MADAME DE STAEL ON POLITICS, LITERATURE AND NATIONAL CHARACTER by Morroe- Ed. Berger

MADAME DE STAEL ON POLITICS, LITERATURE AND NATIONAL CHARACTER

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Madame de Stael seems to have as many swains writing about her now as she had in her 18th century heyday. Or is this only another sign that the Age of Enlightenment has become the scholars' new tinker toy, since the Age of Ideology (the 19th) fell from favor? Whatever the reason, we can only cheer Morroe Berger for splendidly editing, translating and abridging the Frenchwoman's forays into the lands of politics, literature and national make-up. She finishes first in all three -- or almost. For moderns, her magisterial mixing of libertarian ideas with a study of social influences and institutions, lacks appropriate philosophical and psychological complexity; the perverse in man is not here, nor is the nasty. She is, in short, too raisonnable. But her style, or special speech-marvelously fluent and forthright- we can now enjoy it and be educated by it. She is epigrammatic: ""The Germans fill time properly, the French make us forget it""; wise: the Right has ""logic completely contrary to the facts"", the left has facts ""completely contrary to logic""; dramatic: ""Institutions based upon force may simulate everything about liberty, except its genuine workings; they may be so much like their models in form as to startle you by the resemblance: you will recognize everything in them- except life"". Life- its humanitarian orders and historical disorders- bubbles and burns in these pages, and our own modern Minervas- even Simone de Beauvoir and Mary McCarthy-could learn quite a bit from this mistress of an age.

Pub Date: Jan. 10th, 1963
Publisher: Doubleday