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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 ordinary man casts a shadow. In a way we do not quite understand, the man of genius casts light. Instinctively, we flinch from this light. We assure ourselves that genius must pay a terrible price. Often history bears us out: the creator, the supreme artist, the master of politics carries the scars of his greatness.
Steiner quotes
Do the identifications with fictions, the inner, tidal motions of pathos and libido which the novel, the film, the painting, the symphony unleash within us somehow immunize us against the humbler, less formed, but actual claims of suffering and of need in our surroundings? Does the cry in the tragic play muffle, even blot out, the cry in the street?
Steiner
We cannot turn back. We cannot choose the dreams of unknowing. We shall, I expect, open the last door in the castle, even if it leads, perhaps because it leads, on to realities which are beyond the reach of human comprehension and control. And we shall do so with that desolate clairvoyance, so marvellously rendered in Bartok's music, because opening doors is the tragic merit of our identity.




Steiner George quotes
All serious art, music, literature is a critical act. It is so, firstly, in the sense of Matthew Arnold's phrase: "a criticism of life." Be it realistic, fantastic, Utopian or satiric, the construct of the artist is a counter-statement to the world.
Steiner George
What worthwhile book after the Pentateuch has been written by a committee?
George Steiner quotes
Self-projection is, more often than not, the move of the minor craftsman, of the tactics of the hour whose inherent weakness is, precisely, that of originality.
George Steiner
Language can only deal meaningfully with a special, restricted segment of reality. The rest, and it is presumably the much larger part, is silence.
Steiner George quotes
There are three intellectual pursuits, and, so far as I am aware, only three, in which human beings have performed major feats before the age of puberty. They are music, mathematics, and chess.
Steiner
For let us keep one fact clearly in mind: the German language was not innocent of the horrors of Nazism. It is not merely that a Hitler, a Goebbels, and a Himmler happened to speak German. Nazism found in the language precisely what it needed to give voice to its savagery. Hitler heard inside his native tongue the latent hysteria, the confusion, the quality of hypnotic trance.
Steiner George
Increasingly unable to create for itself a relevant body of myth, the modern imagination will ransack the treasure house of the classic.
George Steiner
The journalistic vision sharpens to the point of maximum impact every event, every individual and social configuration; but the honing is uniform.




George Steiner quotes
That is to say that every single book will be magnetized, will be ordered under complicated mathematical clusters, by related subjects, and semantic markers. You will state your questions, or the subject you are interested in, and the computer will find the books for you. Instataneous retrieval brings with it enormous changes in our relation to the history of a subject, because there is a cut-off point in all these systems beond which the previous books are no longer relevant. They have been adequately subsumed in the later ones. You have a completely different way of organsing knowledge—an immensely efficient and in many ways powerfully logical way, but which blocks the essential motion of the hand reaching along a shelf and stumbling on what it did not know was there. When these great knowledge and data-banks, as they are called, are operative there will come a whole change in the way the human mind and eye live with books.
George Steiner
Men are accomplices to that which leaves them indifferent.
Steiner quotes
For many human beings, religion has been the music which they believe in.
Steiner George
Tragedy speaks not of secular dilemmas which may be resolved by rational innovation, but of the unalterable bias toward inhumanity and destruction in the drift of the world.
Steiner George quotes
We speak still of "sunrise" and "sunset." We do so as if the Copernican model of the solar system had not replaced, ineradicably, the Ptolemaic. Vacant metaphors, eroded figures of speech, inhabit our vocabulary and grammar. They are caught, tenaciously, in the scaffolding and recesses of our common parlance. There they rattle about like old rags or ghosts in the attic.
George Steiner
What lies beyond man's word is eloquent of God. That is the joyously defeated recognition expressed in the poems of St. John of the Cross and of the mystic tradition.
George Steiner quotes
To shoot a man because one disagrees with his interpretation of Darwin or Hegel is a sinister tribute to the supremacy of ideas in human affairs — but a tribute nevertheless.
George Steiner
The capacity for imaginative reflex, for moral risk in any human being is not limitless; on the contrary, it can be rapidly absorbed by fictions, and thus the cry in the poem may come to sound louder, more urgent, more real than the cry in the street outside. The death in the novel may move us more potently than the death in the next room.
Steiner George
Verse no longer stands at the centre of communicative discourse. It is no longer, as it was from Homer to Milton, the natural repository of knowledge and traditional sentiment. It no longer gives to society its main record of past grandeur or its natural setting for prophecy, as it did in Virgil and Dante. Verse has grown private. It is a special language which the individual poet insinuates, by force of personal genius, into the awareness of his contemporaries, persuading to learn and perhaps hand on his own uses of words. Poetry has become essentially lyric — that is to say, it is the poetry of private vision rather than of public or of national occasion.


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