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No Passion Spent: Essays 1978-1995 [Paperback]

George Steiner
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 30 1998
George Steiner-one of the preeminent essayists and literary thinkers of our era-here addresses issues of language and the relation of language to literature and to religion. He covers a wide range of subjects, from Homer, Shakespeare, Kafka, Kierkegaard, and Simone Weil to Jewish scripture, religious tradition, and the effects of the Holocaust. At a time when the art of reading and the status of text are threatened, Steiner affirms the primacy of reading in the classical sense.

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A teacher at Cambridge University, visiting professor at Oxford, widely published essayist and author of such previous collections as After Babel: Aspects of Language and Translation, George Steiner ranks among the preeminent modern practitioners of that peculiar occupation of literary critic. In No Passion Spent he ranges widely: literature in translation; the Bible; the Holocaust; Shakespeare. Much of the work here is informed by Steiner's fear that technology and anti-elitism pose a deadly threat to the high culture that he believes may be humanity's only saving grace. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Sometimes puzzling, sometimes irritating, but always fascinating, Steiner is at his best when exploring the politics, philosophy and practice of semantics. Several excellent essays, most of which have appeared previously in the New Yorker and Salmagundi, address the complexities of translation, and Steiner uses the translator's method as a subtle metaphor to illuminate the practices of the modern reader. Steiner offers a fresh perspective on the relationships among reader, author and text in an age when literary criticism has been overrun by postmodern thinkers and their structuralist counterparts. He borrows liberally from each camp but allies himself with neither. Less exact in their arguments, but perhaps more compelling in their passion, are essays on the relationship between Judaism and Christianity as seen through the Torah. Steiner draws the reader in with his discussions of the tragic destiny of Judaism (a subject obviously very close to his heart), although many readers will be put off by his charge that Christians must make themselves accountable for their part in the Holocaust. Yet even when Steiner is treading on dangerous ground, as he is in "The Archives of Eden," the reader will find it difficult not to see the logic of his argument. Perhaps the only truly weak parts of this collection come in the book reviews of Peguy, Weil and Husserl. These tend to diffuse rather than tighten the progression of dynamic thought demonstrated elsewhere.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars
3.3 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Provocative, eloquent May 22 2004
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
One need not agree with Steiner to find the essays erudite and provocative. What greater use of a book than to provide stimulus for ruminations on one's own values and those of the culture?
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5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome Feb. 13 2002
Format:Paperback
Steiner is one of the greatest writers of our time.
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A lament for an era that never was Oct. 28 2000
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
This book is perhaps the single mostintellectuallyirresponsible book I have ever read. Let me be frank--I have an extreme dislike for both the content and the structure andstyle. In this review, I will however, try to curtail my emotions; Inshort, I beleive many of the essays in this book to be well writtenop-ed pieces which are passed off as scholarship. It is a greatdanger because a naive reader may be mislead. This review will pointout the major flaws of some of the essays contained within.
I findthe first essay utterly disgusting. "The uncommon reader"is clearly an attack on the essay "The common reader" byVirginia Woolf. Let me say that VW is quite possibly the greatestwriter of the twentieth century. An attack against her better addressthe points she raises directly; she is not to be tossed aside, asGeorge Steiner does. Essentially, VW says that everybody has a brain,and even, or perhaps, especially, the nameless middle-class armchairreaders are the most important ones. Steiner believes that thereshould be a class of priest-like readers, who receive special training(basically an intellectual elite). The common reader, he (I sense animplied male chauvanism in Steiner's work) never did anything,Steiner's essay snorts. I think the common readers should decided forhis/herselves.
I also take offence with his use of Heidegger toattack Shakespeare. Shakespeare apparently is not as good as any Greekpoet, Steiner twists Heidegger to say. First, Heidegger does not saythat; Second, the comparison is absolutely absurd-- it is either amatter of opinion, or a matter of cultural hegemony. To say thatShakespeare wins or Ancient Greece wins by the standards Steiner, isessentially to say which came earlier- which author has moresuccessors?
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.3 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Still Fantastic After All These Years April 24 2008
By R. Anthony - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I reviewed this book for Publisher's Weekly back in '96, and I still give Steiner high marks for the essays collected in this edition. The previous reviewer is obviously no fan of Steiner's work, and I'll warrant that s/he doesn't know much about Steiner's legacy of thought. Steiner has never made any secret of being an elitist, and that's perhaps what is so refreshing about these essays--that they run counter to the current flood of egalitarian ideals that Steiner (and many others) believes lead often to a culture by and for the lowest common denominator. He has a point, and a good one, even if you're unlikely to agree with it (and, yes, he's especially hard on American culture). Yet keep in mind that Steiner's province is art, and that which produces great art doesn't necessarily produce a great society, or even the happiest of people. Still, any thoughtful person who does not become acquainted with George Steiner will be missing out on one of the great intellectual pleasures of the 20th century.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Provocative, eloquent May 22 2004
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
One need not agree with Steiner to find the essays erudite and provocative. What greater use of a book than to provide stimulus for ruminations on one's own values and those of the culture?
18 of 72 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A lament for an era that never was Oct. 28 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This book is perhaps the single mostintellectuallyirresponsible book I have ever read. Let me be frank--I have an extreme dislike for both the content and the structure andstyle. In this review, I will however, try to curtail my emotions; Inshort, I beleive many of the essays in this book to be well writtenop-ed pieces which are passed off as scholarship. It is a greatdanger because a naive reader may be mislead. This review will pointout the major flaws of some of the essays contained within.
I findthe first essay utterly disgusting. "The uncommon reader"is clearly an attack on the essay "The common reader" byVirginia Woolf. Let me say that VW is quite possibly the greatestwriter of the twentieth century. An attack against her better addressthe points she raises directly; she is not to be tossed aside, asGeorge Steiner does. Essentially, VW says that everybody has a brain,and even, or perhaps, especially, the nameless middle-class armchairreaders are the most important ones. Steiner believes that thereshould be a class of priest-like readers, who receive special training(basically an intellectual elite). The common reader, he (I sense animplied male chauvanism in Steiner's work) never did anything,Steiner's essay snorts. I think the common readers should decided forhis/herselves.
I also take offence with his use of Heidegger toattack Shakespeare. Shakespeare apparently is not as good as any Greekpoet, Steiner twists Heidegger to say. First, Heidegger does not saythat; Second, the comparison is absolutely absurd-- it is either amatter of opinion, or a matter of cultural hegemony. To say thatShakespeare wins or Ancient Greece wins by the standards Steiner, isessentially to say which came earlier- which author has moresuccessors? Now certainly, the Greek tragedians win by thesecriteria, but does that really surprise anyone? Is that really sayinganything?
Finally, he wrote the essay "Archives of Eden"which bashes America. America has not had the cultural output of allof Europe in terms of Music, Philosophy and Mathematics; the truemeasures of culture. No doubt, many will agree that America'scultural output, especially with its consumer culture, is virtuallynil. (I am not one of those.) But who hasn't suggested this? Whatis needed is a clear phrasing of the problem, not a tirade against allthings America, filled with as much hate towards Americans as theNazis hated Jews.
Steiner's problem with the American culturaloutput is essentially that America does not have an aristocracy likethe European countries do. We do not produce as much because we donot have cultivated leisure.
Well, American culture does not placemuch value on leisure, but hard work (ostensibly) and social mobility.We don't have a vaunted aristocracy becuase we don't vaunt thearistocracy. We have a completely different system. Yes, we have notproduced a significant output of European culture. But that isbecause we are not European. We have our own culture. In short, Ithink Steiner's essays quite offensive because they are so hateful andmisleading...... but I am running out of words....
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