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Cultural Amnesia: Notes in the Margin of My Time

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What exactly James means by this foolish word is anyone’s guess – what it refers to most usually nowadays is a “hand-job”.

With barely concealed impatience, Freud mutters that Hitler spends very little time imagining he is Robert Lowell.What this book then proposes—what it embodies, I hope—is something difficult enough to be satisfactory for an age in which to be presented with nothing except reassurance is ceasing to be tolerable. A February 2013 interview with James was published in The New Republic, and provides insight about James' approach to educating himself: http://www. The future of science, Renan’s cherished avenir de la science, can be assessed from our past, in which it flattened cities and gassed innocent children: whatever we don’t yet know about it, one thing we already know is that it is not necessarily benevolent.

Of course these moments are rendered in the usual 21st century aw-shucks self-deprecatory way, but this doesn’t really fool anybody anymore, does it? Note that some figures lived in earlier centuries, but James always makes their relevance to the 20th century clear.In the job we can have a profile written about us, and be summed up: all the profiles will be the same, and all the summaries add up to the same thing. Those were the very means by which Montaigne invented the modern essay, and at first I must have had an essay of my own in mind: a long essay, but one with the usual shape, a single line of argument moving through selected perceptions to a neat conclusion. James has the endearing and all-too-rare quality of assuming the same intellectual curiosity (and capacity) in his readers as he has in himself, and authors are consistently introduced with helpful comments on how amenable their work is to the student of French, German, Italian or whatever. It has always been part of the definition of humanism that true learning has no end in view except its own furtherance.

If you're one of those people that does find him arrogant, this book will doubtless give you plenty of ammunition to back up the theory. It might seem a pity to break pieces off their finished work, but I think the integrity of their concentrated effort can only stand revealed more clearly.The phrase that sends him off on the long discussion that frames the entire piece is “Was ist so nur? In April 2007, Cultural Amnesia was published in the USA, and since May 2007 it has been available in the UK, Australia and the Republic of Ireland. Still, although there are a lot of fascinating characters in the book, the overwhelming presence is of Clive James himself, and I don't believe he ever had any other intention. The lessons of history don't suit our wishes: if they did, they would not be lessons, and history would be a fairy-story. magisterial in its scope, and courageous in its defense of the human spirit, it is both an enlightening and a despairing work, written by one of the world’s most renowned critics.

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