The Meaning of Silence

Peter Medawar

  • Late Night Thoughts on Listening to Mahler’s Ninth Symphony by Lewis Thomas
    Viking, 168 pp, $12.95, November 1983, ISBN 0 670 70390 7

Lewis Thomas’s latest book is a collection of 24 short essays of which the first has to do with the gravest problem confronting mankind – the Bomb. In this essay his fans see a different Lewis Thomas – angry where he was once urbane, grim rather than gay, for no aspect of the bomb is at all funny and upon this subject Thomas is unrelievedly grave. His night thoughts are akin to those that most of us have when awake at dawn or sleepless in the small hours of the morning, or whenever the faculty of self-deception that so often insulates us from real life is temporarily in abeyance. For me, the gravest of these black morning thoughts is that the future of England and, ecumenically speaking, of the world depends upon the decisions of party politicians such as Mr Heseltine who can have no deep understanding of these awful matters, and of warlords who in respect of strategic understanding and common humanity are not likely to have altered greatly from, for example, Field Marshal Douglas Haig, architect of the strategy of attrition that cost hundreds of thousands of British casualties in the Somme offensive and at Passchendaele.

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