AN AGE OF ENORMITY by Isaac Rosenfeld


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In these moving, sometimes major essays from the early 40's to the mid 50's, Isaac Rosenfeld, on the way to becoming a legend in the bohemian world of the little magazine and the college campus, eloquently testifies to the torments and triumphs of the underground men, who are not so much beyond belief as below it. Chicago, labor leaders, the suburbs; Jewish writers, Catholics, mystics; philosophy, politics, literature these, among others, are the constant concerns, ever-recurring scenes. For Rosenfeld, the imagination is the man, thus there was more of Gide in fiction (Counterfeiters) than in the celebrated fact (Journals). Going from Marx to Freud, from Nietzsche to Reich, Rosenfeld tried to be thoroughly onto oneself: the concrete with wit Stendhal, even the hallucinatory abstracts of Kafka were always preferable to Hemingway's compulsive masculinity, Irwin Shaw's guts-and-Dry Martini syndrome. For him terror was today's model reality (the Soviet labor camps being kindergartens in slaughterhouses); Gandhi and Tolstoy, his heroes; the flesh and blood adventures of the spirit (Hesse, Moravia) as against religion's fashionable crack-up mania (Bernanos, Berdyaev, Kierkegaard). Rosenfeld was the representative life-giver and his own life did not lack the de rigueur irony: though he believed in the wedding of emotions to truth,- ""the world spelled out in letters of flame"", at the age of 38 in one of the many furnished rooms of his life he died, alone. If anyone wants to know what it was to think and feel like a man during the immediate and crucial decades just past, let them read Age of Enormity. The criticism here proves a revelation.

Publisher: World