Lionel Trilling and the Critics: Opposing Selves

By John Rodden | Go to book overview

24
“Summer People,” The New Statesman
April 1975

David Caute

An unusual example of both a public intellectual and man of letters, David Caute (1936—) is a British novelist, playwright, critic, literary journalist, and intellectual historian centrally concerned with the fate of the Left and the vicissitudes of socialism. Caute is a committed leftist, and his dozen novels and plays all center on leftist politics, often outside England (and especially in Africa), sometimes addressing historical events specifically (e.g., his 1961 play Songs for an Autumn Rifle, which explores the 1956 Hungarian revolt).

Three of Caute’s major works of nonfiction, Communism and the French Intellectuals, 1914–60 (1964), The Fellow Travelers: Intellectual Friends of Communism (1973), and The Great Fear: The Anti-Communist Purge under Truman and Eisenhower (1978), deal with the same themes that preoccupied Trilling throughout his long career, and especially in The Middle of the Journey: the relations among intellectual integrity and group orthodoxy, left-wing politics, the modern state, and self-censorship. In The Great Fear, which chiefly portrays how McCarthyism compromised American cultural life and educational policies, Caute discusses—critically if briefly—Trilling’s participation (as chairman) in the 1953 deliberations of the Columbia committee in charge of political screenings of faculty and staff.

We are in the mid-Thirties. Through a long, idle, meandering summer, the New Deal liberals while away their generous vacations, rearing their children, painting their small clapboard houses in the Connecticut woodlands, doing a bit of gardening, barbecueing spare ribs, fishing, talking, despising critics of the Soviet Union. These are the American summer people of 40

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