[ilds] Seeking the Truth

Bruce Redwine bredwine1968 at earthlink.net
Sat Sep 25 08:48:59 PDT 2010


Grove,

"Truth is very, very elusive" — yes.  But that does not mean that it's not out there.  I think that Durrell didn't believe or didn't want to believe truth was in fact "out there."  He was more interested in constructing his own imaginative reality, one in which, "Everything is plausible now because nothing is real" (The Black Book, p. 70).  This encapsulates the whole Romantic enterprise — make up your own world and do what you want — all of which is facilitated by the belief that truth is relative.  I'm not saying anything original.  Here is Isaiah Berlin on German Romanticism:  "The point is to break down the barrier between illusion and reality, between dreams and waking, between night and day, between the conscious and the unconscius, in order to produce a sense of the absolutely unbarred universe, of the wall-less universe, and of perpetual change, perpetual transformation, out of which someone with a powerful will can mould, if only temporarily, anything he pleases.  That is the central doctrine of the romantic movement" (The Roots of Romanticism [Princeton 1999], p. 116). 


Bruce



On Sep 25, 2010, at 7:13 AM, gkoger at mindspring.com wrote:

> I'm sure Durrell played up aspects of his beliefs (or those of his characters), but I think we should take his attitudes toward truth very seriously. I know I do. After all, if truth were so simple or readily accessible, we wouldn't have countless biographies of people like Churchill or the Lawrences. One apiece would do. Or take another example, the assassination of JFK. That was, after all, an event that lasted a few seconds, but look how many books have been devoted to trying to determine what exactly happened in those few seconds. The Warren Commission published a lengthy report on the assassination and supplemented it with 26 volumes of testimony and such, and managed to get almost everything wrong. Truth is very, very elusive.
>  
> Grove
> -----Original Message----- 
> From: Bruce Redwine 
> Sent: Sep 24, 2010 2:50 PM 
> To: ilds at lists.uvic.ca 
> Cc: Bruce Redwine 
> Subject: Re: [ilds] Seeking the Truth 
> 
> Billy,
> 
> I agree.  But my question is, did Lawrence Durrell take himself "literally" or seriously when he or his spokesmen commented on the relativity of truth?  I think he did.  Obviously, I cannot speak for Tony Judt, but my guess is that he would have considered Durrell's statements re truth a lot of literary or fashionable nonsense, highly seductive because of the magnificent poetry, but nonsense nonetheless.
> 
> 
> Bruce
> 
> 
> 
> On Sep 24, 2010, at 1:04 PM, William Apt wrote:
> 
>> Bruce:
>>  
>> 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 everything...
>>  
>> BILLY
>>  
>>  
>>  
>> 
>> 
>>  
>> 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/
>> 
>> 
>> 
>> 
>> 
>> -- 
>> WILLIAM APT
>> Attorney at Law
>> 7004 Bee Cave Rd, Bldg 1,
>> Ste 205
>> Austin TX 78746
>> 512/708-8300
>> 512/708-8011 FAX
>> 
> 

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