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128

B.B.

on Bertolt Brecht

2
terms
3
notes

starts with a depiction of the fall of the Berlin Wall, and contemplates the gains and losses that resulted. Brecht was a Jew and Marxist who fled Germany in 1933 and lived abroad (mostly in California) until after the war was over (fled to Paris in 1947 after being caught up in McCarthyism). His political views were complicated--he distanced himself from both the Soviet system and the capitalist democracies of the West. apparently his plays were great. i should read them.

Steiner, G. (2009). B.B.. In Steiner, G. At the New Yorker. New Directions, pp. 128-141

129

But there are losses. Marxism, being itself the product of an intelligentsia, notably in East Germany, felt committed to certain archaic, paternalistic ideals of high literacy, of literary-academic culture. Classical theatre and music, the publication of the classics flourished. Because it carried within its raucous facility and mass seductiveness the germ of anarchic protest, much of what is shoddiest in modernity, in the media, in down-market entertainment was kept (partly) at bay. Now the conductors and the performers are leaving the more than seventy symphony orchestras financed by the East German government. The professors are draining away. The poets, the thinkers wonder whether they can compete on the futures market of commercial choices. Oppression happens to be the mother of metaphor. In the supermarket, Goethe is a lossmaker. These losses, however, are, at an immediate level, luxury losses, and are perhaps recoverable. The minus signs on the balance sheet cut deeper but are much more difficult to define.

in an essay about Berthold Brecht, about the losses after the fall of the Berlin Wall

—p.129 by George Steiner 2 years, 5 months ago

But there are losses. Marxism, being itself the product of an intelligentsia, notably in East Germany, felt committed to certain archaic, paternalistic ideals of high literacy, of literary-academic culture. Classical theatre and music, the publication of the classics flourished. Because it carried within its raucous facility and mass seductiveness the germ of anarchic protest, much of what is shoddiest in modernity, in the media, in down-market entertainment was kept (partly) at bay. Now the conductors and the performers are leaving the more than seventy symphony orchestras financed by the East German government. The professors are draining away. The poets, the thinkers wonder whether they can compete on the futures market of commercial choices. Oppression happens to be the mother of metaphor. In the supermarket, Goethe is a lossmaker. These losses, however, are, at an immediate level, luxury losses, and are perhaps recoverable. The minus signs on the balance sheet cut deeper but are much more difficult to define.

in an essay about Berthold Brecht, about the losses after the fall of the Berlin Wall

—p.129 by George Steiner 2 years, 5 months ago

(noun) a political principle or policy directed toward the incorporation of irredentas within the boundaries of their historically or ethnically related political unit / a person advocating the restoration to their country of any territory formerly belonging to it

130

So once again the old crazy drums of irredentist territorial claims and ethnic autonomy are pounding in the jungle of the cities.

—p.130 by George Steiner
unknown
2 years, 5 months ago

So once again the old crazy drums of irredentist territorial claims and ethnic autonomy are pounding in the jungle of the cities.

—p.130 by George Steiner
unknown
2 years, 5 months ago
130

When Marx, in the famous 1844 manuscripts, imagined a society in which love and solidarity, rather than money and competitive hatreds, would be exchanged among human beings, he was simply rephrasing the summons to transcendence of Jeremiah, of Amos, and of the Gospels. When he urged a kingdom of social justice, of classless fraternity on earth, he was translating into secular terms the sunburst of the messianic. We know—I suppose we always knew—that such summonings were Utopian: that human beings are more or less gifted carnivores; and that man is wolf to man. What is even grimmer, we know now—and should have known since the Utopian fantasies of Plato—that ideals of equality, of communal rationality, of self-sacrificial austerity can be enforced only at totally unacceptable costs. Human egotism, the competitive pulse, the lust for waste and display can be suffocated only by tyrannical violence. And, in turn, those who practice such violence themselves wither into corruption. Ineluctably, collectivist-socialist ideals seem to lead to one or another form of the Gulag.

—p.130 by George Steiner 2 years, 5 months ago

When Marx, in the famous 1844 manuscripts, imagined a society in which love and solidarity, rather than money and competitive hatreds, would be exchanged among human beings, he was simply rephrasing the summons to transcendence of Jeremiah, of Amos, and of the Gospels. When he urged a kingdom of social justice, of classless fraternity on earth, he was translating into secular terms the sunburst of the messianic. We know—I suppose we always knew—that such summonings were Utopian: that human beings are more or less gifted carnivores; and that man is wolf to man. What is even grimmer, we know now—and should have known since the Utopian fantasies of Plato—that ideals of equality, of communal rationality, of self-sacrificial austerity can be enforced only at totally unacceptable costs. Human egotism, the competitive pulse, the lust for waste and display can be suffocated only by tyrannical violence. And, in turn, those who practice such violence themselves wither into corruption. Ineluctably, collectivist-socialist ideals seem to lead to one or another form of the Gulag.

—p.130 by George Steiner 2 years, 5 months ago

unable to be resisted or avoided; inescapable

130

Ineluctably, collective-socialist ideals seem to lead to one or another form of the Gulag.

—p.130 by George Steiner
notable
2 years, 5 months ago

Ineluctably, collective-socialist ideals seem to lead to one or another form of the Gulag.

—p.130 by George Steiner
notable
2 years, 5 months ago
132

[...] It is better to have been hallucinated by justice than to have been awakened to junk food. [...]

—p.132 by George Steiner 2 years, 5 months ago

[...] It is better to have been hallucinated by justice than to have been awakened to junk food. [...]

—p.132 by George Steiner 2 years, 5 months ago