Cultural Amnesia: Notes in the Margin of My Time

Cultural Amnesia: Notes in the Margin of My Time

Clive James

Language: English

Pages: 734

ISBN: 0330481754

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

'One stupendous starburst of wild brilliance' SIMON SCHAMA 'Aphoristic and acutely provocative: a crash course in civilization' J. M. COETZEE Organized from A through Z, and containing over 100 essays, Cultural Amnesia is the ultimate guide to the twentieth century. 'This is a beautiful book. James proves himself not only to be in possession of a towering intellect, but a singular ability to communicate his passions' Observer 'Witty, insightful and unashamedly erudite, the book is a superb miscellany of 20th-century cultural and political subjects' The Sunday Times 'Over the past forty years James has been scribbling notes in the margins of the books he has read ...and this is the result. Clever, contentious and funny' Guardian 'An eclectic journey through the 20th century, as Clive James explores the careers of luminaries such as Charles de Gaulle and Charlie




















apartheid, when it became expedient to make the Japanese racially acceptable, they were simply declared racially acceptable. Under the Nazis, when it became expedient that the Japanese should be reclassified as Aryans, Himmler poured a lot of the Reich’s money and effort into proving the point scholastically. Cynicism could have worked the trick in an instant, but sincerity demanded evidence. Nothing except the fervour of religious belief can explain such a rush of blood to the head. After the

one of Perón’s gifts to the world, along with a good role for a soprano in Evita. Luna describes the subtleties of the technique, which on the torturers’ part did indeed require a certain lack of passion if the victim was to survive for long. If Luna gets you wondering how he knew so much about it, your questions are answered a few pages later, where he records a conversation he had with Perón in 1969. “But in your time,” said Luna, “people were tortured.” Perón said: “Who was tortured?” Luna

was worse than that: Dwight Macdonald (his hilarious review is collected in his fine book Against the American Grain) had to give up looking for traces of majesty and start looking for traces of literacy. Those responsible for the NEB probably did realize they were atheists: otherwise they could scarcely have been so determined to leave not one stone standing upon another. For those of us unable to accept that the Bible is God’s living word, but who believe that the living word is God, the

artificially contrived misery. At the most it should have been occupied with the tragedies of ordinary life, the events that Nadezhda Mandelstam was later to subsume under her concept of the privilege of ordinary heartbreaks. But as things happened—as Hitler made them happen—Polgar was presented with the dubious opportunity of gathering all the gifts with which he had so brilliantly reflected life in the German-speaking civilization and bringing them to the task of recording its disintegration.

technician to be classified as a sludge writer tout court, but his central character was that same sludge basic: Horatio Hornblower, the best strategic brain in the Royal Navy, was so brilliant that he could work his way to a just preferment only through penetrating the defenses of the envious and mediocre. Pretty much like school, really. Saying the minimum like Gary Cooper in High Noon or Alan Ladd in Shane, resigned to being misunderstood like Christopher Tietjens in Ford Madox Ford’s great

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