THE TWILIGHT OF THE INTELLECTUALS by Hilton Kramer

THE TWILIGHT OF THE INTELLECTUALS

Culture and Politics in the Era of the Cold War

KIRKUS REVIEW

An honest, unsparing, and often devastating analysis of how the intellectuals of the left—and for much of the last 70 years the term ‘intellectual’ was almost synonymous with the left—dealt with the supreme moral conflict of our times, that between communism and democracy. Kramer (The Revenge of the Philistines: Art and Culture 1972—1984, 1985), editor of the New Criterion, calls the Cold War “as much a war of ideas as it was a contest for military superiority” and writes bluntly that “many talented people in the West . . . fought on the side of the political enemy.” The evidence is presented in a series of essays written over the last 25 years, mostly dealing with individuals, of whom the Americans cause him the greatest anguish: those, for example, who condemned Whittaker Chambers, who at great personal cost revealed the part he had played in a Communist spy ring, rather than Alger Hiss, who in the face of increasingly incontrovertible evidence denied any role; the left in Hollywood, epitomized by John Huston, in Hollywood on Trial, who averred that in 1946 “Winston Churchill drew an iron curtain across Eastern Europe”; the radicals of the ’60s who likened “Amerika” to Nazi Germany; Mary McCarthy, who in Hanoi praised the “virtuous tyranny” of the regime and castigated both the American prisoners-of-war and America itself; and George Steiner, who attacked Solzhenitsyn for the “moral indecency” of implying that Soviet terror was as hideous as Hitlerism. Kramer does not, however, adduce evidence in this book for his much more far-reaching assertion that, as an intellectual tradition, liberalism is bankrupt and that it has surrendered to socialist ideology. Nor does he do much to link the decline in the fortunes of Marxism with that of modernism, his other theme. The Cold War was a war, and Kramer is scarred, but few fought it with more honor, consistency, and moral passion.

Pub Date: April 2nd, 1999
ISBN: 1-56663-222-6
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Ivan Dee/Rowman & Littlefield
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1999




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