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George Steiner


European-born American literary critic, essayist, philosopher, novelist, translator, and educator, who has written extensively about the relationship between language, literature and society, and the impact of the Holocaust.
George Steiner
The absolute scholar is in fact a rather uncanny being. He is instinct with Nietzsche's finding that to be interested in something, to be totally interested in it, is a libidinal thrust more powerful than love or hatred, more tenacious than faith or friendship — not infrequently, indeed, more compelling than personal life itself. Archimedes does not flee from his killers, he does not even turn his head to acknowledge their rush into his garden when he is immersed in the algebra of conic sections.
Steiner quotes
When he looks back, the critic sees a eunuch's shadow. Who would be a critic if he could be a writer? Who would hammer out the subtlest insight into Dostoevsky if he could weld an inch of the Karamazovs, or argue the poise of Lawrence if he could shape the free gust of life in The Rainbow?
Steiner
When it turned on the Jew, Christianity and European civilization turned on the incarnation — albeit an incarnation often wayward and unaware — of its own best hopes.




Steiner George quotes
In aesthetic discourse, no interpretative-critical analysis, doctrine or programme is superseded, is erased, by any later construction. The Copernican theory did correct and supersede that of Ptolemy. The chemistry of Lavoisier makes untenable the early phlogiston theory. Aristotle on mimesis and pathos is not superseded by Lessing or Bergson. The Surrealist manifestos of Breton do not cancel out Pope's Essay on Criticism though they may well be antithetical to it.
Steiner George
Talk can neither be verified nor falsified in any rigorous sense. This is an open secret which hermeneutics and aesthetics, from Aristotle to Croce, have laboured to exorcise or to conceal from themselves and their clients. This ontological, which is to say both primordial and essential axiom (or platitude) of ineradicable undecidability needs, none the less, to be closely argued.
George Steiner quotes
Women began their inner emancipation by their access to literature, by access to the world through books; an access they could not have socially or politically, or of course economically, in the world at large.
George Steiner
To starve a child of the spell of the story, of the canter of the poem, oral or written, is a kind of living burial. It is to immure him in emptiness.
Steiner George quotes
Those who proclaim and apply to poetic works a "theory of criticism," a "theoretical hermeneutic" are, today, the masters of the academy and the exemplars in the high gossip of arts and letters. Indeed, they have clarioned "the triumph of the theoretical." They are, in truth, either deceiving themselves or purloining from the immense prestige and confidence of science and technology an instrument ontologically inapplicable to their own material. They would enclose water in a sieve.
Steiner
The new pornographers subvert this last, vital privacy; they do our imagining for us. They take away the words that were of the night and shout them over the roof-tops, making them hollow.
Steiner George
The Oresteia, King Lear, Dostoevsky's The Devils no less than the art of Giotto or the Passions of Bach, inquire into, dramatize, the relations of man and woman to the existence of the gods or of God.
George Steiner
What I affirm is the intuition that where God's presence is no longer a tenable supposition and where His absence is no longer a felt, indeed overwhelming weight, certain dimensions of thought and creativity are no longer attainable. And I would vary Yeats's axiom so as to say: no man can read fully, can answer answeringly to the aesthetic, whose "nerve and blood" are at peace in sceptical rationality, are now at home in immanence and verification. We must read as if.




George Steiner quotes
Even where it is manipulated by major talents, deconstruction tends to bear either on marginal texts (Sade, Lautréamont), or on secondary work by a great writer (Barthes on Balzac's Sarrazine). The classics of deconstruction, in Jacques Derrida or Paul De Man, are "misreadings" not of literature but of philosophy; they address themselves to philosophical linguistics and the theory of language. The masks they seek to strip off are those worn by Plato, by Hegel, by Rousseau, by Nietszche or Saussure. Deconstruction has nothing to tell us of Aeschylus or Dante, of Shakespeare or Tolstoy.
George Steiner
Fantasizing about action out there in the 'real' world, spinning dreams abut the secret centrality, about the occult importance of the labours in which he has interred his existence — labours that the vast majority of his fellow men would deem wholly marginal and socially wasteful if they knew of them at all — the pure scholar, the master of catalogues, can sup on hatred. At the ordinary level, he will exorcize his spleen in the ad-hominem nastiness of a book review, in the arsenic of a footnote. He will vent his resentments in the soft betrayals of an ambiguous recommendation or examination report and in the scorpion's round of a committee on tenure. The violence stays formal. Not, one supposes, in Professor Blunt.
Steiner quotes
In the United States dramatically, here fortunately much less so, the book store as we have known it is dying. In the United States it is now largely an emporium, featuring music, records, Christmas cards, a large range fo semi-cultural and kitsch products with books fighting for their actual spatial lives. In some of the great university towns such as New Haven, or Princeton, within the past decade, the last good book stores have had to close, and what we have now are text book emporia which are not book stores, but store-houses bracketed according to set reading lists: in other words—where there is none of the genius of waste which a great book store has, where you cannot find what you are not looking for, which is the very essence of a book store.
Steiner George
I am and remain a Marxist. Because otherwise I could not be a proofreader… If California triumphs, there will be no need of proofreaders. Machines will do it better. Or all texts will be audiovisual, with self-correctors built in. Night after night after night, Carlo, I work till my brain aches. So as to get it absolutely right… Getting it right. The holiness of it. The self-respect. Gran Dio, Carlo, you must see what I'm driving at. Utopia simply means getting it right! Communism means taking the errata out of history. Out of man. Reading proofs.
Steiner George quotes
Nothing in a language is less translatable than its modes of understatement.
George Steiner
We are still waging Peloponnesian wars. Our control of the material world and our positive science have grown fantastically. But our very achievements turn against us, making politics more random and wars more bestial.
George Steiner quotes
But I would like to think for a moment about a man who in the morning teaches his students that a false attribution of a Watteau drawing or an inaccurate transcription of a fourteenth-century epigraph is a sin against the spirit and in the afternoon or evening transmits to the agents of Soviet intelligence classified, perhaps vital information given to him in sworn trust by his countrymen and intimate colleagues. What are the sources of such scission? How does the spirit mask itself?
George Steiner
Nothing in the next-door world of Dachau impinged on the great winter cycle of Beethoven chamber music played in Munich. No canvases came off museum walls as the butchers strolled reverently past, guide-books in hand.
Steiner George
Anything can be said and, in consequence, written about anything.


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