The private ownership of great art, its seclusion from the general view of men and women, let alone from that of interested amateurs and scholars, is a curious business. The literal disappearance of a Turner or a Van Gogh into some Middle Eastern or Latin-American bank vault to be kept as investment and collateral, the sardonic decision of a Greek shipping tycoon to put an incomparable El Greco on his yacht, where it hangs at persistent risk — these are phenomena that verge on vandalism.
"The Cleric of Treason"
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
Nothing in a language is less translatable than its modes of understatement.George Steiner
What worthwhile book after the Pentateuch has been written by a committee?George Steiner
To a degree which is difficult to determine, the esoteric impulse in twentieth-century music, literature and the arts reflects calculation. It looks to the flattery of academic and hermeneutic notice. Reciprocally, the academy turns towards that which appears to require its exegetic, cryptographic skills.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
The age of the book is almost gone.George Steiner
There is something terribly wrong with a culture inebriated by noise and gregariousness.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.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.George 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.George Steiner
It was a brilliant, mutinous period. Brecht gave back to German prose its Lutheran simplicity and Thomas Mann brought into his style the supple, luminous elegance of the classic and Mediterranean tradition. These years, 1920-33, were the anni mirabiles of the modern German spirit.George Steiner
Words that are saturated with lies or atrocity do not easily resume life.George Steiner
The immense majority of human biographies are a gray transit between domestic spasm and oblivion.George Steiner
A good deal of classical music is, today, the opium of the good citizen.George Steiner
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
Anything can be said and, in consequence, written about anything.George Steiner
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
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
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