NO PASSION SPENT by George Steiner

NO PASSION SPENT

Essays 1978-1995
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 In search of the depths of Homer, the Bible, Shakespeare, and Kafka, and the problematic interplay of Judaism, Classicism, and Christianity, Steiner (Proofs and Three Parables, 1993, etc.) displays his commanding, polymathic erudition. With Yale about to reissue his early Death of Tragedy and other works, this collection of miscellaneous introductions, essays, reviews, and lectures reflects many of Steiner's previous tropes--the ``real presence'' of meaning in literature, the value of tragedy, the traditional and philosophical questions of translation, etc. But No Passion Spent arranges its contents into a cohesive thematic organization that gradually builds on his command of philosophy, literature, and theology. Opening with the Western literary tradition's devaluation of the act of reading (``The Uncommon Reader''), Steiner magisterially reclaims the authority of that tradition, expounding on its biblical, Homeric, and Shakespearean riches. His ``Preface to the Hebrew Bible'' and ``Homer in English'' go through the densely textured record of translations and allusions with striking facility. Steiner considers ``the enigma of revelation in language'' and the West's troubled moral history, focusing particularly on the Holocaust. Sometimes his intellect overreaches itself, as in an equivocal logical-positivist reading of Shakespeare and elitist presumptions about America; but it is always in pursuit of demanding questions, such as the significance of cultural inheritance or the mutual rejections of Christianity and Judaism. The volume concludes at an illuminating zenith with a pair of essays, ``Two Cocks'' and ``Two Suppers,'' in which Steiner turns his incisive mind to the parallels of the deaths of Socrates and Jesus, the Last Supper and the Symposium. With such stimulating scope and compelling concerns, it's fitting that Steiner's title reworks a quote from that Puritan Classicist Milton's Samson Agonistes, drawing strength and passion from all the traditions it invokes.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-300-06630-9
Page count: 432pp
Publisher: Yale Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1996




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