[ilds] Seeking the Truth

James Gifford james.d.gifford at gmail.com
Sat Sep 25 10:41:44 PDT 2010


Hi Bruce,

I'd point to Durrell's strong support for Israel up to the late 1960s 
(perhaps parallel to Judt) as well as his ongoing interest in History. 
While he likely held very different views on epistemology from Judt, I 
don't think there would be a necessary antagonism between them.  I 
suspect you're blurring together two different contexts and two 
different uses of the term "truth."  For political intrigue and personal 
relationships, and most especially for poetry and fiction, "truth" is a 
very different animal than it is for a historian.

As for the "polemical intellectual," I think there's a good deal more to 
this than we often acknowledge.  /The Revolt of Aphrodite/ or "No Clue 
to Living" give us some differing views on the subject.  I've tried to 
write about it in an article that's appearing in /jml/ this month:

http://inscribe.iupress.org/doi/abs/10.2979/JML.2010.33.4.57

It's up in Project MUSE and EBSCO now.

Cheers,
James



On 24/09/10 11:25 AM, Bruce Redwine 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/
> <http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog/2010/aug/20/tony-judt-1948-2010/>
>
>
>
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