Saturday, November 13, 2004

Norm has shared a poem by Hans Magnus Enzensberger about Marx. Here's one by Enzensberger about the decade of my birth:


Well now, as concerns the seventies
I can express myself with brevity.
Directory assistance was always busy.
The miraculous multiplication of loaves
was restricted to Düsseldorf and vicinity.
The dread news came over the ticker tape,
was taken cognizance of and duly filed.

Unresisting, by and large,
they swallowed themselves,
the seventies,
without guarantee for latecomers,
Turkish guest workers and the unemployed.
That anyone should think of them with leniency
would be asking too much.

It's quoted by John Simon in his introduction to Enzensberger's Critical Essays, just after Simon said this:

But as much as I deplore the other omissions, the absence of Enzensberger from Anglo-American awareness seems to me particularly unfortunate.

The reason is plain enough. In fact, it is plainness itself. For Enzensberger knows how to deal with complicated ideas and fine discriminations in a style that, though anything but inelegant, is nevertheless stunningly straightforward and plain. We live in an age--need I remind you of this melancholy truth?--when plain statement in any field, but particularly in the critical, cultural, or political essay, is extremely hard to come by. For this, the French and their Anglo-American emulators are especially to blame. Not so Enzensberger. He may have begun as an adherent of Marxism, but by now even that -ism--at least in its doctrinaire form--has been left behind. With the more modish and obscurantist ones he never had any truck. The only -ism that persists in his work is humanism. There are no hobby horses; only horse sense.

More personally:

I cannot stand the lock-step among everyone in my particular world. They all do the same thing, without variation. It gets so boring. There is something in me that particularly wants it registered that I am not one of them.

No Comment

Tom Wolfe:

Note my definition of “intellectual” here is what you often find in this city: not people of intellectual attainment but more like car salesmen, who take in shipments of ideas and sell them on.


Among American writers, with few exceptions, you don’t say anything patriotic and you don’t say anything generally good about the country.

Jean François Revel:

One could even say that the American artistic and literary culture has a tendency toward “provincialization.” Because of the dominating position of the English language fewer and fewer of even cultured Americans read works in foreign languages. Even when American academics or critics open up to a foreign school of thought, they do so at times out of fashionable conformism rather than based on original judgment.

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