[ilds] Seeking the Truth

William Apt billyapt at gmail.com
Fri Sep 24 13:04:54 PDT 2010


If truth is, as LD suggests, illusory, then anything can be justified:
including bad art as good art.  We can't take poets literally about


On Fri, Sep 24, 2010 at 1:25 PM, Bruce Redwine
<bredwine1968 at earthlink.net>wrote:

> Tony Judt recently died (1948-2010).  British born and educated, Judt was a
> major historian of modern Europe, in particular the intellectual and
> political tradition in post-war France.  He was also Jewish; as a youth he
> worked in a kibbutz.  He was an early supporter of the State of Israel and
> later a strong critic of the same.  He wrote frequently for *The New York
> Review of Books.  *In the previous issue of *NYRB* (30 Sept. 2010; link
> below), Timothy Garton Ash, of Oxford and Stanford, has written a
> remembrance of Judt.  One section reads, "There are, broadly speaking, two
> kinds of polemical intellectuals.  There are those for whom the taking of a
> controversial position is primarily a matter of personal peacock display,
> factional or clique, hidden agendas, score-settling, or serial, knee-jerk
> revisionism.  Then there are those who, while not without personal
> motivations and biases, are fundamentally concerned with seeking the truth.
>  Tony Judt was of the latter kind.  Sharp and cutting his pen could be, but
> his work was always about seeking the truth as best we can" (p. 6).
> Lawrence Durrell might be called a "polemical intellectual."  In his early
> years, he certainly thought of himself as one, so his 1959 Preface to *The
> Black Book* testifies:  "a two-fisted attack on literature by an angry
> young man of the thirties" (p. 9; London 1938, 1982).  In view of statements
> such as "Humility!  The *last trap* that awaits the ego in search of
> absolute truth" *(Justine,* p. 242) or "Truth is what most contradicts
> itself in time" *(Balthazar,* p. 23), I wonder what L. Durrell would have
> had to say about anyone who devoted his or her life to "seeking the truth?"
>  Wasted?  Mistaken?  Wrongheaded?  Foolhardy?  And conversely, what would
> Judt have thought of LD?  Mistaken?  Wrongheaded?  I don't know if TJ read
> LD, but it seems likely that he did, given the breadth of his learning.
> Bruce
> www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog/2010/aug/20/tony-judt-1948-2010/
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