Essays on Politics and Literature

By Bernard Crick | Go to book overview

Foreword

What attracts me most in Bernard Crick's essays is the speaking voice. In an age when academics write more and more for fellowspecialists in a de-natured professional jargon, it is refreshing to find an academic (even a retired one) using the English language with unostentatious elegance to discuss, present, argue or meditate. These essays show a combination of humane intelligence, wide-ranging curiosity and precise knowledge in a variety of fields. They also show wit and humour and a rather appealing kind of wry egotism which manages to parade the self without glorifying it. And most of all, they show an ability to cross the boundaries set artificially by the rigidities of our academic structure. (I might add, in the Crickean vein of personal interpolation, that we invented a new curriculum-structure at the University of Sussex in 1961 precisely in order to remove those rigidities and make this kind of discourse more possible.)

Professor Crick is of course known as the biographer of George Orwell, and his sympathetic understanding of that remarkable writer shows through in much of his writing on other subjects as well as in the five illuminating essays on Orwell that form a central part of this book. He shares Orwell's feeling for unpretentious lucidity in his use of English as well as his general approach to politics and society. But the tone of reasoned argument is his own. One can disagree with some of the points he makes -- as indeed I do -- without feeling outraged or bullied, for this is a man voicing considered but sometimes tentative views in a conversational manner, almost tempting us to reply (as F.R. Leavis said one critic's reply to another ought to be, though it was something he never put into practice himself) with a 'Yes, but -- '.

The intelligent general reader, if such a person is not an invention of reviewers, will relish this book. It entertains as well as informs (and provokes). This surely is a primary function of the essay, a literary form which is here given new life.

DAVID DAICHES

-ix-

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Essays on Politics and Literature
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vi
  • Acknowledgements viii
  • Foreword ix
  • One - Literature and Politics 1
  • Two - The Political in Britain's Two National Theatres 20
  • Notes 47
  • Three - Young Writers of the Thirties 48
  • Four - Koestler's Koestler 62
  • Five - Hannah Arendt: Hedgehog or Fox? 72
  • Six - Beatrice Webb as English Diarist 78
  • Seven - Words 85
  • Notes 92
  • Eight - My LSE 93
  • Nine - Reading The Observer as a complex text 106
  • Notes 116
  • Ten - On the Difficulties of Writing Biography in? General and of Orwell's in particular 117
  • Eleven - Reading Nineteen Eighty-Four As Satire 133
  • Notes 163
  • Twelve - Animal Farm For Schools 166
  • Thirteen - Orwell and English Socialism 192
  • Notes 207
  • Fourteen - On the Orwell Trail 209
  • Notes 224
  • Fifteen - Wedekind's 'Spring Awakening' 225
  • Sixteen - Horvath's 'Tales From the Vienna Woods' 231
  • Seventeen - Pinter's 'No Man's Land' 239
  • Eighteen - Polly By Gaslight 245
  • Nineteen - David Edgar Catches Peter Jenkins' Ear at the Barbican 251
  • Twenty - Barrault at the Barbican 254
  • Index 257
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