 1990

Spinoza and Other Heretics. Vol. I: The Marrano of Reason 
by Yirmiyahu Yovel.
Princeton, 244 pp., $24.50, January 1990, 0 691 07344 9
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Spinoza and Other Heretics. Vol. II: The Adventures of Immanence 
by Yirmiyahu Yovel.
Princeton, 225 pp., £29.50, January 1990, 0 691 07346 5
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... Oddly enough, philosophers, even of the most technical and abstract tenor, can generate personal mythologies. Very early, the aura of legend haloed Pythagoras and Empedocles. Wittgenstein is now the object of a considerable corpus of poetry and fiction in which the strangeness, the sometimes histrionic apartness and reputed violence, of his truth-seeking takes on a romantic, mythical cast ...

Darkness Visible

George Steiner, 24 November 1988

Joseph de Maistre: An Intellectual Militant 
by Richard Lebrun.
McGill-Queen’s University Press, 366 pp., £30.35, October 1988, 0 7735 0645 4
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... Roll out the drum and blow the fife. 1989 is close at hand, and with it the bicentennial of the French Revolution. Well over a hundred international colloquia will mark the occasion. They will range from platitudinous immensities – ‘the rights of man’, ‘Europe and America after the fall of the Bastille’, ‘the French Revolution and the Third World’ – to genuinely worthwhile specificities (‘music and drama during the Jacobin regime’, ‘clandestine presses and the dissemination of revolutionary doctrines ...

Homer and Virgil and Broch

George Steiner, 12 July 1990

Oxford Readings in Vergil’s ‘Aeneid’ 
edited by S.J. Harrison.
Oxford, 488 pp., £45, April 1990, 0 19 814389 3
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... A suggestive history of Western moral, literary and political sensibility could be written in terms of the relative status, at given periods and in different societies, of Homer and Virgil. The actual Homeric texts come late into European Christendom. Dante knew of the ‘sovereign poet’ only by hearsay and via derivative epics. The Virgilian presence is continuous ...

The Everyday Business of Translation

George Steiner, 22 November 1979

The True Interpreter 
by Louis Kelly.
Blackwell, 282 pp., £15
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... Translation was, until recently, the stepchild of critical attention and literary theory. Translators themselves were poorly-paid drudges. Views on the nature of literary translation turned on a dichotomy as ancient as Horace and Quintilian (who, themselves, took it over from Greek predecessors): as between the ‘letter’ and the ‘spirit’, as between goals of utmost fidelity, represented by an interlinear version of the original, and ideals of active echo or re-creation in the target-language ...

Whereof one cannot speak

George Steiner, 23 June 1988

Wittgenstein. A Life: Young Ludwig 1889-1921 
by Brian McGuinness.
Duckworth, 322 pp., £15.95, May 1988, 0 7156 0959 9
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... Why should there be biographies of philosophers? Nietzsche held every philosophical-metaphysical doctrine to be the confession of its begetter. Husserl, on the contrary, believed that a philosophical argument was worth considering only if it aspired to the universality, to the truth-conditions of the anonymous. On neither count is there any need for biographical treatment ...

Manning the Barricades

Andreas Huyssen, 1 August 1996

No Passion Spent 
by George Steiner.
Faber, 421 pp., £20, January 1996, 0 571 17697 6
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... vogues and the cant of critical fashions is what academic literary critics typically do, and George Steiner is no stranger to the game. He has never been seduced by changing fashion and, at its best, his writing is fluid and incisive. As a critic he has always thought of himself as fiercely independent, but the essays collected in No Passion Spent ...


Wendy Steiner, 1 June 1989

Real Presences 
by George Steiner.
Faber, 236 pp., £12.99, May 1989, 0 571 14071 8
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... to a cultured populace, and consumption gives way to creativity. This is the vision with which George Steiner opens his new meditation, Real Presences. His subtitle – ‘Is there anything in what we say?’ – indicates the motivation for this dream of immanence: the desire to reinstate the belief that meaning resides in the artwork and the need to ...

Private Lives

Ray Monk, 22 November 1990

... which he was given surreptitious access.Printed with the article was a photograph which Professor George Steiner had, in conversation with me, treated as proof of Wittgenstein’s taste for ‘rough trade’. The picture shows Wittgenstein walking down the street with a young man wearing a black raincoat. It was originally published in Wittgenstein: Sein ...

The Powyses

D.A.N. Jones, 7 August 1980

After My Fashion 
by John Cowper Powys.
Picador, 286 pp., £2.50, June 1980, 0 330 26049 9
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Weymouth Sands 
by John Cowper Powys.
Picador, 567 pp., £2.95, June 1980, 0 330 26050 2
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Recollections of the Powys Brothers 
edited by Belinda Humfrey.
Peter Owen, 288 pp., £9.95, May 1980, 0 7206 0547 4
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John Cowper Powys and David Jones: A Comparative Study 
by Jeremy Hooker.
Enitharmon, 54 pp., £3.75, April 1979, 0 901111 85 6
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The Hollowed-Out Elder Stalk 
by Roland Mathias.
Enitharmon, 158 pp., £4.85, May 1979, 0 901111 87 2
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John Cowper Powys and the Magical Quest 
by Morine Krissdottir.
Macdonald, 218 pp., £8.95, February 1980, 0 354 04492 3
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... Big guns (J. B. Priestley, G. Wilson Knight, George Steiner, Angus Wilson) have been booming the name of John Cowper Powys for many years, outraged that other big guns will not join the salute. In the first number of the Powys Review, in 1977, George Steiner blamed Dr Leavis for praising Theodore Francis Powys above John Cowper, thus denying J ...

Hitler at Heathrow

E.S. Shaffer, 7 August 1980

The Memoirs of Bridget Hitler 
edited by Michael Unger.
Duckworth, 192 pp., £4.95, March 1979, 0 7156 1356 1
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The Portage to San Cristobal of A.H. 
by George Steiner.
Granta, 66 pp., £1.50
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Young Adolf 
by Beryl Bainbridge.
Duckworth, 174 pp., £6.95, November 1978, 0 7156 1323 5
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... the petit bourgeois milieu to which he belonged and which is her special province as a novelist. George Steiner, in his short novel or novella (cut for publication in the Cambridge magazine Granta), returns us to the black-red-white formulaic fiction, in which the aged Hitler is tracked down in the swamps of South America by an Israeli search party ...


Nicholas Penny, 4 September 1986

Faith in Fakes 
by Umberto Eco, translated by William Weaver.
Secker, 307 pp., £15, August 1986, 0 436 14088 8
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Art and Beauty in the Middle Ages 
by Umberto Eco, translated by Hugh Bredin.
Yale, 131 pp., £6.95, September 1986, 0 300 03676 0
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... theories, eminently judicious though these reservations are when compared with the enthusiasm of George Steiner or Raymond Williams. The Red Brigades, however, have not been forgotten. And people still wear blue jeans. Professor Eco wore blue jeans ten years ago. They felt tight around his testicles. He became more aware of his body. He understood what ...

Conrad and Prejudice

Craig Raine, 22 June 1989

Hopes and Impediments: Selected Essays 1967-87 
by Chinua Achebe.
Heinemann, 130 pp., £10.95, January 1988, 0 435 91000 0
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... visited on Eliot, this is a good deal.’ I turn, deliberately, from this last sentence to George Steiner – who, on a television programme last November, discussed the case of Eliot and that of Ezra Pound with Professor Ricks, Annie Cohen-Solal and Clive James. Professor Steiner began by discomfiting ...

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