Op. 25

 

BECOMING AND BEING

 

Autobiographnical/Biographical Sketches

 

Copyright © 1982-2010 John O'Loughlin

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CONTENTS

 

PART ONE: AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES

 

1. Sex

2. Becoming a Writer

3. Becoming an Irishman

4. Do I Take My Politics Seriously?

5. How I Relate to my Mother

6. Am I the New Messiah?

7. Literary Influences

8. Musical Tastes

9. What Kind of Writer?

10. How Do I View My Future?

 

 

PART TWO: BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES

 

11. John Cowper Powys

12. D.H. Lawrence

13. Aldous Huxley

14. Hermann Hesse

15.  Albert Camus

16.  Jean-Paul Sartre

17.  Arthur Koestler

18.  Lawrence Durrell

19.  Henry Miller

20.  George Orwell

 

APPENDIX

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PART ONE: AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES

 

SEX

 

I have never had sex with a woman, or, for that matter, with anyone else.  At twenty-nine (29) I remain a virgin [the same is still true at fifty-one (51), my age at the current revision of this text], though I'm not by nature asexual.  I have always desired sex with a woman, but haven't had the good fortune to encounter anyone suitable.  Poverty and isolation in a depressing area of north London have kept me single - and alone.  I don't care, as a rule, for Englishwomen, and I haven't discovered anyone of my own race - I'm an Irishman - who could be described as suitable.  I don't particularly desire a black or a coloured woman, although I wouldn't categorically rule out the possibility of sexual relations with such a woman, if a suitable opportunity were ever to arise.

     The only kind of sex I have been accustomed to over the years is the sublimated sexuality to be obtained from 1) fantasies; 2) wet dreams; and 3) pornography and/or erotica.  I am a regular fantasist, rarely omitting to fantasize from 10-15 minutes either before I go to sleep at night or after I wake up in the morning.  However, during the day I refrain from fantasy altogether.  I have other and more important things on my mind!

     Occasionally I get a wet dream, but I don't derive much pleasure from it, as a rule.  The context in which it takes place may be one that privately disgusts, frightens, or alienates me.  Besides, the emission is rather uncomfortable to live with.  I usually apply a paper tissue to the sheet and/or my lower abdomen, and then attempt to get back to sleep again.  Wet dreams almost invariably wake me up!

     Masturbation is another matter, but not one that I'm greatly thrilled by, and these days I hardly ever indulge in it.  I used to derive more pleasure from it when I was eighteen or nineteen.  The ejaculation was then much more forceful, the pleasure so much keener, as Gide would say, in consequence.  Now I find it something of an anticlimax and am privately disgusted!  I would usually masturbate over a sex magazine once I had found a suitably alluring photograph, and hold a paper tissue at the ready to collect my sperm.  I often found the rear view of a woman more alluring than the front, because I derive much pleasure from the sight of a seductive rump.  A photograph in which rump, anus, vagina, and thighs were collectively on display was likely to appeal more strongly to me than any alternative perspective.

     But I didn't masturbate very frequently, in fact no more than once or twice a month on average, since it both disgusted and humiliated me.  After the act I normally felt regret, thinking to myself that I must be mad and am only conditioning myself away from natural sex, which is not going to make it any easier for me to get a woman, should I ever be in a position to afford one.  Living on the bread-line is, I suppose, the main reason why I did not get a woman, because poverty and shame combined to preclude one from approaching anyone.  Besides, I'm in the paradoxical position of essentially being middle class by birth and therefore not finding working-class women particularly attractive.  There is, I know, a deep-seated psychological reason for this, which derives from the fact that my father effectively married beneath himself and suffered the consequences, including separation or, rather, the fact that he ran-out on my English-born mother even before I was born and she ended-up, when the business she and her mother were running finally collapsed, dragging me away from Galway City, the town of my birth, to an upbringing in Aldershot, of all places, which I found both solitary and painful.  When I add to this the fact that my mother was the daughter, on her father's side, of a Protestant-turned-nominal-Catholic from Donegal who left home to join the British army (contrary to his parents' wishes), then there is also a tribal conflict involved somewhere beneath the surface, which in part explains my aversion to Englishwomen, as well as throws some light on my parents' inharmonious relationship.  Unlike my mother, who is pro-British, I am essentially Irish, and not disposed to repeat my father's mistake, which, as I see it, was to marry the wrong woman on both class and ethnic grounds without, initially, being in the least aware of the fact.

     No man is ever wholly a writer.  He is also a private individual, a private human being.  The writer is one part of me, the person another.  Thus while the writer will advocate sublimated sexuality and speak out in defence of masturbation vis-à-vis pornographic stimuli as a more civilized, because artificial, mode of heterosexuality than conventional sex, the private person will often feel disgust with masturbation and harbour certain misgivings about his sex life.  The private person desires to find a woman, to lead a fairly normal sex life, while the writer, or philosopher, continues to develop his thoughts along ever more progressive, and hence artificial, channels, scorning conventional criteria.  Thus there arises in me a disparity between writer and person which is the source of much internal conflict, as professional thoughts and personal feelings tend ever further apart.  To what extent the former influences the latter, to what extent the private person is conditioned by the writer, it isn't of course possible for me to say.  But there must be some influence, some conditioning, from the one to the other which contributes to keeping me solitary and, by natural standards, perverse.

     The private person suffers from a chronic depression due in part to celibacy, in part to solitude, in part to environment (north London being uncongenial to him), and so on, and knows that he will only get rid of this depression if he radically changes his lifestyle and perhaps gives-up writing altogether.  But the writer goes from strength to strength by extending the domain of the artificial, or transcendent, in every fresh work, and so continues to derive profit from the private individual's hardships.  One cannot fully serve two masters at once, even when they are housed in the same person.  Either the writer profits at the private person's expense, or vice versa.  For me, the former situation has long been the case and although, with my depression, solitude, etc., I am one of the most unhealthy, unfortunate private people on earth, I'm undoubtedly one of the greatest writers, probably the leading philosophical writer of my generation, though, of course, I have not been recognized as such by the Irish-wary British!

     I was discussing my sex life, such as it is, and should remark that while the private person is often disgusted by fantasies, wet dreams, and masturbation, the writer, by contrast, draws a certain satisfaction from them, as attesting to the fact of his spiritual superiority.  To masturbate over a men's magazine or vis-à-vis a sex video is not so much to pervert oneself, the writer reasons, as to indulge in a higher mode of sexuality, in which sex has been transferred, in large part, from the body to the head, from the senses to the spirit.  Instead of feeling quite as disgusted as he might otherwise do, the private person is invaded, as it were, by the writer at such times and consequently induced to modify his feelings in the direction of spiritual pride or even moral righteousness.  The others, the mere average mortals, are coarse and sensual sinners who would have a long way to evolve before they could expect to become like oneself - wholly given to sublimated sexuality.  The writer believes that, since life is a process of evolution from undiluted sensuality at one extreme to undiluted spirituality at the other, pornographic sex, involving masturbation and/or voyeurism, is a step in the right direction, not simply an inducement to perversion.  The private person may have his depression and loneliness but, nonetheless, the writer still intrudes into his thoughts and feelings from time to time, thereby making his acquiescence in pornographic sex less psychologically disturbing than might otherwise be the case.  The writer obliges the private person to admit that if he doesn't always feel happy about his use of photographic erotica, it is largely because he is still too naturalistic and sensual, at heart, to be content with nothing else.  It becomes a kind of spiritual failing on his part ... that he should prefer the prospect of natural sex to the actuality of artificial, sublimated sex.

     I don't wish to dwell on the interaction between writer and private person any longer, nor, if I may be permitted an allusion to Hermann Hesse, on the 'Steppenwolfian' difficulties it can entail, not least in respect of a sort of split-personality.  Suffice it to say that if the writer becomes too domineering, the actual life of the private person may well be endangered, if not destroyed.  The writer cannot survive without the private person's consent, yet neither, paradoxically, can the private person survive if he isn't also, or at other times, supplemented by a professional, whether writer or otherwise.  That I have survived as both writer and private person ... is a fact in large part due to my personal cunning.

 

 

BECOMING A WRITER

 

I did not want to become a writer until 1972, when I was twenty (20).  Prior to then, I had wanted to become a musician, and had assiduously practised both guitar and piano in the hope of one day either joining a progressive rock band or getting such a band together myself.  Why I changed my mind in 1972, I don't exactly remember; though it probably had something to do with the fact that I first fell in love that year and started writing poetry to commemorate the fact.  Probably I half wanted to become a professional musician for another two years, though I can distinctly recall telling a friend, in late 1973, that I had absolutely no desire to either join a band or get a band together myself.  By then, I must have become dedicated to a literary career.

     My first excursion into writing took the form, as I intimated above, of lyric poetry, which isn't altogether surprising really, since most youths who are in any way disposed to literature begin by writing verse.  At the time, I was a humble clerk in the West End, but I wrote romantic poetry in my spare time at Merstham, Surrey, where I was then living.  When, through force of domestic circumstances, I was obliged to move to north London, where my mother and stepfather shared a flat, I still continued to write poetry, and this was my main literary endeavour up until June 1976, when I began to write my first novel, having left - though not for the first time - my clerical job at the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music, in Bedford Square.

     I left my job partly for health reasons and partly because the pay was relatively poor.  But I also left it because I had long nurtured a private ambition to do something better with my life, and writing seemed, in view of the relative paucity of alternative jobs for someone like me, by far the best bet.  But I didn't succeed in finding a publisher for my first novel when it was completed three months later, and I continued to write in vain thereafter, whilst all the time becoming more depressed.  I briefly returned to my old clerical job at the ABRSM the next year, having persuaded the manager to re-employ me.  But by then I was suffering too much from a stomach ulcer and a variety of other personal and domestic problems to be capable of staying in the job for very long, and so, once again, I handed in my notice, conscious, as never before, of the degree to which I had changed, in the meantime, and effectively become a writer.

     Thus in November 1977, after barely six weeks back as a clerk, I found myself on the dole again, and that is where I still remain at the time of writing this little autobiographical sketch, nearly five years later.  In that time, or rather from June 1976 to July 1982, I have written several works, which have all been typed-up by me in due course.  They include novels, essays, dialogues, short prose, and various other projects of a like-literary nature.  I have not had one of these works published, though I've continued to send or to take typescripts to publishers on a regular basis.  I don't believe that they were rejected because of poor quality but, on the contrary, because of superior quality, which is to say, because of too radical and theoretical a mould.  Had I been writing adventure stories, thrillers, detective novels, or whatever, the outcome might well have been different.  But, partly no doubt because of my Southern Irish origins, I was always too intelligent and noble, too deep and, as the British would see it, 'thick', a person to be capable of writing, in an overly commercial vein, for popular consumption.  Thus I have experienced a fate apparently reserved for all or most outstanding writers, the fate Schopenhauer alluded to in his writings and which men like Baudelaire and Nietzsche also experienced.  I'm not in the least ashamed of this fact, for it testifies to my intellectual integrity and moral superiority over lesser, i.e. commercial, writers.  I am morally and creatively beyond the bourgeois establishment, and have accordingly been rejected and outlawed, as though a subversive threat, whilst inferior intellects have been accepted and praised.  I came to the conclusion that my works were not wanted in England, since they would threaten the status quo by raising too many uncomfortable questions.  I have progressed ever closer to the Truth, and have actually attained to it in my latest, highest works.  I live in a kind of Promethean isolation amongst intellectual pygmies, despising the English for their commercial baseness, pedantic nit-picking, pragmatic superficiality, and fundamental pettiness of mind, which revolts against anything too deep and imaginative, spurning Celtic criteria, one might say, from an earth-bound Anglo-Saxon standpoint.

 

 

BECOMING AN IRISHMAN

 

I was born in Ireland but brought over to England at the tender age of approximately two-and-a-half (2½).  Thus I grew up in England and began to regard myself as English, since I possessed no memories of Ireland.  I went to a Catholic school in Aldershot until my tenth year, but when at about that time my maternal grandmother died ... I was transferred to a Protestant Children's Home in Carshalton Beeches, Surrey.  With her strictly Catholic mother out of the way (the woman responsible for dragging her over to Ireland when she decided to return home, following the death of her Aldershot-based husband), my mother evidently felt entitled to do with me as she thought best, irrespective of the change of denomination.  So, with no other relative around to protect me from such a fate, I was obliged to endure Protestant teaching and schooling for the next seven years, at the end of which time I left high school, in July 1970, with an assortment of CSE's and GCE's (this was before the advent of GCSE's) and was obliged to move to London - first to a hostel in Clapham and then, shortly afterwards, because I loathed the place so much, to my mother's rented accommodation in Finsbury Park, where she was then living with her second husband, a West Indian from St Vincent, whom she had originally met in Aldershot and who didn't take too kindly to my being there, partly, no doubt, because he was one of the reasons which led my mother to dispatch me to a Children's Home in Carshalton Beeches all those years before.

     Be that as it may, I hated Finsbury Park, however, and in the New Year moved back to Surrey where, thanks to the provision of a Croydon newspaper by a clerical colleague at the office, I found myself a comfortable little bedsitter in Sutton, not far from Carshalton.  Thus I renewed contact with some of my old school friends, and when, eventually, one of them suggested I move in with him at his parent's nearby Wallington address, I gladly accepted the invitation, since, despite its advantages, the seven months of my stay in Sutton from January-July 1971 had been rather lonely and depressing.  I suspected that part of his motive for inviting me to live with him was a desire to have regular access to my stereo, since his own record player, being a small mono, was of distinctly inferior quality and he couldn't, at that time, afford a new one.  Nonetheless, I felt glad of the opportunity to live-in with a family and have regular company.

     I grew to like his family, which included two younger brothers and a younger sister by his father's second marriage, and they evidently grew to like me.  For when they moved to a more rural part of Surrey, the following year, I went with them and subsequently settled down to a couple of years in the country, comparatively speaking.  Christopher was partly of French descent on his father's side and had more of an aesthetic French temperament than a pragmatic English one.  We got on relatively well together, although I was always conscious of a sort of class or cultural divide between us, he being a good deal less well-spoken and well-educated than myself.  Nonetheless the paradoxes of our respective fates were such that he was now the eldest son of a private householder in a better part of Surrey, whereas I had never seen my unfortunate father, who died back in Galway of pneumonia in or around his thirty-eighth year sometime after I had been taken to England (although he had made one or two futile efforts to fetch me back from Aldershot, even visiting my mother in person on at least one occasion prior to her mother's death), and was accustomed to dependence on other people for shelter - first at a Children's Home, then at a hostel, then at lodging houses, including my mother's flat, and now with his family.

     But my dependence on his family wasn't to last beyond 1973.  For just before Christmas of that year I was told that there wasn't enough room in the house for everyone and that, as Christopher's two younger brothers and sister were growing up, I would have to seek alternative accommodation.  Thus, with scant prospects of suitable accommodation in Merstham or surrounding areas, I had no option, once again, but to return to my mother's slummy lodgings in Finsbury Park, reluctantly moving in to them early in the New Year.  In all, I had been away exactly three years, and it seems to me, in retrospect, that she herself was part of the reason why I had to leave my lodgings in Merstham, since on the one occasion, during 1973, when she paid me a visit she did her best to ingratiate herself with Christopher's father via his children, and this must have caused his stepmother some alarm and contributed towards my being asked to leave shortly afterwards.

     Be that as it may, if my previous dislike of Finsbury Park had been strong, my subsequent dislike of it, following a spell in rural Surrey, bordered on deep disgust and loathing, and it wasn't long before I began to feel the first needles in my scalp of the tension depression to which, with my high-strung ascetic nature, I have since grown so painfully accustomed!  I wanted desperately to return to Surrey but, unfortunately, such contacts as I once had in the Sutton-Carshalton-Wallington areas had gradually been eroded during my stay in remote Merstham, and I accordingly knew that there was no-one I could now depend on to sound-out the accommodation situation in my absence.  Even the office colleague who had previously supplied me with the 'Croydon Advertiser' had in the meantime left the office, and I felt that travelling down to Surrey myself would prove both costly and futile, since the chances were that any vacant rooms I could afford would have been snapped up long before I got there and sounded-out the local papers, or that I would have had to wait in line to view a room on a different day from when I originally phoned about it, thereby necessitating a repeat trip, and so on.  Thus I felt I had no option but to look for alternative accommodation in north London, and after a few desperate months at my mother's flat, which overlooked one of the busiest and noisiest roads in the area, the ever-busy Stroud Green Road, I moved into a relatively cheap bedsitter in nearby Crouch End - the first of several such bedsitters I was destined to inhabit there.

     All this time I was growing conscious of a change coming over me.  For I was not now simply an English youth with an Irish name, as I had previously somewhat foolishly and even naively considered myself to be, but an impersonal outsider or stranger in north London with an Irish name, and this was already a step in the direction of altering the psychology of my ethnic allegiance.  There were tens of thousands of Irish people in the Borough of Haringey and consequently no reason for anyone of English descent who was familiar with my name, from letters, parcels, election cards, library tickets, etc., to regard me as an Englishman.  Overnight I was just one more Irishman and, as such, a 'paddy', an outsider, an immigrant, and, paradoxically, a 'catholic' all over again.

     But this didn't dawn on me all at once, nor alter my writings to any appreciable extent.  For I still wrote more as an Englishman than as an Irishman for several years - certainly up until 1981.  The solitude imposed on me by an intense dislike of the urban environment in which I was trapped gradually led me to feel increasingly isolated from the past, however, and thus to identify more with the solitary Irishmen I saw about me than with the English, who were usually in company.  I even began to see myself as an immigrant, though I had spent most of my life in England, having been brought across the Irish Sea while still an infant, and was in no way responsible for having brought myself to England.  Still, I did not feel that English people would regard me as one of them, nor that they would want to befriend me, especially with constant news of Provisional IRA bombings, shootings, and the like, whether in Northern Ireland or elsewhere, which did nothing to improve one's image but only served, on the contrary, to further isolate and alienate one!

     Another factor besides isolation from my past which contributed to the change in my psychology was the fairly frequent letters I was now receiving from one of my Galway aunts, a lifelong spinster, who wrote about family affairs and also put me in touch with a certain Mrs Connolly, an old friend of hers, who lived in nearby Palmers Green.  Although I didn't visit Mrs Connolly more than three or four times a year, the fact that she was the only person I ever visited doubtless contributed to my becoming an Irishman, since she would generally speak to me of Irish affairs, both personal and public, and thereby slightly condition my psychology.  Add to this the fact that, for a number of years, some of my immediate neighbours have been Irish and that I have lived in fairly close proximity to Irish people ever since moving to Crouch End, and the gradual shift of ethnic or national allegiance on my part becomes more understandable.

 

 

DO I TAKE MY POLITICS SERIOUSLY (?)

 

At first glance this may seem a strange question to ask of myself, and yet there is a good reason for asking it.  The reader will recall that I wrote about the disparity between the private person and the writer, a disparity in which the latter thrives at the former's expense.  Is not the political bias I have in my writings, which is generally that of a socialistic transcendentalist, connected with the writer, and does not this radical writer thrive at the private person's expense?  Yes, I am constrained to answer that he does!  For the private person is really rather depressed and conscious of the fact that he is out-of-place in an urban environment such as the one he's currently living in.  This individual says to himself: I would not now be in this fix if it wasn't for the fact that I've been stuck in north London all these years, living in poverty-stricken solitude.  I ought not to have to endure such a depression, I ought really to be living with a wife in the suburbs or provinces, with regular access to intelligent companionship and sex.  But I have been denied these things through confinement in the Borough of Haringey, and the writer I have now become is, in large part, a consequence of this denial.  He has thrived at my personal expense.

     The writer has become a socialistic radical with revolutionary sympathies, but I, the private person, am terribly depressed and in need of a better deal.  Yet the writer is really a consequence of the fact that I don't get that better deal.  He is a usurper, and what he says, while there may be some truth in it, is said in consequence of private misfortune, the bad luck which tore me away from my provincial roots and obliged me to endure north London.  He says it but I ... do not feel particularly happy with depression, celibacy, solitude, failure, and poverty weighing heavily upon me.  In Goethe's oft-quoted words, 'Two souls, alas, dwell in my breast', and dwell, I should imagine, in many other breasts, too!  But if the well-being of the professional soul leads to or necessarily entails the sickness of the private one, then the two souls are incompatible, there is a friction between them which can only grow worse with the passing of time.  Thus speaks the private soul!

     Yet while this soul may not take the writer's politics too seriously, the writer most certainly does, and for the very sound reason that he writes about it and develops it as he progresses in his chosen vocation.  The writer knows what he is saying to be valid, even if it isn't necessarily relevant to the private person, the perverted provincial with middle-class sympathies, who yet retains an inkling of his suburban roots.  The writer reminds this latter person that Lenin and Trotsky were also perverted provincials in their private souls, and so too, if to a lesser extent, were Goebbels and Hitler.  And the writer knows that, as the professional soul, it is his opinion and allegiance that really count, since politics is a profession and therefore not something aligned with the personal predilections or preferences of the private person.

     But one can't very well be a successful politician with a chronic depression, and so the writer's professional allegiance is still hampered, so to speak, by the sorry condition of the private person.  If the latter is sick, then the former can't expect to operate successfully or properly in the event of his becoming a politician.  He is, after all, a usurper, a creature that should never have been.  The return to full mental health of the private person, brought about by an appropriate change in living conditions or, more specifically, environment, may well result in the modification or even destruction of the writer, with his radical politics.  Yet what had been written at the private individual's expense would still remain, and he would have an extremely difficult task proving it wasn't valid in itself!

     Thus whatever happens in the future to the private person, the writer's work will remain, and it will be that work, rather than any subsequent modified political thinking, which would count for most in radical circles.  The private person, returned to health through the acquirement of suburban privileges, might well disown it, but he could never refute it!  And if he became known for it, he would have no option but to take a stand on it, since the exceptional man must always put his professional self, or persona, before his private self, or person, in such matters, not be dictated to by the latter.  Even if, through reconditioning imposed by his return to a provincial lifestyle, the private person didn't particularly approve of what the writer had written, he could not deny it was true.  Private misfortune may have led to the writer's writing it, but the fact that it was written is the most important thing, whether or not a perverted provincial was involved!  Evolutionary progress often depends on such strange quirks of fate.  Were not men of exceptional intelligence and moral integrity occasionally 'pulled over', through force of circumstances, to the proletariat's side, it is doubtful whether they would by themselves achieve very much vis-à-vis bourgeois oppression.  For, as a rule, they aren't particularly bright!

 

 

HOW I RELATE TO MY MOTHER

 

Not that I wish to deny that there is proletarian blood in my veins.  For, thanks to my mother, there most certainly is!  If my father was the son of middle-class intellectuals, or Irish national schoolteachers, then my mother was most definitely the daughter of proletarians - her father having gravitated from being a private soldier to a regimental sergeant-major (RSM) in the British Army.  Even now there is much of the sergeant-major's daughter about my mother, what with her habitual disposition to words like 'blinkin'', 'bloody', and 'bleedin''.  Her mother, as already noted, was a Catholic, but it's essentially after her father that she takes, having strong Protestant sympathies, if no accompanying religiosity.  As I would seem to take after my father (though I never knew him personally) in ethnic allegiance - and indeed it's usually the male parent who conditions both the class and ethnic allegiance of his offspring, particularly when of the same sex - there has never been much understanding or sympathy between my mother and myself.  Rather, I have mostly despised and disliked her, taking umbrage at her pro-British mentality whilst I, especially of late, have developed a more consistently pro-Irish one.

     But the gap that exists between us over ethnic identification is no less conspicuous where culture is concerned; for while she has never displayed the slightest inclination for serious culture, I have long been a devotee of it, having spent many years immersed in various of the fine arts, both as a spectator and as a participant.  Not once has she shown any inclination towards either serious music or literature, and I can only conclude that what is best in me, i.e. my intellectual and cultural interests, stems from the legacy of my late father, who must have possessed or inherited a capacity for higher things.  That I should be so spiritually different from my mother ... is often a source of amazement to me, though just as often one of considerable pain and humiliation as well!  To have nothing in common, intellectually or culturally, with one's mother is indeed a grave misfortune, and I am quite baffled that a person as given to higher matters as myself, who, besides being no mean scholar, has become one of the greatest self-taught writers and philosophers of all time, should have emerged from the womb of such a confirmed philistine!  Perhaps, after all, woman is little more than the carrier of a man's seed, the bearer of 'his' child?  If so, then it could certainly explain why the offspring inherit their father's surname, not to mention nationality, being, in effect, extensions of him, and most especially where the male child is concerned.

     No, I don't approve of the way my mother usually speaks, nor of her habit of showing off as much of her legs as possible to her West Indian husband, as she lolls in her armchair in front of the television, an epitome of sensuous abandon.  She is a vulgar, ignorant person, and I have never been particularly at ease in her company.  My father, although a failure by the professional standards of his parents, married beneath himself, on ethnic as well as class terms, and I, more than anyone, have had to bear the consequences!  This is the main reason why, on no account, would I wish to inflict a similar fate on anyone else.  I would rather spend the rest of my life alone, leaving the ordinary working-class girls of Crouch End and nearby areas to others.  I'm sufficiently equated with solitude by now not to have any doubts on this matter.  An attractive proletarian may be tempting from time to time, but after the sex had run its dreary course, there would be long silences, agonized cultural and intellectual incompatibilities, even the possibility of ethnic rivalries along Irish/British or Catholic/Protestant lines, as one discovered no real spiritual kinship to exist.  Better to make do with one's own company than run the risk of enduring that!

 

 

AM I THE NEW MESSIAH (?)

 

There is a strong argument for assuming that I am such a man, and it derives in large part from the quality of my religious writings, as evidenced, in particular, by those appertaining to my philosophical literature.  I'm not a crank to imagine myself literally Jesus Christ come down from Heaven, or anything of the sort!  If I loosely correspond to a Second Coming, a Messianic equivalent, it's because people will discover that the best of my writings pave the way for a new, higher religious orientation, and that I may well qualify as the next saviour in the line of evolutionary ascent, so to speak, after Christ for the Western peoples and, indeed, the world at large, insofar as Buddha, Mohammed, and other such religious leaders were approximately equivalent to Christ, and could only be superseded on terms identical to my own.

     I'm not by nature a vain person but a truthful one, and so I wouldn't hesitate to consider the possibility of my being the new and, in some sense, ultimate religious leader, if my work seemed to indicate as much.  After all, I'm well qualified to step into the role of messiah, since, as the reader will have learnt, I have never made love to a woman but lived in celibacy since the dawn of puberty.  Anyone who approximates to a Second Coming is unlikely to be a lecherous individual, with a known record of sexual indulgence behind him!  I do not say that I have enjoyed my celibacy, much less the solitude that goes with it, but circumstances, ethnic and otherwise, have conspired to force them upon me and the outcome, like it or not, has been a succession of literary works of unprecedented spiritual insight and achievement - works, in all probability, which wouldn't have been possible under any other terms!

     Well then, the work is done, or nearly so [I was wildly off the mark here in 1982], and if it's ever to be read in the future, people will be obliged to admit, as they now admit about Nietzsche, that its author was an exceptional individual who evidently lived under most unusual circumstances.  Whether or not his subsequent life deviated from those circumstances to any extent ... wouldn't affect the quality of the work already done, which should correspond to the status of Messianic teachings, as relative to a Second Coming equivalent.  That the 'new Christ' began as a saint and gradually became a sinner ... would not, were that to actually transpire, amount to a condemnation or refutation of his work in an age as de-mystified as this, when no-one can reasonably be expected to be superhuman or divine.  I don't know whether or not I shall have the luck to find a suitable woman, but I doubt that I would remain celibate just for the sake of bolstering my Messianic status.  The depression I live with is surely a sufficient argument against that!

     And yet, if I remain poor because my work, necessarily radical, is unlikely to find a large following in my own lifetime, then the chances of celibacy remaining my fate are pretty high, and my Messianic reputation will doubtless receive a posthumous boost in consequence.  Whether I could in fact now acquire a woman, even if I were in a position to do so, is itself a debatable point, since my past conditioning and moral intelligence combine to make me a pretty spiritual individual whose spirituality may well intrude between his sensual interests and his human integrity.  One does not, of course, know everything about oneself, no matter how introspective one may happen to be.  Moods change, and so too, from time to time, do circumstances.  It is better, I think, to keep an open mind.

     But if my celibacy partly qualifies me to step into the role of a new messiah, then so, too does the fact that I don't smoke or drink, and have not done so for several years.  Neither do I eat more than I need to survive, since copious or expensive food would be beyond my pocket, and I'm obliged, in consequence, to limit myself to frugal take-always.  My sleep is light and, as a rule, fairly brief.  I doubt that I ever get more than 4-5 hours sleep a night and I have never slept during the day, finding it impossible to do so.  I have lived for a number of years in north London, cut off to a considerable extent from regular contact with sensuous nature.  The most I get is an occasional stroll through the local park, but that is a far cry from the country!

     So there are, besides my writings, a number of reasons why I'm highly qualified to correspond to a Second Coming and be equated with a new messiah, destined to supplant the Christian one, with the termination of humanistic civilization and the inception of post-humanistic civilization.  The age would seem to be ripe for the return of a major spiritual leader, even though the old civilization has yet to end and the new one to officially begin.  That the former civilization will reject my teachings ... I don't doubt.  But, then, not every Western country is fully aligned with it, least of all Ireland, which, if justice is to be done, should provide the base for the inception of post-humanistic civilization in due course.  If the Irish are genuinely religious-minded, then they will be the most suitable historic choice for such an honour.  For I was born in Ireland of predominantly Irish parents and have since dedicated my teachings to the Irish people.  I cannot, in all honesty, dedicate them to the monarchic English, who are rooted in the vanity of power, and whose only official desire is to sustain humanistic civilization for as long as possible.

 

 

LITERARY INFLUENCES

 

I have read a great many books since 1972, the year I first began to systematically collect them, but the authors who have had the most influence on my literary and spiritual development are comparatively few in number and mainly of philosophical tendency.  I list below those whom, for one reason or another, I consider to have had the most influence on me, namely: Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Baudelaire, Emerson, Aldous Huxley, Teilhard de Chardin, Jean-Paul Sartre, Hermann Hesse, Arthur Koestler, Malcolm Muggeridge, Bertrand Russell, Henry Miller, Oswald Spengler, Carl Jung, and Lewis Mumford.

     There are authors whom I have read more for enjoyment than instruction, and these include: Lawrence Durrell, Thomas Mann, J.R.R. Tolkien, Lautréamont, Rimbaud, James Joyce, W.B. Yeats, Ezra Pound, de Nerval, Montaigne, Poe, Wilde, Maupassant, Hamsun, and Flaubert.  There are yet others whom I have largely read for instruction but subsequently turned against and condemned in my thoughts or writings.  To some extent this applies to most of those in the first category, but it applies, in particular, to authors like D.H. Lawrence, André Gide, Tolstoy, John Cowper Powys, Wilhelm Reich, Albert Camus, George Orwell, and Thomas Hardy, largely because I disapprove of their neo-paganism in opposition to transcendental progress.  Lawrence is, it seems to me, especially culpable in this regard, and so, to a significant extent, is Powys, whose philosophy of nature worship (he called it 'Elementalism') embraces a two-faced allegiance to the First Cause!

     I seem to recall that my first adult reading took the form of poetry, and that, from there, I slowly gravitated towards novels.  Since 1980, however, I have read mostly philosophies, art books, histories, political and literary biographies, autobiographies, and travelogues.  My taste for literature, in the strictly narrative sense, appears to have declined during my late twenties.  For these days I rarely have a novel in my hands.  Yet I keep a list of all the books borrowed from the local library, together with the date of borrowing, so that I am able to verify the exact nature and tendency of my tastes (see appendix).  When I have read a book I particularly enjoyed or admired, I put an asterisk (*) against the title on my list, the better to recall my impression of the book at a later date.  There are now, in my notebook, some thirty pages of books listed in this way, with about twenty titles to a page.  If I get to put 6-10 asterisks on a page, I consider myself relatively fortunate.  It means that I have borrowed fairly discerningly and tastefully from a library in which, like all libraries, there are thousands of books one wouldn't wish to read.

     I gave up buying books some time in 1976.  I had about 350 paperbacks in my private collection and little room on the shelves of my modest bedsitter bookcase for any more.  But the following year, due in large part to a desire to enliven my life following a lengthy illness which had kept me from writing, I decided to dispose of all but my very favourite, so whittled my collection of paperbacks down to about thirty, which are still with me at the time of writing.  They include: Baudelaire's Intimate Journals, Hesse's Steppenwolf, Joyce's Ulysses, Miller's Tropic of Cancer, Nietzsche's Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Sartre's Nausea, Camus' A Happy Death, Huxley's The Doors of Perception & Heaven and Hell, Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, and Hamsun's Mysteries.  I hang-on to these books but I don't re-read them.  They bear little resemblance to my current tastes and have long ceased to exert any real influence over my writings.

     Indeed, although I speak of influences, I should stress that most of my work is original, having developed from my own inner world, not been imposed upon it from without.  Of course, no-one is completely free of influences, but rarely will it be the case that a genuine writer is dominated by them.  I know myself to be a genuine writer, for I am of sufficient independence of mind and intellectual integrity, and have been practising in my chosen field for a sufficiently long period of time to become both increasingly original and technically proficient.  Naturally, this doesn't guarantee popularity or acclaim, since one's independent-mindedness may well make one too frank, progressive, sophisticated, or whatever, to be acceptable to the generality, whether bourgeois, proletarian, or anything else.  I know this fact only too well, bearing in mind that England is ever the home, despite monumental exceptions to the rule, of literary mediocrity, and creative outsiders, such as myself, who pride themselves on being professional rather than amateur, or fastidious rather than slapdash, or 'artists' rather than 'jobbers', could only be relatively taboo.  One feels that no matter what one writes, sooner or later one will be writing something which the publishing insiders won't be able to countenance, and that one will therefore have one's work rejected or, at best, bowdlerized.  One is conscious of being a kind of spiritual giant among spiritual pygmies, outlawed for belonging to that exceptional category of men whose intelligence and temperament could never permit them to become stooges of bourgeois commercialism.  At times it is tempting to wish one were a painter or a composer rather than a writer, because they at least work in comparatively impersonal terms and can get away with almost anything, whereas the medium of language exposes the nature of one's thought to all kinds and degrees of bourgeois repression, especially when that nature is both political and religious, and hails from an ethnic basis which, being Irish, is virtually anathema to the country of one's residence!

     But I have not succumbed to bourgeois pressures, and neither, I dare say, will I ever do so.  There is, at any rate, a degree of consolation to be gleaned from the fact that, from time to time, outsiders have broken through the Establishment's opposition to their work or existence and created their own, higher order beyond the bounds of convention.  What they have done before us, we, too, can do in the future!

 

 

MUSICAL TASTES

 

My dichotomy between the private person and the artist can be brought back here, since it applies in some measure to my musical tastes, which are comprised of fairly disparate elements.  On the one hand, I'm a modern jazz enthusiast [this is not quite as true in 2004 as it was in 1982], having developed a taste for this music out of my earlier taste for blues and rock.  On the other hand, I'm a lover of classical music, and have recently extended my taste for instrumental compositions into the realm of opera.  The first taste pertains, in my estimation, to the private person, relaxing from his day's labours; the second, by contrast, to the artist, who likes to keep in touch with whatever is most sought-after in the fine arts.  And the two tastes are ever kept apart, not clashing in successive appreciation but ... listened to quite separately at an interval of at least three hours.

     Thus it may happen that, early in the evening, I like to listen to modern jazz for some forty or so minutes, whilst I reserve my professional taste, so to speak, for later on - usually from between ten and eleven o'clock.  The private person is glad of the reprieve from creative concerns that the artist indulges in every day, and so relaxes with the help of modern jazzmen or fusion musicians (the two are not quite identical) like Herbie Hancock, Carlos Santana, John McLaughlin, Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke, Wayne Shorter, Larry Coryell, George Duke, Al DiMeola, Jean-Luc Ponty, Barry Miles, Jan Hammer, and so on - a veritable host of talented musicians whose records he takes a pride in collecting, even if, through force of financial circumstances, he can only buy such records second-hand, and therefore at a reduced price, once or twice a month.  Nevertheless, despite his financial constraints - the fruit, in large measure, of being a radical writer in a conservative country - he has collected over two-hundred records and takes a perverse pride in being able to purchase quality music on a comparatively economic basis, knowing full-well that there are plenty of people who buy absolute rubbish for anything up to four or five times the amount he normally pays.

     But now comes the turn of the artist, and he relies exclusively on the record department of Hornsey Central Library for his regular supply of instrumental and operatic recordings, which come completely free-of-charge.  Lately he has discovered the genius of Albern Berg through his wholehearted appreciation of Wozzeck, undoubtedly one of the greatest twentieth-century operas.  But he has already acquainted himself with other such masterpieces as Tosca, Lady Macbeth of Mtensk, Eugene Onyegin, Manon, Carmen, Boris Godunov, and Faust.  He prides himself on reading French, German, Italian, and Russian, and is always glad of an opportunity to expand his knowledge of these languages through the detailed perusal of a good libretto.

     There are other works, however, which he has disdained; but these I shall refrain from mentioning.  At least he has been able to acquaint himself with opera through the library, and so acquired a fairly discriminating taste in the matter.  He prefers, as a rule, to stick with late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century operas, and the same applies to instrumental works, which he is also keen on borrowing.  But he despises ballet and rarely if ever listens to piano sonatas or chamber music, particularly string quartets - the constant scraping of stringed instruments and monotonous tones of which simply bore him.  No, of instrumental forms, it is the symphony and the concerto which have most appealed to him, the large ensembles of instruments making for a textural and tonal variety not to be encountered in lesser forms.  Of twentieth-century composers he must list Shostakovich, Prokofiev, Honegger, Glazunov, Martinu, Walton, Poulenc, Berkeley, Vaughan Williams, Shoenberg, and Tippett among his favourites, while the nineteenth-century composers who have had the most appeal for him include Liszt, Schumann, Tchaikovsky, Borodin, Mussorgsky, Saint-Saëns, Rubenstein, Rimsky-Korsakov, and Brahms.

     Probably the composer who has compelled his admiration more than any other is Shostakovich, the majority of whose symphonies have won his wholehearted approval for their unmistakable originality, richness of invention, clarity of purpose, and ingenious orchestration.  Particularly notable in this respect are the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth symphonies, the 'Holy Trinity' of Shostakovich's symphonic oeuvre, only paralleled (if at all) in modern music by Prokofiev, a composer ranking second only to Shostakovich in my estimation, and one who, together with Khachaturian, constitutes for me a part, as it were, of the 'Holy Trinity', or troika, of contemporary Russian music.

     Yes, the artist in me has derived considerable pleasure from much of the music of these great composers, both as regards the symphony and the concerto in each of its usual forms.  I can never understand people who go out of their way to criticize the great works of these men, instead of being grateful for what they are hearing or have heard.  They strike me as being too pretentious and hard-to-please, and are often victims of an envy stemming from creative impotence.  On the other hand, a man like Henry Miller, who was always more ready to praise than find fault, seems to me infinitely preferable to these critical devils whose negativity, did they but know it, is rather a symptom of malice born from an inability to appreciate what they are hearing.  In sum, a typically Old World, and in particular English, shortcoming, suggestive of spiritual feebleness and/or decadence.

     No, I will not presume to find fault with those composers whose music has given me so much pleasure, even if, by dint of historical circumstances, it falls short of perfection.  Better to look on the bright side as much as possible, admitting that one would never be able to emulate them oneself.  And this goes as much for the great British composers of the twentieth century, like Elgar and Walton, as for the Russians.  We are fortunate, despite certain drawbacks, to be alive in such a richly creative age, inheritors of the finest music ever composed.  Not for the more enlightened of us to turn our backs on this music with a Spenglerian disregard for musical evolution!  Liszt was not the last voice in great music, and neither was Shostakovich, as far as the twentieth century was concerned.  The terms of musical value change for the better, not, as a rule, for the worse!  And this applies not only to music, but to all the fine arts.  If this were not so, how could we continue to live, and what would be the point of our lives here?  It is only because the best is still to come that we are justified, as artists, in continuing with our respective creative efforts.  Only a lunatic would purposely go out of his way to create something artistically inferior to what he had already done!

 

 

WHAT KIND OF WRITER (?)

 

It has been said, and in connection with no less a writer than Hermann Hesse, that the worse the man the better the artist, with an implication that the more morally degenerate one is ... the better are one's chances of succeeding as a modern artist.  Yet this idea, understandable as it may be for a certain type of mediocre artist, is totally false where any great artist is concerned.  For the genuine artist is not a scoundrel or criminal, but a kind of spiritual antenna of the race, a discoverer of higher truths, and thus someone in the vanguard of man's spiritual evolution.  To imagine the contrary is simply to settle for less than the genuine artist.  It is, in fact, to identify artistic merit with the average sensationalist writer, whose speciality is not to illuminate the world with higher spiritual insights (which, naturally enough, such a writer wouldn't in any case possess) but, rather, to drag the reader through all kinds and degrees of filth only too common to the world, in the hope, no doubt, of disgusting or frightening or titillating him in the process!  Such a philistine writer may well be a bad, morally irresponsible, unenlightened, degenerate type of man, but he won't thereby be a great artist.  Simply another commercially viable shit-monger!

     No, although Hermann Hesse was doubtfully the greatest of artists, he wasn't as bad a man as some people, more usually of a critically negative turn-of-mind, may like to imagine.  If he distinguished himself above the majority of his contemporaries, it wasn't because he was a particularly evil man but ... simply more intelligent and gifted than them, and therefore an exceptional man.  Now such a man may well be assisted in his chosen career by dint of the fact that his personal circumstances were worse, either consistently or over intermittent periods of time, than a majority of his contemporaries; for, as already noted, it's only at the expense of the individual that the artist thrives.  This is clearly so, to a significant extent, in Hesse's case, and of course it also applies to me, since I could not have attained to certain spiritual insights had my personal circumstances been any better.  Thus the worse, within certain acceptable limits, the man's personal circumstances, the higher the chances of his becoming a great artist, because one cannot have the best of both worlds, but must necessarily make sacrifices on behalf of the artist if one wishes to distinguish oneself in that respect.

     However, if one's personal circumstances are too bad, then there can be little prospect of a great artist emerging.  One must at least be able to continue writing on a regular basis and in relative comfort, with a roof over one's head and some food on one's plate every day.  A tortured being isn't likely to produce great art but, at best, a pathetic wail!

     To return, then, to my autobiographical sketch.  I am clearly the kind of writer whose achievements are due, in some measure, to personal hardship, since without these personal deprivations, which include depression and solitude in an alien environment, I would never have continued writing - at least not in the same vein as before.  I don't say that I would have 'sold out'; but I might well have been tempted to make more of the literary, illusory side of my work at the expense of its philosophical content, bowing to phenomenal objectivity with something approaching the selfless philistinism of your average novelist.  But now I am, par excellence, a philosophical writer, whose duty is to expand the domain of truth to the extent that he can, whether or not other people approve of it.  This writer does not sensationalize or aim for a popular market, like the sham writer, but is dedicated to the furtherance of literary progress in a world largely indifferent to higher things.  He knows that the artist's success in this matter is inextricably bound-up with the individual's asceticism, and that unless the private person leads a saint-like existence ... there is no possibility whatsoever of the artist's achieving anything demonstrably significant.  Depression, poverty, solitude, celibacy, isolation ... all these and more contribute to the artist's growth, no matter how abhorrent they may seem to the private person.  Van Gogh and Nietzsche became great for similar reasons, and it's almost inconceivable that anyone should become so on any other terms.  The smug bourgeois writer has his limitations as an artist, brought about, in large measure, by personal affluence.  And this is true not only of the more obvious examples, like Evelyn Waugh and Thomas Mann, but also to a lesser extent of writers like Hermann Hesse, Aldous Huxley, and Jean-Paul Sartre, who, although distinguished, could have become still more so, in certain respects, had their personal circumstances been any worse!

     I do not, however, say that I would wish to continue exactly as before, a victim of poverty, depression, solitude, etc.  For if things go on as they have been doing much longer, I may not be able to write at all!  No, I'm fully aware that artistic progress in me was achieved at my personal expense, largely against my natural wishes.  Having completed a substantial body of work in this way, I am now all in favour of giving the personal self a better deal ... should circumstances subsequently permit.

 

 

HOW DO I VIEW MY FUTURE (?)

 

Clearly, I cannot continue in my current tracks for ever, since my deteriorating personal circumstances are unlikely to take a turn for the better.   It is difficult enough to write now, what with a depression that gets steadily worse, and typing I can only manage if I take a ten-minute break every twenty or so minutes, which allows time for the build-up of tension in my head to subside slightly [this isn't as much the case in 2004 as it was in 1982].  Being depressed in this way is not the same as being mad, though it would be easy for other people to think so!  The lifestyle one is obliged to lead, with a certain number of regulated breaks, is by no means natural, but one does at least remain in possession of one's faculties and can thereby tell right from wrong.  I may have to take a ten-minute break between listening to one long-playing record and another, but I can at least listen to it.  I may not be able to read consistently beyond twenty minutes, but at least I can read, if intermittently.  Thus I know very well what my position is, as also what needs to be done to remedy it.  The trouble is that knowing what needs to be done and actually being in a financial position to do it ... are two completely different things!

     My future, therefore, must be different from both my past and my present.  I don't see myself writing for much longer, let alone for the rest of my working life, since, even given the deteriorating state of my mental health, I have said most of what needs to be said to effect an upgrading of religious truth in the world over the coming decades.  To a large extent my literary task is now complete.  For I have attained to the truth to an extent unprecedented in literary history, and can't expect to go very much beyond it.  I can perhaps refine on some details in the years ahead, but I cannot expect to radically extend the scope of my writings.  Besides, I'm not a writer in the strict literary sense but a philosopher, propagandist, and teacher who disdains mere belle lettres.  My possible destiny as a new messiah would not enable me to fit complacently into the role of homme de lettres, which, in any case, is a role I personally despise.  To be disposed to scribbling out novel after dreary novel for forty-odd years ... I would have to be a lesser man than I feel I am, since literature carried out for no other reason than itself strikes me as a relatively inconsequential pursuit, only suitable to a mediocre and cowardly type of man who lacks either the courage or aptitude for a higher calling.  If I now knew that I was destined to be a writer all my life, I would feel quite humiliated, judging such a fate unworthy of my knowledge in certain other matters!

     No, for me, writing is simply a means to an end, a task that had to be embraced in order that I could discover the truth about God, religion, politics, society, etc., and then set about the higher task of getting that truth implemented.  I may not have viewed it like that at the beginning, but its subsequent development leaves me with little or no choice in the matter, since what I say could never be countenanced by the bourgeois establishment.  Thus, if I have no future in writing, I may at least have one in politics which, if successful, could lead to the subsequent implementation of the Truth and to the adoption, by the people, of superior criteria in religion, politics, art, etc.

     But a future in politics would probably necessitate a return to Ireland, since my politics is decidedly radical.  I don't for one moment imagine that such politics, commensurate with post-humanistic criteria, could ever be implemented in Britain, least of all in England, which is a thoroughly bourgeois country, and am consequently indifferent to so-called radical politics here.  Whether I shall become a political leader or not, I must find a way of getting my truth to the people.  For the messianic role I have taken upon myself requires more than just writing, even though writing is of the utmost importance in establishing the Truth theoretically.  Its practical implementation, however, requires democratic action, and I must therefore be in a position to act, having presumably recovered from my depression in the meantime or, at any rate, set myself on the road to such a recovery.

 

 

PART TWO: BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES

 

JOHN COWPER POWYS

 

Of all twentieth-century authors, John Cowper Powys was surely the most prolific.  From a traditional fictional standpoint he was also probably the most gifted, though doubtfully the most profound.  He was like an inexhaustible well of creativity from whom book after compendious book flowed with a spiritual generosity more reminiscent of the Middle Ages than of our own, somewhat more academic and scientific time.  He was no miser where literary production was concerned, and neither could he be described as lazy, he who must have got through more words than any other three major authors combined!  Indeed, so quickly and fluently must he have written, that one might well describe his technique as spontaneous, and define him as a bourgeois/proletarian author after the mixed-class fashion of, say, D.H. Lawrence. 

     But if spontaneity is a hallmark of much proletarian writing, the subject-matter of Powys' novels and philosophical works must mark him out as a bourgeois author, and not one of the most enlightened bourgeois authors either!  For although he was never a Christian, in the strictly devotional sense of that word, he was a long way from being a transcendentalist - indeed, such a long way as to be essentially neo-pagan and somewhat Rousseauesque in character.

     Yes, there was a rather old-fashioned and even reactionary streak about Powys, which led him to identify with Rousseau and nature-worshippers generally.  He espoused the doctrine of 'Elementalism', or controlled nature-worship, in pursuance of a dual, positive/negative attitude towards the hypothetical First Cause of all Creation, which others might equate with God the Father or Jehovah, depending on their religious persuasion.  This First Cause, which Powys wisely preferred not to anthropomorphize, was allegedly the fount from which all pain and pleasure, sadness and happiness flowed, and should be regarded, in his estimation, with an appropriately dualistic attitude of defiance alternating with gratitude, as the occasion warranted.  Such was the base of Powys' religious faith, and he remained its faithful adherent to the last.  Thus he remained orientated towards the galactic-world-order in deference to the diabolic creative and sustaining force behind all life, which more perceptive intellectuals would equate with solar or stellar energy without, however, deigning to anthropomorphize it, like a Christian.

     Whether Powys found his twenty-year stint in America, mostly in New York and other large cities, particularly distressing or not, I have never discovered.  But his return to Britain, following the termination of his career as a free-lance lecturer, led to a preference for rural over urban life and took him to North Wales, where he wrote many of the novels and philosophical works for which he is now better known.  It was not so much that he became a nature-worshipper in old age (for he had been a devotee of nature-in-the-raw from childhood), as that his attitude towards nature - which was generally spelt with a capital 'N' with him - hardened and became set in the 'Elementalist' mould which was to influence the remaining years of his life, causing him to reaffirm and strengthen his religious position.  Isolated from modern civilization in his Welsh retreat, Powys emphasized the importance, as he saw it, of closeness to nature in the interests of mental health, his writings becoming ever more neo-pagan in their insistence on natural living.  Of all twentieth-century authors, he was arguably the most religiously anachronistic, not just the most prolific.  For 'Elementalism' is fundamentally nothing more than pantheism and animism freed, through Protestant optimism, from demonic associations and turned into a Rousseauesque cult of the natural, a kind of earth hedonism with its own sexless brand of Puritanism, depending on the degree of sincerity or seriousness the devotee brings to his relationship with rural phenomena.  Wordsworth would not have felt particularly out of his depth in the pages of a typical Powys tome, such as The Art of Happiness or In Defence of Sensuality, both of which testify to a heathen joy in natural living.

     As a philosopher Powys was never more than popular, given by natural inclination to practical philosophy, with its hints to the common man as to the wisest conduct of life in the natural environment.  His work thus ranks fairly humbly in the hierarchy of philosophical writings.  For applied philosophy inevitably falls short of the academic brand, its emphasis being utilitarian rather than intellectual, something to live by rather than to think by.  Had Powys been a better man his work would doubtless stand higher in the hierarchy of philosophical writings.  But his closeness to nature ensured that he remained one of the Devil's most fervent disciples - a thoroughly heathen type of spiritual bourgeois!

     Of all his works, the ones I've been least able to abide are the novels, partly because of their inordinate length in a majority of cases, but partly, too, because of the way in which they are written and the level of thought they generally contain.  I have already referred to the obvious fluency of technique, which in itself need not arouse any critical hostility, as a quasi-proletarian dimension in Powys' novels.  But their inordinate length, which must be tied-up with a spontaneous approach, is quite the reverse of a proletarian dimension, being, if anything, closer to medieval aristocratic materialism.  Only a bourgeois of extreme reactionary cast would write novels in excess of seven-hundred pages.  For the bulk that results from such a length guarantees a degree of voluminous materialism, in the published book, far in excess of anything commensurate with proletarian criteria of spiritual progress.  Only a bourgeois of Powys' mentality could have equated spiritual greatness with extreme length of a novel.  For, in reality, evolutionary progress demands that as the spirit expands, so the material aspect of writing contracts, resulting in shorter books of superior spiritual insight.  Powys' novels lacked both slenderness and superior spiritual insight, and are therefore of a relatively inferior quality from any strictly transcendental standpoint.

     Given that the level of thought in the average Powys novel, like A Glastonbury Romance, is pretty low, fit only for humanistic or pre-humanistic (pseudo-pagan) mentalities, the style in which they are written can be no less distressing, especially when involving the overly parochial or colloquial idioms of a Penny Pitches or a Tossie Stickles or even a Mr Weatherwax!  Here Powys reveals himself to be worse than culturally reactionary; simply realistically old-fashioned in one of the most embarrassingly sentimental, patronizingly ninnyish sort of provincial ways.  The photograph of him on the cover of The Art of Happiness with a pair of carpet slippers on his feet, a long-eared, soppy-looking pet dog on his lap, and a scruffy old jacket thrown over his shoulders ... just about typifies the provincial mentality of the author of such illustrious fictions as Penny and Tossie!

     I do not want, however, to end this first biographical sketch on a wholly negative note; for if Powys' novels have never made an agreeable impression on me, I have at least retained some respect for The Meaning of Culture, which - not excepting the biographical and polemical brilliance of Suspended Judgements - is arguably his most accomplished philosophical work.  Not that I can agree with everything or indeed much of what is said in it.  But the style in which it was written still impresses me after so many years, and I occasionally dip into it to savour English prose at or near its very best.  He wrote this book in the United States during the late 1920s, and wrote it, moreover, for an educated and cultured public, who could be depended upon to have read all or most of the authors whose works are therein discussed.  The 'back-to-nature' attitude is of course fairly conspicuous, even at that comparatively early date.  But there are other ingredients, mostly of a literary, aesthetic, and philosophical order, which show that Powys wasn't entirely the neo-pagan barbarian he so often appears to be.  Perhaps New York had a salutary influence on his inner life which North Wales didn't?

 

 

D.H. LAWRENCE

 

D.H. Lawrence was much the most bourgeois/proletarian author of all the major English literary figures to emerge during the first-half of the twentieth century.  By which I mean that, technically, he was a proletarian author whose style was more radically spontaneous than that of any of his contemporaries, including John Cowper Powys, and betrayed a more naturally proletarian tone than could have been found in essentially bourgeois authors who occasionally created proletarian characters and settings.  But if he wrote as a proletarian, much of his thinking and, indeed, the novelistic context in which he worked, was distinctly bourgeois, though of a less radically reactionary order than the 'back-to-nature' thinking of, for example, John Cowper Powys.  For while 'back to sex', as Lawrence conceived of it, was hardly a morally progressive teaching, it at any rate had the virtue of referring to a higher type of sensual indulgence than could have been gleaned from nature in the raw.  The man who stakes his salvation on sex is a little higher than the one who stakes it on a love of plant life.  Both 'salvations', however, can never be anything more than relative.

     There was, of course, an element of 'back to nature' in Lawrence, although it was usually subsidiary to his sexual philosophizing.  One cannot imagine him actually loving nature, optically 'plunging into' it with an almost possessive zeal, the way Powys would have done.  A close physical proximity to nature was rather the appropriate setting in which to cultivate one's sex life.  It formed a kind of ideal backdrop for the more important business of satisfying those natural instincts which, according to Lawrence, urban civilization was systematically thwarting and corrupting.

     One cannot argue, however, with his findings.  What marks Lawrence out as a devil's advocate is that he chooses to draw the wrong conclusions from them, and thus rebel against the 'corrupting influences' of urban civilization, instead of to see in the thwarting of natural instincts a means whereby nature could be overcome in the interests, ultimately, of higher spiritual development.  There was no room for the idea of such a higher development in Lawrence's mentality, which was essentially base and plebeian.  If civilization was corrupting the natural man, then the only thing to do was to rebel against it so that, freed from its artificial influence, the thwarted, corrupted instincts could gradually recover their ancestral spontaneity of impulse, and man thereafter live the ideal sensual life in an earthly paradise.  Rousseau?  Yes, not all that different, although rather more sexually earnest than that, at times, somewhat frivolous Frenchman.  An earnestness, too, to be found in Powys, though scarcely of the sexual variety!

     Nietzsche remarked somewhere on the danger to the development of truth that the rise of the common man would entail if given the means to express himself.  Perhaps more than any other twentieth-century author, Lawrence expresses that very danger in confirmation of the Nietzschean fear.  The son of a collier, he remained to the end of his life a victim of the darkness, a prisoner of subconscious domination.  You cannot turn the son of a collier into an intellectual gentleman just by educating him; for an intellectual gentleman is as much the product of heredity as of upbringing or education - possibly more.  Unlike Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence wasn't naturally disposed to think in terms of the light, the superconscious mind, the spirit.  Everything reverted to the darkness for him, and that is why he advocated the 'dark gods of the loins' as being preferable to any spiritual or transcendent god.  Even though he was aware of a distinction between soul (as body) and spirit (as intellect), his strongest inclination was for the soul, which he considered superior to the spirit.  So, no doubt, would many other less-evolved types, whether primitive, pagan, neo-pagan, or whatever.  One cannot be surprised that Lawrence's basic sympathies lay with the primitive, or that he should have endeavoured to establish his own existence on a pseudo-primitive footing, like a belated Pre-Raphaelite.  In this, however, he proved himself to be an abject failure; for even Lawrence was to some extent a product of bourgeois civilization and thus dependent for both a living and spiritual self-satisfaction on his writings.  Neither could he forsake the writings of other men, including many of his contemporaries.  He remained, to the end of his life, an intellectual, if at times a rather soulful and sensual one!

     His temperament, somewhat Byronic in its egotistical individualism, wasn't a particularly ingratiating one, and few of his contemporaries seem to have liked him or to have enjoyed his company.  Some disliked him for what they saw as his bohemian, restless, informal, slovenly lifestyle.  Others found him impertinent, quick-tempered, impatient, self-opinionated, cynical, and a variety of other unflattering things besides!  He was certainly a rather ugly man, quite the most unattractive romantic of his generation, and, in all probability, he suffered a chip-on-the-shoulder in consequence.  He completely lacked a sense of humour in his writings, as in his life - a fact which could hardly have endeared him to would-be detractors!  His earnestness was of that plebeian variety which bespeaks poverty and social inferiority.  Also, as already noted, in the service of sex.  The effort to translate this basic class earnestness into intellectual terms proved largely unsuccessful, since the result was unconvincing.  He remained a victim of ancestral deprivation, never more convincingly so than when bewailing the fate of the common man.  He did this in a number of novels, not least of all Lady Chatterley's Lover.

     As a poet, Lawrence's technical progress was not meagre; for having begun his career as a rhyming, versifying, bourgeois type of poet, he in due course forged one of the most essential, free styles of poetry to appear in the first-half of the twentieth century, a style going way beyond anything attempted by W.B. Yeats in the general direction of technical freedom.  But whereas the free verse of his late period is technically meritorious, the general content of the poems sadly leaves something to be desired.  For it is usually of an anti-progressive, naturalistic tendency, as in that poem where he bewails the fact that modern men are becoming so many 'monkeys minding machines'.  No doubt, the 'men' whom Lawrence would have preferred us all to become would be natural doers rather than artificial be-ers, active lechers rather than passive ascetics!

     Quite often one reads Lawrence with a patronizing tolerance for his stylistic shortcomings, deeming them inseparable from his humble origins and taking an almost paradoxical pleasure in the fact that he can express himself as well as he sometimes does.  This is the way a 'man of the people' writes, one tells oneself, and because he is such a man one cannot allow oneself to become too critical of his stylistic limitations, such as his constant repetition of certain words (not alien to writers like Hemingway either), his limited vocabulary, his seemingly slapdash approach to grammar, and so on.  A novel like Kangaroo particularly lends itself to this impression, since at times it is so carelessly written and thematically unconvincing as to threaten to fall completely apart.  One wonders where he got the nerve or patience to continue writing it!  On the other hand, one can find oneself admiring the more carefully-structured and artfully-written work of a novel like Women in Love, which Lawrence evidently took some pains with.  In this, as in The Plumed Serpent, the artistry at times attains to a degree of merit which brings out the converse impression of the condescending one - namely puzzlement as to how a 'man of the people' could have written so well as this? 

     Undoubtedly, Lawrence was one of the most technically uneven writers who ever lived, the victim in part of an unstable temperament, in part of his constantly changing domestic circumstances.  If there was a creative constant in him, it had to do with his opposition to modern civilization and, not least of all, the avant-garde attitude it often entailed.  For all his technical freedoms and/or limitations, Lawrence persisted in the literary tradition of story-teller.  His philosophizing was an aspect of his story-telling, not the raison d'être of his novels - as in the case of the more sophisticated Aldous Huxley.  He disliked Huxley's novels, and we can surmise that their disrespect for conventional story-telling was a factor in his negative response.  As also, of course, their penchant for intellectual philosophy and highly artificial tone.  There existed, however, a degree of mutual respect between Lawrence and Huxley, but it was essentially the respect of opposites, not of kindred spirits.  By the time of his death, no man could have been spiritually farther apart from the naturalistic philistinism of Lawrence than Aldous Huxley.  Huxley ascended transcendentally, whereas D.H. Lawrence sank to the lowest mundane level of sensual faith!

 

 

ALDOUS HUXLEY

 

This distinguished grandson of T.H. Huxley began his literary career as a cynical young bourgeois decadent mocking the foibles of his time, and ended it on the cautiously optimistic note of one who had faith in better things to come.  Not that he became a proletarian author in any strict sense of the word; for he was always too conscious of his bourgeois origins to be capable of an exclusively transcendental approach to writing.  Beginning as a bourgeois author in Europe, he later became a bourgeois/proletarian one in the United States, dedicating himself to the (posthumous) Beyond rather than simply to the collapse of bourgeois civilization.  Whether or not he attained to the Clear Light of the Void at death ... must remain a somewhat debatable point.  But he was certainly at a far remove from the social cynicism of Antic Hay and Point Counter Point by then!

     Many of the best literary minds agree that Huxley's most important work was done in the United States, and so I believe it was.  For on the West Coast of America his spiritual life blossomed as never before, and he came into his own as a bourgeois/proletarian author, dedicated to things of the spirit.  Even then, however, there were serious limitations to Huxley's spirituality, strange shortcomings in his concept of the Beyond.  He was quite convinced of a posthumous salvation or, rather, the reality of posthumous salvation, and even wrote a novel in which one of his own character projections, Eustace Barnack, is confronted, at death, by the Clear Light and finds himself unable to abide it, in consequence of which he is obliged, under the law of reincarnation, to return to the world in order to improve his karma.  This novel, Time Must Have a Stop, showed Huxley to be greatly interested in and considerably influenced by works like The Tibetan Book of the Dead and Eastern mysticism generally.  It wasn't just a gimmick of his, as some critics have fatuously contended, but a serious interest which he persisted in right up until his death, when, convinced that posthumous salvation lay to-hand, he availed himself of two separate shots of LSD in order to assist his passage into the Other World.  He died the day that President Kennedy was assassinated, and died, we are informed, in the most peaceful fashion, sustained by his faith in the Clear Light and encouraged towards a peaceful merging with this transcendent manifestation of spiritual beatitude by his second wife, Laura, who behaved towards him similarly to the way that he had behaved towards his first wife, when she had been in the throes of dying and apparently had need of mystical encouragement.  There can be no doubt that Huxley was in deadly earnest concerning the possibility of a posthumous salvation; for it was not like him to indulge in gimmicks or to be sceptical about a belief in which he had become so interested and which formed a pivot, so to speak, for his creative inspirations.  From our point of view, his earnestness may seem a trifle bizarre, even crazy, but there can be no question that he took his mysticism very seriously.  At times a shade too seriously, if what his second wife revealed in her journals about his fear of the consequences of being unprepared for union with the Divine Ground is to be believed!  It was as though he not only believed in a posthumous salvation, but in a posthumous damnation as well - quite in the paranoid spirit of a medieval Christian!

     But if Huxley effectively became something of a Buddhist crank, he nonetheless remained fundamentally a bourgeois.  For the substitution of one traditional world religion for another doesn't alter one's class integrity but, rather, confirms the decadence of things falling apart from the (Christian) centre, to paraphrase Yeats.  His belief in posthumous salvation was quite respectable from a bourgeois standpoint, even if founded on oriental rather than occidental symbolism.  He did not cross that fateful borderline which divides bourgeois thinking from proletarian thinking and proceed to a level of thought in which all possibility of a posthumous salvation, of whichever kind, is dismissed as a delusion.  It never occurred to him that salvation, when and if it did materialize, would only come at the culmination of evolution, following the transformation of men into supermen, and the supermen of the lower millennium into superbeings, and the superbeings of the higher millennium into spiritual globes, and the spiritual globes of the heavenly Beyond into the omega absolute, or something to that effect.  No, such a level of thought, such a way of thinking, would not have been intelligible or accessible to a bourgeois, even if he had the appearance of being progressive.  Huxley remained deluded throughout his life, and he died deluded, too!  He was the supreme example of bourgeois decadence, by which I mean that he attained to a relatively high level of spiritual thought without, however, crossing that fateful borderline which distinguishes the end of one civilization from the beginning of another.  Regarded in this positive sense, decadence implies the culmination of the literary or aesthetic achievements of a given class in terms which anticipate or seem to reflect the influence of the next evolutionary class without, however, completely breaking free of traditional belief.

     It is interesting to note, in a number of Huxley's works, not least of all his late essays, how the bourgeois in him is at times compromised by the extent of his decadence into taking sides with, or almost taking sides with, that which is known to be the enemy of bourgeois civilization.  Thus in Brave New World Revisited one encounters many passages which refer to either Stalin or Hitler or Soviet technology or socialist dictatorships in general, and although Huxley never openly comes out on the side of these anti-bourgeois phenomena (he has no desire to commit literary suicide), nevertheless his persistent interest in them betrays the extent of his decadence, confirming the fact that, while still fundamentally bourgeois at heart, his decadent integrity requires a negative interest in socialist phenomena - much the same as with Malcolm Muggeridge, another staunch bourgeois decadent.  Huxley, however, never quite forgets himself, or his Eton-Balliol upbringing, even though at times he seems on the point of doing so, and consequently his work remains relatively respectable from a bourgeois point-of-view.

     My own opinion as to the most important side of his work leads me to single out what may be called his Moksha writings for special commendation.  If Huxley deserves to be remembered for anything, in the decades ahead, it must surely be for his pioneering experiments with LSD and mescaline, as also for the writings associated with them.  The future will doubtless find an important role for vision-inducing synthetic drugs, and Huxley's contribution to their role in society should not be forgotten.  He was much wiser than Arthur Koestler or Carl Jung on this subject, and deservedly earned the respect and friendship of Dr Timothy Leary for his experiments in artificially-induced visionary experience.  To Jung, such experiments would have suggested an audacious attempt, on the part of man, to gatecrash Heaven, which, in his view, could only be reached through long and arduous naturalistic spiritual endeavour.  Huxley, however, was of the opinion that science should be brought to bear on the development of man's spiritual life, and although he had only a limited notion as to what the contribution of science should entail, we needn't doubt that he was fundamentally right.  Meditation by itself will not suffice for getting spirit to the heavenly Beyond - a contention, I feel sure, that even Koestler would have been prepared to endorse, irrespective of his personal scepticism concerning the validity of synthetics.

     As a novelist, Huxley had the anti-literary merit of preferring to philosophize and moralize than simply tell a story.  He remarked somewhere that he lacked the congenital talent for story-telling, in the mould of conventional narrative fiction, but we need not suppose it greatly bothered him.  Probably it was a modest way of revealing his contempt for and indifference towards mere story-telling.  As a philosophical novelist, Huxley's contribution to literary progress from the fictional to the truthful was of considerable significance for its time, and we need be in no doubt that his literary work ranks with the most important of his generation, certainly as regards his later novels, which date from Eyeless in Gaza.  Prior to that turning-point in his career, his most significant novel was Point Counter Point, a work which may well have been influenced, in its juxtaposition in one chapter of simultaneous character settings, by James Joyce.  Certainly much has been made of D.H. Lawrence's influence on the 'all-round', dualistic philosophical position of Rampion, one of the novel's leading characters.  But although Lawrence did apparently exert some influence on Huxley at around this time, there would seem to be little evidence for ascribing the Rampion philosophy directly to Lawrence's influence or, indeed, for seeing in Rampion, as in one or two earlier Huxley characters, a fictional reproduction of D.H. Lawrence.  That Huxley more or less concurred with Lawrence at this time, in upholding a typically bourgeois philosophy, would appear to be the most likely explanation.  It is, par excellence, the type of philosophy to appeal to a young man anyway, and the author of Do What You Will was by no means aping Lawrence when he insisted on the applicability of an all-round, dualistic attitude to life, as befitting the 'life-worshipper's' creed.

     Such an attitude, however, was to play little or no part in the novels which date from Eyeless in Gaza, and confirm Huxley in a new bourgeois/proletarian creative integrity.  It was from this date, too, that his novels became increasingly philosophical, leading through Time Must Have a Stop and After Many a Summer ... to the most philosophical of them all - his final novel, Island.  In one sense at least, this novel marked the climax to his career and set the tone for future philosophical novelists to follow.  But in another sense it was a comparative failure, in that its setting on a jungle island in the South Pacific entailed a kind of 'back-to-nature' approach to correct living which conflicts with its transcendental content.  Paradoxes and contradictions were not foreign to Huxley's fiction, as indeed to bourgeois literature generally, but this final paradox was perhaps the greatest of them all!  Despite his genuine interest in transcendental criteria, Huxley could never forsake his naturalistic bourgeois roots, since the man who studied the spiritual masters for clues to the Beyond was no less disposed to studying Wordsworth or Arnold or Whitman through his love of nature.  He was certainly no Mondrian, rigorously spurning the natural-world-order in the interests of the transcendent, a pioneer of a new artificial-world-order.  He may have experimented with synthetic drugs from time to time, but, despite his decadent status, the man who criticized Father Surin in the Devils of Loudun for his anti-natural ambitions remained, to the end, a bourgeois, living if not always writing the Rampion philosophy of dualistic allegiance to the spirit and to the flesh.

 

 

HERMANN HESSE

 

Hesse was a very prolific author and also a very religious one.  The son of a pastor, he nevertheless rebelled against the institution of the Church and set out on a quest for his own spirituality, for a new religious orientation.  Many of his books reflect this search for an alternative belief, as in Journey to the East, Steppenwolf, and Demian.  But his final position, if position it can be described as, led him not to transcendentalism, nor even back to Christianity, but to a kind of neo-pagan complacency in the natural-world-order, as represented, in particular, by the countryside in which he lived and its relationship to the sun.  Not that he was devoid of an inner life or the concept of 'God within the self', as expressed by Christ.  For he most certainly gave expression, from time to time, to his belief in its existence.  But his love of nature never deserted him and he could not have excluded the Creator from his theological integrity.  He was a man who hated the city, as indeed most manifestations of modern life, and therefore wasn't capable of any advanced degree of transcendentalism, which depends on the artificial as a precondition of its development.  He was a provincial, a country-dweller, a garden-tender, and, above all, a bourgeois.  Dualism remains the keynote to Hesse's creative life, the dualism, in his case, of a rather unorthodox Christian.  His most famous novel, Steppenwolf, takes the crisis of warring selves within an ageing bourgeois as its leitmotiv and ultimately resolves it by bringing both his lower and higher selves into perspective and striving to reintegrate them.  Herr Haller's personality is torn between beast and scholar, natural man and civilized man, and the only solution to this crisis, as Hesse sees it, is to compromise the warring selves in the interests of human wholeness.  Thus when Haller emerges triumphant at the end of the novel, it is not as a revolutionary Mondrianesque character that we see him but ... as a reformed bourgeois, newly elated by his return to humanistic compromise.  He had been deprived of sex and company for too long.  Now he could look forward to a less ascetic existence in the company of his new-found friends, including the jazz musician, Pablo.  So ends the Steppenwolf, bringing a perverted bourgeois back, like a Prodigal Son, to the humanistic fold.

     A later novel, Narziss and Goldmund, seems to show the influence of Spengler on Hesse's thinking.  For it involves a return to the 'Culture', Spengler's term for a religious phase of civilization, as we follow the largely sinful path of its youthful protagonist through medieval Germany in pursuit of adventure.  Having abandoned the spiritual life, as personified by Narziss, his one-time teacher at the monastic school where he was educated, Goldmund's life of adventure in the outside world eventually leads him to prison, from which unhappy place he is rescued, however, by Narziss and brought back to the monastic sanctuary of Mariabronn, where he is assured the prospect of a new and better life.  At the end, then, Narziss and Goldmund are reconciled, the life of the flesh giving place to the life of the spirit.  Certainly this is compatible with the Spenglerian concept of a 'Culture', an epoch of intense religious faith, and although dualism is involved, the final victory of the spirit over the flesh is only to be expected in the heyday, as it were, of medieval Christendom.

     Not so, however, with the 'Civilization', an epoch of material and social achievement, to which The Glass Bead Game, technically Hesse's finest novel, takes us in anticipation of a future elite society dedicated to the protection and emulation of past cultural achievements.  Here, by contrast, the flesh eventually triumphs over the spirit in the form of Joseph Knecht's resignation from the Castalian order to which he had been attached as Magister Ludi, or principal 'Glass-Bead-Game' player.  For the future order of Castalia is not the fresh young monastic establishment of the 'Culture', nor even the tail-end of it in the Steppenwolf's split-personality dilemma, but the full-blown decadence of the 'Civilization', when only the past is capable of providing cultural nourishment, and nothing new is created.  This has the ring of a ghastly and objectively false projection of Spenglerian ideas, but it evidently appealed to Hesse's bourgeois limitations.

     If Huxley was a positive decadent, or one who anticipated proletarian trends in his later writings, then I would argue that Hesse was very much a negative decadent, which is to say, a man who entertained a return to pre-humanist criteria in the form of neo-paganism.  Not as radically decadent in this respect as John Cowper Powys, he was nonetheless sufficiently decadent to have more in common with that brilliant Welsh writer than perhaps any other man, including André Gide.  For one thing, they were both sons of Protestant pastors, and both of them rebelled against orthodox religion.  But they rebelled against it in a negative way, as advocates of pre-humanist naturalism.  Neo-paganism was of course fairly popular in Germany between the wars, not least of all in terms of sun-worship and nudism.  Whether or not Hesse was influenced by this trend, he must have been aware of it and sympathetic to its anti-urban, anti-artificial bias.  Certainly he never went out of his way to desert the countryside and become a city-dweller.  He never took a firmly transcendental path, even though he dabbled in oriental literature from time to time and wrote Siddhartha as an exercise in alternative religion.  His interest in Buddhism and Hinduism, however, was mainly tangential, serving to gratify his search for an alternative faith, a fresh religious orientation.  It was partly hereditary and, as far as we know, he didn't take it beyond the theoretical plane.  Neither, for that matter, did Aldous Huxley bother to take meditation all that seriously, since, like Hesse, he was primarily concerned with its philosophical implications, as bearing on his writings.  The life of a professional author was both sufficiently time-consuming and spiritually-gratifying to preclude either the necessity of or inclination for meditation.  The nearest both men probably came to meditating was when they listened to music, which, incidentally, is how it is for most intelligent people these days.

     Besides writing novels of unequal quality and length, Hesse was also a prolific short-story writer, poet, and essayist.  His writings were generally short, like most of his novels, and intellectually undemanding.  Indeed, many of them, not least of all the poems, are so short and simple as to seem naive.  Like D.H. Lawrence, his poetic development led from fairly conventional beginnings to a free-verse style superior, in essence, to the general content of his poems.  Consequently one cannot describe him as a major poet, even though he regarded himself first and foremost as a poet.  He was one of the twentieth-century's most important minor poets - which for a Nobel prize-winning novelist is no mean achievement.  Of his shorter prose works, the most interesting are his autobiographical writings, particularly A Journey to Nuremberg and A Guest at the Spa, the former focusing on a poetry-reading tour he made through various German cities, the latter on his visit to Baden-Baden as a victim of and, hopefully, convalescent from sciatica.  It is in this work, paradoxically, that one is offered shreds of humour not usually characteristic of his writings, and for this reason, too, that it, together with its companion piece, must rank as one of his most entertaining and memorable works, remaining in the mind long after most of the more spiritually earnest, rather sombre writings have faded from it.

     Despite his generally poor health, however, Hesse lived to a ripe old age of eighty-five and continued working until the end.  Having come approximately full-circle in his literary career - the theme of excessive asceticism leading either to suicide or lechery being common to both his earliest novels and his last one (The Glass Bead Game) - he dedicated most of his remaining time to the penning of short essays and letters, often as an exercise in elucidating and justifying his principal works.  Should he be especially remembered for anything in the future, however, it will probably be as the author of Steppenwolf rather than as a poet or essayist.  He was, throughout his career, a sort of combination of Goethe and Nietzsche, and nowhere is such a combination better expressed than in his most autobiographical, contemporary, and original novel.

 

 

ALBERT CAMUS

 

Few modern authors have risen to international fame so quickly or from such a slender book as Albert Camus, whose novel The Outsider (as L'Étranger is commercially translated in English - somewhat, I should imagine, to Colin Wilson's literary chagrin) established his reputation as a significant writer virtually overnight, but whose subsequent career was to prove both disappointing and short-lived.  Of all modern French authors, Camus was arguably the most dilettante, the one who least wanted to dedicate himself exclusively to writing.  But as though to compensate both himself and the public for this (a shortcoming in the eyes of all true professionals!), he was one of the least spontaneous, impulsive, or technically slapdash writers, a man who worked with a craftsman-like respect for stylistic details, who considered himself the heir to a long tradition of belles lettres and had no ambitions to outdo anybody in technical innovation or thematic radicalism.  Indeed, so much was this the case, that he may justifiably be regarded as one of the most conservative of modern French writers.

     Of humble origins, Camus had a proletarian respect for hard work, as also for the work-a-day world.  To live in an 'ivory tower' of literary creativity, like Proust or Gide, was not for him.  He needed regular contact with the common man, needed to feel a part of the everyday world of fixed routine for a fixed salary.  He was temperamentally a realist rather than a romantic, and he wanted to create a realistic literature, without romantic pretensions.  That he did so in addition to being a journalist, an editor, a printer, a member of the Resistance and one or two other things besides ... is undoubtedly one of the reasons why his literary work wasn't all that prolific.  Another reason lies in his technical fastidiousness.  Then, too, we must not forget the fact that he succumbed to an early death as the result of a car accident.  But taking the first two reasons into account, we have an explanation, at least in part, for the slender nature of most of his publications - the longest not exceeding 250 pages.  I alluded to the slenderness of his first novel at the beginning of this biographical sketch, but his last published novel was even more slender - a mere 100 or so pages in length.  Clearly, no major novel can be produced by a man whose works barely exceed a hundred pages!  Camus, for all his technical fastidiousness, was only to write one novel that came anywhere near being a major one - namely The Plague.

     Of course, slenderness of volume isn't by itself an obstacle to literary merit.  On the contrary, it can even be a contributory factor, albeit one dependent on the type of work being produced and the epoch in which it was written.  A bourgeois/proletarian novelist is entitled to reduce the length of a novel to something appropriate to an age of spiritual expansion and material contraction.  But if he does so on bourgeois terms, with a conservative thematic and technical bias, then he is simply producing a short bourgeois novel, and such a novel is unlikely to be a major one!  Camus, for all his merits, wasn't a major novelist.  Neither, for that matter, was he a major essayist, short-story writer, or philosopher, though the latter arguably ranks higher than his fiction.  If he approximates to being a major anything, it was arguably as a playwright, though even here he was far from prolific, and one of his best-known plays was simply an adaptation of Dostoyevsky's novel The Possessed.  Even as a dramatist, he would have to take second-place to his compatriot and exact contemporary, Jean-Paul Sartre.

     Granted, then, that we are not dealing with a major novelist, the question remains to be asked - what kind of a writer was Camus?  I have already said that he was both technically and thematically conservative, which doesn't signify praise, and must add that he was ideologically conservative as well, even reactionary on a number of counts, not least of all political.  If he became a communist during the 1940s, he most certainly developed into an enemy of communism in the following decade, producing, with The Rebel, one of the most reactionary philosophical works of his time, which led to a quarrel with Sartre who, while not a card-carrying communist, was moving towards the Extreme Left.  Like Arthur Koestler, Camus seems to have lost his faith in Soviet Communism owing to the brutality and oppression it entailed, not only in the Soviet Union but, following World War II, in such Soviet-controlled countries as Poland and Hungary.  The freedom of the individual was a major theme of The Rebel, and Camus seems to have felt that no cause, no matter how well-intentioned, justifies the coercion and oppression of the individual, thereby taking what many would regard as an a-historical line of thought which denied the claims of historical necessity and regarded evolutionary progress towards some heavenly future as an illusion.

     If Camus' reactionary political position left something to be desired from a Marxist standpoint, his religious stance could hardly have appealed to Catholics.  For he lacked any sense of the transcendent and was more in favour of a neo-pagan, Mediterranean-style hedonism compounded of sun, sea, sand, women, and sky ... than of any Christian or post-Christian asceticism.  In this respect he took after his friend and mentor André Gide, whose autobiographical novel The Fruits of the Earth extols the pleasures to be derived from a sensuous appreciation of nature.  The chief difference between the two men, however, is that whereas Gide was a sophisticated northern Frenchman endeavouring to free himself from the shackles of bourgeois convention, Camus was a natural-born pagan, simple and humble enough to find the natural-world-order sufficient unto his needs.  Gide wrote his neo-pagan work while convalescing from a serious illness and probably wouldn't have done so, had he not come close to death at the time.  Camus, however, although himself tubercular and of generally poor health, needed no such prompting to voice his affirmation of Mediterranean sea and sun.  Like D.H. Lawrence (who, coincidentally, was also tubercular), his neo-paganism was natural and genuine, not the product of bourgeois decadence or artificial posturing.  He could never have lost faith in Christianity, as Gide was to do, because he could never really have acquired such a faith in the first place.  His love of elemental life was natural and spontaneous, requiring no creed or philosophy to sustain and/or refute it.  He was born a pagan and he died a pagan, though a long way from his beloved Algerian coastline, which he wrote about with such tenderness in Lyrical Essays, in many ways his best body of work.  He disliked the cold wet climate of Paris, disliked, too, the urban sprawl itself.  His heart never left Algeria, and one can well believe that he would have been content to die there, as Mersault was to do in A Happy Death, cradled in the lap of the Chenoua, a returnee from bitter exile.  As a type, Camus more resembles the Mediterranean-loving Lawrence Durrell than either the primitive-inspired D.H. Lawrence or the nature-worshipping John Cowper Powys.  A simple, sensuous sun hedonism, devoid of religious solemnity or metaphysical moralizing.

     Camus was handsome as writers go and not unattractive to women.  His private life was on the whole satisfactory, even happy, and he had no qualms about being a family man, unlike Sartre.  But he wasn't a romantic, despite his success with women, and he never lost the moral toughness peculiar to his realistic and in many ways tragic temperament.  Had the age into which he was born been less tragic or his personal background less humble or his physical health less poor, things might have been different.  But Camus retained a matter-of-fact attitude towards women characteristic, in a way, of D.H. Lawrence - devoid of that romantic glamorization which usually characterizes the relationships of the better off.  He liked them and used them, but he didn't worship them.  That would have demanded a nobler and more old-fashioned temperament than his!

 

 

JEAN-PAUL SARTRE

 

Sartre was unquestionably the greatest of modern French writers and the one whose philosophy had the most influence on his contemporaries.  He was in many respects the antithesis of Camus - a sophisticated northern Frenchman who was more at home in libraries and lecture halls than in the natural world of Mediterranean neo-paganism.  But he wasn't a transcendentalist, and if one thing more than any other characterizes and limits Sartre, it is his general indifference to and even ignorance of religious values - in short, his materialist bias, which owed not a little, I suspect, to his Protestant upbringing.  The existence of men in a meaningless universe was a taken-for-granted axiom of his Existentialist philosophy, its inference that man is only free when he acts ... the cornerstone of his mature thought.  He came at the tail-end, so to speak, of humanistic civilization in a bourgeois country and, not altogether surprisingly, he didn't point the way forward to post-humanistic civilization.  He remained a victim of his nihilism, convinced of the absurdity of human life but persisting in his perseverance with it, if only because suicide would have required more courage or resolve than he possessed.

     It is hard to believe that anyone with such a bleak philosophy as Sartre could be a great philosopher, and one may doubt whether, in the strictly academic sense of the word, he was really a philosopher at all.  Rather, one could argue that he was a twentieth-century philosophe, or combination of artist and thinker, an 'author' and 'writer', in Roland Barthe's paradoxical distinction.  A philosopher should really be a man who writes philosophy and nothing else, and to be such a man one must either have the means to support oneself, like Schopenhauer, or acquire those means through some profession congenial to or associated with philosophy, like as a professor at some university.  Alternatively, there is the possibility of one's being supported by a pension or dole, like Nietzsche, who nevertheless had been a professor, as, of course, had Schopenhauer.  But none of these categories would apply to Sartre, who, following the termination of his short-lived pedagogic career, was obliged to earn a living from editorial as well as literary work.  Sartre was more than a philosopher and on that account also considerably less than one!

     Nevertheless in Sartre's case we are dealing with a man who was a jack of all (literary) trades but, paradoxically, a master of many.  To compare any one side of Sartre's creativity with the corresponding side of Camus' ... is to see how comparatively inferior the latter was.  As a novelist, Sartre's Nausea and his Roads to Freedom trilogy dwarf the three very short novels and one medium-length novel by Camus, both in technique and content - the former being less conservative and more expansive than Camus', the latter ... both more intellectually and thematically interesting.  As a short-story writer, Sartre's Intimacy displays greater imagination and intellectual depth than Camus' Exile and the Kingdom.  As for the theatre, the disparity between the two men is even more conspicuously in Sartre's favour, for his plays - the best of which, like Nakrassov and Altona, are contemporary classics - both outnumber and outclass the two or three original works by Camus.  As for philosophy, there is no comparison between Sartre's Being and Nothingness or, for that matter, the even more complex Critique of Dialectical Reason and Camus' two comparatively lightweight philosophical works, The Myth of Sisyphus and The Rebel, which one could argue are both reactionary and misguided.  Admittedly, the Lyrical Essays reveals an aspect of Camus' creative scope which Sartre doesn't appear to have.  But then there is no place in Camus - and probably never would have been - for full-scale biographical works or psychoanalytical studies like the ones by Sartre on Flaubert, Baudelaire, and Genet, not to mention his essays on artists, such as the brilliant ones on Tintoretto and Giacometti.  Clearly, Sartre's range of creativity both exceeds and surpasses, genre for genre, that of his close contemporary.

     That Sartre's work or, at any rate, the best of it will continue to be read during the decades and centuries to come ... I have little doubt, and I would wager that Nausea will constitute his principal claim to literary immortality, with the probability of a philosophical work like Being and Nothingness in accompaniment.  Not that Sartre's philosophy is particularly enlightened, or particularly readable.  But it subsumes and refines upon a sufficient number of earlier twentieth-century philosophers to have at the very least a certain historical significance.  Even if it's only regarded as a record of bourgeois decadence or of a civilization in decline, it will retain some posthumous value.

     Sartre's reputation for political affiliation with the Extreme Left is too well-documented to warrant my dwelling on it in this essayistic sketch.  But although he gave a lot of thought and time to politics, he never went out of his way to join a party, including the French Communist Party, which he courted for a time.  One might describe him as a social anarchist, given his active sympathy for La Cause du Peuple and kindred radical-syndicalist causes; though if he was originally a Marxist who then became an Existentialist, his subsequent attempt to fuse the two disciplines wasn't altogether convincing, and one must pin part of the blame for this on his lack of a transcendental perspective, the possession of which just might have precluded the anarchic modification of Marxism from taking place.  But fundamentally Sartre was too much of a bourgeois to ever be anything more than an enfant terrible to the bourgeoisie and a sympathetic onlooker or fellow-traveller to the communists.  Anarchy, in one guise or another, has long been attractive to bourgeois radicals, and Sartre's existentialist variation on a Marxist theme shows him to be no exception.  The Soviet Union, with its state control of the workers, both politically and economically, proved disappointing to Sartre, though he never sought to emulate Gide in attacking it.  Instead he concentrated his political hopes on a revolution in France which would free the proletariat from bourgeois oppression and (presumably) leave them to do their own collective thing within a broadly Social Democratic context.

     Although one or two of Sartre's works give the impression that he was a loner, he fared well from both friends and mistresses throughout the greater part of his life, supplementing his long-standing platonic attachment to Simone de Beauvoir with a number of short-lived, though for the most part satisfying, love-affairs with younger women.  He was too well-born, too wealthy, and too famous to be a perverted solitary, like Genet, and although his only autobiographical work, Words, gives one the impression that life was a regrettable burden on him, nevertheless he did relatively well out of it in terms of writing, travelling, loving, listening to music, eating, drinking, smoking, and so on.  Even in old age, when reduced to blindness and unable to write, he had to admit that his life had been well spent and quite successful on the whole.  There were still some things that could be done, but France's most famous and celebrated intellectual hadn't done too badly, even so!

 

 

ARTHUR KOESTLER

 

Koestler is another of that tiny handful of authors who became a legend in their own lifetime, a major classic with a world-wide reputation as an outstanding intellectual - not just a great author but a thinker and 'writer' (in the Barthian sense) to boot.  No-one can deny that Koestler's reputation was justified, even if plenty of people chose to take umbrage at the way he used his intellect, as did Sartre at a time when he was drawing closer to communism and Koestler, by contrast, was drawing further away from it.  Having abandoned his communist faith, Koestler became not anti-communist so much as what he himself somewhat paradoxically described as anti-anticommunist, which means a kind of indirect communist who will oppose fascists and right-wing bourgeoisie but won't champion the communist cause himself.  One could therefore describe him as a negative communist, since his opposition to anti-communists, while it may prevent him from being a political nonentity, likewise precludes him from actively furthering communism, after the fashion, so one imagines, of a card-carrying party member.  But of course the extent to which communism can be furthered at any given time will depend, to a large extent, in which country the card-carrying member happens to live.  Certainly there are strict limitations on this matter for those who live in bourgeois states!

     Koestler, however, lived in Weimar Germany during much of his period of positive communist affiliation, which wasn't the best of places for a card-carrying member.  The rise of National Socialism took its toll on the communists and there was little consolation to be gleaned from Stalin's Russia, where old-guard Bolshevism had been supplanted by a bureaucratic elite of nationalistically-minded individuals who would soon be accomplices to the signing of a Nazi/Soviet non-aggression pact.  Were not Jews being persecuted and liquidated in the Soviet Union as well as in Nazi Germany?  Koestler wasn't unaware of this, since he had travelled widely in the Soviet Union and seen various aspects of Soviet life at first-hand.  He must have felt sorry for the peasants, dying in their millions, not just for those Jews who would shortly be following suit.  He wrote about the great famine of 1932-3 in The Invisible Writing, about the liquidation of Jews in Arrival and Departure, when his attitude towards Soviet Communism wasn't exactly what it had previously been.

     Yet it wasn't just negative things like death and starvation which contributed to his loss of faith, but also positive things such as religious awakening.  He experienced something akin to infused contemplation while held prisoner in a Spanish jail during the Civil War, and this also had its effect on undermining his materialist faith, making him question the deterministic foundations of Marxism and wonder whether communism really could provide the ultimate answer to the world's problems.  But the negative things, including double-think, outweighed the positive things in Koestler's disillusionment with communism.  For his wasn't really a religious temperament, and what he had seen of communism in the Soviet Union was sufficient to preclude him from joining the Communist Party after he arrived in Britain.  Probably he doubted whether British communists would ever get into power anyway, and, besides, he had only been allowed into Britain on the understanding that he was no longer a communist.

     It was with his residence in Britain, dating from 1938, that Koestler's career as a creative writer really got off the ground.  For on the Continent he had been a journalist and struggling author, virtually a hack.  Having made a reputation with The Gladiators, an historical novel focusing on the Spartacus-led slave revolt in ancient Rome, Koestler went on to write the novels for which he is now justifiably better known - Darkness at Noon and The Age of Longing being the two most outstanding ones.  For a political novelist, Koestler displays a remarkably acute aesthetic sense, reminiscent, in passages of the latter novel, of Oscar Wilde.  One would be tempted to dub him a philistine were it not for this almost chimerical ability of his to assume a variety of different roles and express himself in expansive, elaborate, and lucid prose.  Considering he was born in Hungary and grew up on the Continent, his ability to express himself so well in English must rank as one of his most remarkable achievements, confirming the quite prodigious extent of his intelligence.  Given the fact that he was fluent in six languages, it is difficult to avoid drawing a parallel with Schopenhauer, especially since Koestler is also a thinker, though one less indebted to that metaphysical master of pessimism, much less his great optimistic successor, Friedrich Nietzsche, than to Hegel and Freud.

     Indeed, the tripartite system which Koestler was to evolve with The Act of Creation, in many ways his best book, owes not a little to both Hegelian dialectics and Freudian psychology, which is only to be expected from a central European of materialist persuasion.  Freud's distinction between Eros and Thanatos, or life-urge and death-urge, is paralleled in Koestler by the dichotomy between self-assertive and self-transcending tendencies in human behaviour, while the id, ego, and superego distinctions, so crucial to Freud's psychological demarcations of the psyche, find their echo in Koestler's rather more informal distinctions between what are described as the 'Ha-ha!' - 'A-ha!' - and 'Ah ...' responses of the mind, depending on whether humour, science, or art is the governing object of intellectual inquiry.  Humour, argues Koestler, corresponds to the self-assertive side of human behaviour, art, by contrast, to its self-transcending side, while science comes somewhere in between.  One could say that humour stems from the Diabolic Alpha, whereas art aspires towards the Divine Omega, although Koestler's thinking doesn't actually embrace such a moral evaluation of these distinctions, since lacking religious direction.

     The theory of 'holons', which Koestler also developed in The Act of Creation and later enlarged upon in Janus - A Summing Up, a general retrospective of his work, extends the Parminidean idea (that the sum of the parts is greater than the total number employed) into the realm of human behaviour, where self-assertive tendencies reflect the independence of the part from the whole, i.e. of the individual from society, while self-transcending tendencies reflect the dependence of the part upon the whole, i.e. of the individual upon society, which then becomes more than the total of its parts by functioning on the supra-individual level of an organic entity.  Despite his interest in the social sciences, however, Koestler remained a staunch opponent of reductionist/behaviourist theories, with their denial of free will in deference to biological determinism.  A 'holon' is both a part and a whole, so that, when considered from an holonic angle, every human being displays contradictory tendencies at one time or another, is both bound and free, a victim of natural determinism and an aspirant towards artificial freedom, not just a reacting puppet to societal stimuli.  Koestler found confirmation of his holonic theories in the Bubble Chamber, an extraordinary device for investigating subatomic phenomena, which showed electrons and protons to be both particles and wavicles in oscillatory motion - now one, now the other - depending how they were viewed, so that a continuous interaction between independent parts, or particles, and dependent wholes, or wavicles, was established as the basis of organic matter.

     All this is, of course, so much scientific subjectivity, about which I have written at some length elsewhere in my writings.  The fact that electrons revolve around the proton nucleus of an atom does not by itself make for an oscillatory transformation in their respective constitutions, any more than the planets change their constitution when revolving around the nucleus of the Solar System.  Viewed from the proton side of the atom, one is looking at particles, because protons correspond to a self-assertive, independent tendency in the holonic arrangement of atoms.  Viewed, on the other hand, from the electron side of the atom, one is looking at wavicles, because electrons correspond to a self-transcending, dependent tendency in the holonic arrangement of atoms.  This basic dichotomy at the root of matter extends to the antithesis between stars and planets, female and male, materialistic and spiritualistic countries, etc., which constitute not an absolute ... but a relative antithesis, insofar as the two main ingredients of the atomic integrity interact on a complementary level.  Koestler often speaks of a distinction between the trivial and the tragic planes, and here, too, we are confronted by the holonic oscillatory arrangement stemming from the roots of evolution in the galactic system and forming the basis of matter in proton/electron interaction.  The 'trivial' is the everyday plane, but the 'tragic' is the evolutionary one - the former corresponding to the proton of an atom, the latter to its electrons.  Ours is above all a tragic age, because the pressures of evolution are now greater than ever before, not least of all in terms of the struggle for social freedom.  But the trivial still exists, with its self-assertive independent bias, holding us to the everyday natural world in deterministic resignation or compromise.

     Man has now got to the stage, however, where he can split the atom, sundering protons and electrons apart through nuclear fission, and this stage is consonant with his urge to break away from the galactic-world-order, in subservience to monarchic determinism, and set himself on an indirect path to the Divine Omega by upholding socialism.  Of course, not all mankind desires this severance from the proton roots of society, which is why the world is currently divided between capitalists and socialists, i.e. proton determinism and electron free will, and why, if such a division persists, it may well take an upheaval of apocalyptic proportions to effect the ultimate severance of mankind from the galactic-world-order of proton determinism.  The pressures of evolution are likely to be intensified as our age becomes ever more tragic, and although we cannot expect Western scientists to go so far as to deny the particle side of organic matter in their Bubble Chamber experiments, nevertheless a time must surely come when only wavicles will be acknowledged, as befitting a society exclusively orientated towards the Divine Omega, in full-blown transcendentalism.  Doubtless the proton, particle, trivial side of the atom will still exist.  But scientists living in a post-atomic society won't deign to acknowledge it, since too biased in favour of the electron to have any use for atomic objectivity.

     Koestler, however, didn't live in such a society and neither did he envisage any such society ever coming about.  He opposed nuclear war and was quite convinced that not evolutionary progress but a biological mistake in the human brain was leading man towards self-destruction.  Unless this 'mistake' was dealt with at its roots, so to speak, the prospect of nuclear holocaust could only be greater.  For an imbalance in favour of the subconscious, aggressive, war-like part of the psyche was primarily responsible, in Koestler's opinion, for man's worst behaviour.  To rectify this alleged imbalance, Koestler suggested the need for a special pill to neutralize the self-assertive tendencies of the psyche in favour of its self-transcending ones.  What this special pill would amount to he didn't, alas, inform us!  But I have little doubt, tranquillizers aside, that its nearest equivalent would be LSD, and that its universal use would coincide with a post-humanistic phase of evolution, such as the superman's phase of the (post-human) millennium, rather than with a pre-nuclear, and hence humanistic, phase of it.

     No, whilst one can to some extent sympathize with Koestler's grudge against the old brain/subconscious mind, both his diagnosis and suggested remedy are fundamentally incorrect.  For there are no medical grounds for seriously believing that man is the victim of a biological mistake.  All Koestler really demonstrated, in contending this, was a petty-bourgeois lack of evolutionary perspective, such as results in a protracted humanism for want of post-humanistic criteria.  For although it may be true to contend that man is bent on self-destruction, one need not regard such an eventuality in a negative light, as Koestler is disposed to doing, but may divine in this self-overcoming tendency the means to a higher, post-human life form in which not man but superman, with an artificially-supported and sustained brain, will prevail.  Such a long-term perspective is not, as already intimated, either congenial or indeed possible to a petty-bourgeois writer, which is why Koestler opted for an erroneously pessimistic attitude to both the human psyche and the means of destruction at man's disposal.  One cannot be surprised that his work was not generally published in the Soviet Union.  For one thing, he had rebelled against what they would have regarded as political progress, turning away from communism.  And, for another, he had failed to perceive the logic of evolutionary progress, as it bears on the future transformation of man into a superior life form - post-human and post-atomic.

     However, in saying this I do not wish to detract from Koestler's considerable achievements in certain other respects, least of all his tripartite thinking in The Act of Creation, or indeed to give the impression that his unacceptability to the Soviet authorities was exclusively tied-up with the above-mentioned factors.  One would be seriously misguided to imagine that the Soviets had a long-term view of man's development which extended into post-human phases of millennial evolution, as conceived of by myself in quasi-Nietzschean terms.  Rather, they would have objected to Koestler's pacifism, to his anti-nuclear stance, on the grounds that it detracted from their credibility and made for defeatism in the face of the capitalist enemy.  They could only have taken offence at the proposition that man was the victim of a biological mistake and therefore not the master of his own destiny, particularly as it bears on historical determinism and the - according to Marx - scientifically ascertainable evolution of human society from class to class.  And, of course, in addition to all that, they would have had good reason, in the light of Marxist objectivity, to quibble with certain mystical, ESP, and parapsychological aspects of Koestler's late work which stemmed from scientific subjectivity ... as related, amongst other things, to the Bubble Chamber.  In these matters, Koestler's interest stems from avant-garde science, not from religion, and he was always somewhat closer to Carl Jung than to Aldous Huxley in his findings.

     Indeed, insofar as Huxley was nothing if not a profoundly aesthetico-religious type, there is reason enough to see in Koestler's politico-scientific bias a relative antithesis, in human terms, to Huxley.  Both men were equally decadent, but they were decadent on radically different terms - Huxley on the internal, spiritual level; Koestler on the external, material one.  The former experienced spirit with an artist's personal commitment, the latter analysed the world with scientific detachment.  And yet, paradoxically, both men could swim, within a limited depth, in each other's creative seas.  They weren't wholly stranded in their respective intellectual domains.  Koestler may have lost a political faith, but he wasn't incapable of desiring a religious one, such as Huxley to a limited extent already possessed.  This in itself would have condemned him in Soviet eyes.  Religion for Koestler wasn't a closed book, even though he never discovered a truly progressive orientation but was obliged, disdaining Christianity, to pick over the remains of traditional Asiatic faiths.  This is symptomatic of bourgeois decadence, though, unlike Huxley, Koestler rejected what he found as unsatisfactory.

     Such a valid contribution to the progress of religious knowledge cannot be dismissed as insignificant.  For, in rejecting the traditional, Koestler paved the way for a more imaginative approach to the problem of religious evolution.  It was as an indirect communist that he heralded, in The Age of Longing, the coming birth of a new messiah.  No direct communist would have even vaguely considered such an eventuality!

 

 

LAWRENCE DURRELL

 

Durrell's writing career began early and continued until shortly before his death.  He didn't expect The Black Book, written when he was just twenty-four, to be accepted by Faber & Faber, but it was, and there began not his writing career as such ... but his slow rise to fame.  Of all the writers discussed in these necessarily partial sketches, Lawrence Durrell is the nearest to a pure artist, the least revolutionary or philosophical or academic.  He has written mainly novels and poems, though his output includes verse drama, short stories, letters, travelogues, and essays.  Thus he conforms well enough to the contemporary norm of creative eclecticism for serious writers, albeit more on a literary than a philosophical basis.  Whether this is because of a natural bent or because of commercial pressures ... I don't pretend to know.  Although personally I suspect that both factors, and others besides, played a part.

     Temperamentally, Durrell is a poet, which means that his literature as a whole will be more lyrical than academic.  Temperamentally he is also a hedonist, though of a rather different texture from, say, John Cowper Powys.  His resemblance to Camus comes readily to mind here, for the Mediterranean climate is congenial to both - as are several of the cultures associated with it.

     The Black Book strongly bears the imprint of Henry Miller's literary influence, and it was as a devotee of the American expatriate that Durrell began his writing career in earnest.  It was Miller who backed the novel, and the two men continued, despite their age-differences, to be friends thereafter, regularly writing to and occasionally visiting each other, many of the letters now published and a part of the literary canon.  Their occasional visits were more a consequence of geographical distance - Miller returning to the United States following the outbreak of World War II, Durrell living in Greece - than a reflection of lukewarm relations; though one may, I think, surmise that their friendship was always, at bottom, literary, and therefore something that thrived on egotistical literary exchanges rather than temperamental affinity.  Despite his allegiance to Miller, Lawrence Durrell remained a very different man and writer, a fact which leads one to assume that their friendship was rooted in the attraction of opposites, and that both men admired in the other what they were not in themselves, but nevertheless had a subconscious desire to be.

     After The Black Book, Durrell began to forge his own literary identity independently of Miller and became less of an autobiographical writer than an imaginative fictional one, producing in such multi-volume works as The Alexandria Quartet and The Avignon Quintet some of the finest fictional compositions of our time, which, despite their slightly anachronistic structures, appeal to the best instincts of the literary tradition.  Only in novels like Tunq and Nunquam did Durrell retain anything like a Milleresque first-person approach to the genre.  But even then one is on distinctly Durrellian territory, and the work that emerges is literary rather than autobiographical, developing characters and plot to their logical or, at any rate, fictional conclusions.

     The paradox of Durrell's literary work is that it is both traditional and avant-garde at the same time, and nowhere is this more conspicuous than in Monsieur, the first novel of The Avignon Quintet, which reads like a conventional narrative most of the time until, with the dénouement, one is left dangling in the literary air, so to speak, as the character described converses in a restaurant with someone absent whom he was nevertheless supposed to be meeting.  Beginning with the account of a madness afflicting the protagonist's wife, the novel ends with another character on the verge of madness, a development which typifies the paradoxical nature of Durrell's ordinarily conventional literature, granting it an almost surreal overtone and making one wonder whether one hadn't missed a strand in the plot somewhere.  It's almost as though Durrell were a kind of literary Paul Delvaux, whose fastidious technique is used to mask or grant credibility to a bizarre subject-matter.  For stylistically there can be few authors who are more fastidious, methodical, and poetically conscious than this enigmatic Englishman of partly Irish descent.

     But the contrived side of Durrell's writing isn't the only one, since the four novels which make up The Alexandria Quartet demonstrate a more spontaneous, romantic, expansive style of writing reminiscent of Gide and even of Camus.  If the quasi-surreal writing seems to owe something to Locus Solus, that masterpiece of French literary surrealism by Raymond Roussel, then the romantic writing of novels, for example, like Justine and Balthazar is much closer to Roussel's contemporary, though the treatment of characters is on the whole freer and the prose more elastic and expansive than in Gide.  It was this mode of writing, in particular, which elicited most praise from Henry Miller, who began to regard Durrell as the greatest literary genius of his time.

     Whether or not Durrell was as great as Miller thought, there can be no doubt that his place in contemporary literature was assured by The Alexandria Quartet, and that he must rank as one of the finest British writers of the twentieth century, if only from the imaginative and technical points-of-view.  For when it comes to philosophy, to autobiography, religion, and indeed art, Durrell's writing leaves something to be desired, and his neo-pagan bias for Mediterranean hedonism must militate against his elevation to the front-rank of decadent bourgeois or bourgeois/proletarian authors.  Intellectually, he isn't on the level of Huxley, Sartre, or Koestler, but is more closely aligned with writers like Camus, Lawrence, and Powys.  He is, above all, an entertaining rather than enlightening writer, and for this reason one cannot place him on the highest pedestal of contemporary letters.  He is brilliantly accomplished in his own field, but it is one that pertains more, on the whole, to traditional fictional literature than to revolutionary philosophical literature.  Returning to Barthe's distinction between 'authors' and 'writers', Durrell is much more an 'author' than a 'writer', and therefore a literary lightweight in any evolutionary scale-of-values.

     As for politics, he isn't as 'Bolshie' as has been euphemistically claimed by some people, but is decidedly bourgeois in his opposition to communism, decidedly British in his allegiance to liberal civilization, with its capitalist traditions, even though he lived most of his life in the Mediterranean area in relatively rural surroundings.  He isn't a man to set himself up as a champion of post-dualistic politics or religion, but prefers to immerse himself in the pagan past and retain at least a minimal allegiance to the humanistic status quo.  His writings are therefore respectable from a bourgeois standpoint, but inconsequential and even impotent from a revolutionary one.  And this isn't simply because he is afraid of the consequences of speaking out in radical terms, but because he is fundamentally a complacent bourgeois who sees no reason why he should pose as a discontented proletarian.  Also because he is fundamentally an artist, and not interested in revolutionary politics.  This is, at times, an enviable position, but it can also be somewhat contemptible.

 

 

HENRY MILLER

 

Henry Miller got off to a slow start as a writer, preferring or being obliged to do a variety of, for the most part, menial jobs in his native America.  But when he came to Europe in the early 1930's, the American put his past behind him and knuckled down to the task of describing his adventures in Paris and Dijon.  The result was Tropic of Cancer, and although it could never have been a best-seller, it had a scandal value not far short of the earlier publications of James Joyce's Ulysses and D.H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover.  This scandal value, publicized by George Orwell, seemed to enhance its reputation.  For there weren't that many novels to which it could be compared, least of all in the English language, and very few people were sure that it was in fact literature at all.  Nevertheless it set Miller on the road to international fame, and justifiably so, as things turned out!

     James Joyce had already seriously undermined the foundations of traditional or conventional literature in Ulysses, but Tropic of Cancer completely demolished the old foundations by dispensing with characterization, plot, and background information altogether, giving the reader less a fictional account of illusory characters than a thinly-disguised factual record of Miller's own experiences in France.  This factual record was of course mistaken for fiction by some critics, not least of all those who couldn't conceive of literature being other than fictional; but Miller never had any illusions himself about the nature of his work.  It wasn't to write literature in any traditional objectively selfless sense that he had embarked on his new career, but to upgrade it along autobiographical, philosophical, factual lines, and thus produce something analogous to an abstract rather than a representational canvas.  Tropic of Cancer was a sharp reminder to literary conservatives that evolutionary progress applied as much to literature as to anything else, and although Miller had to pay the price for being in the vanguard of creative endeavour by leading a relatively unaffluent life, nevertheless his book obtained a foothold on the contemporary literary scene and gave him the incentive to continue his career along equally radical lines thereafter.  There could be no question of Miller ever writing a conventional novel again, such as he had apparently attempted to do in New York when still influenced by selfless objectivity.  Literature from now on meant autobiography alternating with philosophical disquisitions, reminiscent, in a way, of the Marquis de Sade, insofar as the autobiographical parts were often sexual.  The old humanistic civilizations of Britain and France were moribund and trapped in their literary conventions.  The young transitional civilization to post-humanism of America, however, had something new to offer, and Miller intended to show his European contemporaries just what.  The improvement of art along factual lines was precisely what this ex-messenger manager had in mind!

     If any writer is bourgeois/proletarian or any novel likewise, then Henry Miller and Tropic of Cancer are the best examples - certainly for their time.  The novel is certainly a bourgeois art form, but it acquires a proletarian content with Miller, a content not spurning the liberal use of four-letter words or frequent references to low-life scenes of drunkenness, vandalism, prostitution, petty theft, cadging, and so on.  A European, particularly when English, would probably have been more reserved in his choice of language and more discriminating in his selection of subjects, both human and situational.  Not so in the case of Henry Miller, who lays himself and the world bare for all to see, concealing little or nothing from the reader.  If the latter is affronted or disgusted, that's too bad!  For the writer won't spare anyone's feelings, as he probes the soft underbelly of modern life in the hope of bringing new literature to the surface, of extending the range of literature in a proletarian direction.  Thus he goes forward, and if the reader is left behind it won't cause the writer any loss of sleep.  He knows that eventually the world must catch up with him.

     Virtually all of Miller's novels are autobiographical, although only a few are autobiographical in a contemporary, done-as-it-happens sense.  From Black Spring onwards Miller returns to his New York past in an attempt to unearth his childhood, youth, and early manhood, but he interposes philosophical, surreal, and anecdotal passages between these reminiscences, which help keep the novels afloat.  Even so, one could argue that these later autobiographical works signify a marked drop in tempo and temperature from Tropic of Cancer and Quiet Days in Clichy (a somewhat ironic title), his two most Paris-oriented novels with apparently on-the-spot accounts.  But, fortunately, the return to earlier memories which Miller makes from his second novel onwards is broken up by more up-to-date autobiography in The Colossus of Maroussi, a metaphorically poetic reference to the Greek poet Katsimbalis, and subsequently in A Devil in Paradise, a reference to the French painter Conrad Moricand, so that the tempo and temperature of his later novels picks up from time to time, thus precluding the monotony of time-lag which would otherwise accrue to his large autobiographical output.

     Nevertheless the ageing Miller couldn't manage to match the pace of his best Paris writings, even when dealing with events as they occurred, following his return to America in 1940.  Probably the nearest he came to doing so was in The Air-Conditioned Nightmare, which focuses on a cross-States trip he made by automobile shortly after returning from Europe.  But this work - a kind of cross between a novel and a volume of essays - is more the record of a disillusioned, cynical, tired anti-American American than of an adventurous, happy-go-lucky American elated by his return home.

     Perhaps one of the most paradoxical features of this in-many-ways typical American is his anti-Americanism, a consequence in part of his German, old-world ancestry and in part of a conservative strain in his psychological make-up which puts him at loggerheads with various aspects of New World life, including the glaringly materialistic predominance of skyscrapers in the city of his birth.  It might be pushing the point to say that Miller was temperamentally conservative, particularly in light of his bohemian wanderings both in America and Europe, not to mention the revolutionary nature of his best writings, amounting to a transvaluation of all literary values along lines designed to stress the importance of the self in a world stranded, bitch-wise, in selflessness.  But he certainly possessed a strong conservative, old-world strain that prevented him from becoming wholly proletarianized, and which gave to his writings a bourgeois dimension of social prudery and down-to-earth wisdom.  If he became partly proletarianized in New York, Paris, and other large cities, he never completely lost contact with his petty-bourgeois roots, and it is this fact which prevents his work from being merely popular.  He may occasionally read like the tale of a bourgeois gone wrong, but the fact that he remains a bourgeois is what grants his writings their appeal to serious taste.  The regular references to authors like Dostoyevsky, Whitman, Emerson, Baudelaire, Strindberg, Nietzsche, Rimbaud, Spengler, etc., which characterize his novels, serve to redeem the more proletarian episodes in his writings and to remind the reader that, for all his iconoclastic rage against traditional or conventional values, Henry Miller intends to be taken seriously as a classic writer, heir to an impressive list of great men.  His appeal to tradition and simultaneous rebellion against it ... is but another facet of his paradoxical nature!

     As a theorist, Miller pertains more to the transcendental than to the neo-pagan level of decadent bourgeois writing, a fact which marks him out as a positive decadent ... after the fashion of Aldous Huxley, with whom he exchanged an occasional letter while the latter was a near-neighbour of his on the American West Coast.  But Miller's interest in Eastern mysticism went less deep than Huxley's, since his temperament was more profane and his intellect comparatively unacademic.  It is difficult to imagine Miller denying himself sensual - and in particular sexual - satisfaction in response to an ascetic regimen of regular and sustained periods of transcendental meditation, and we can be sure that his interest in oriental religion was predominantly theoretical - as, indeed, it was for Huxley.  This is not to say, however, that the proletarian in Miller prevented him from being more susceptible to certain spiritual insights than the rather more patrician Huxley.  For, to be sure, there are many instances of intuitive foresight and wisdom scattered throughout Miller's later writings, such as that comment he made concerning the likelihood that the next civilization would not be just another civilization but the 'final stretch of realization open to the sky', which appeared, I believe, in Sunday After the War - one of his most interesting non-fictional works.  A comment like that is certainly superior to any number of speculations Huxley and other more academically-minded people might make concerning the possibility of life after death!

     Besides being an essayist of eclectic tendency though unequal value, Miller was also a literary portraitist, providing sketches of his friends, acquaintances, and colleagues, which one might describe as impressionist or even expressionist, depending on the psychology of the person concerned.  This enabled him to extend his literary interests into the realm of real life and thus prevented the danger of fiction, to which he was, to say the least, ever allergic.  The opposite of autobiography, or subjective fact, is of course biography, or objective fact, and this came no less readily to Miller's pen or typewriter than his self-portraits.  Huxley, too, was partial to biography, though on a profounder level than his spiritual lesser-brother.

     Another striking parallel between the two authors (as indeed with Hermann Hesse and D.H. Lawrence) is their penchant, at one time or another, for watercolours, which Miller in particular continued to produce well into old age, having the good fortune to be recognized as a watercolourist in his own lifetime and duly reproduced on picture postcards, an engaging example of which, entitled One Fish, he had the kindness to send me from Santa Monica in response to a letter I wrote him in 1975.  The artistry could be described as minimalist expressionism, not all that dissimilar in outline from what I imagine Picasso's interpretation of a fish would have been.  Of course, Miller knew he was an amateur painter, but it is both significant and interesting that so many writers of his stamp should have taken to watercolours in their spare time, extending their eclecticism into congenial realms of creative endeavour.  An exhibition of watercolour art by such writers could well prove well-worth seeing, even if it didn't actually contribute very much to our understanding of their literary work.

     Admittedly, one could argue that even in literature Miller remained something of an amateur at heart, never an integral, self-possessed member of the literary establishment, but an outsider who could only marvel, from time to time, that he had actually 'made it' as a creative writer, leaving the humdrum world of petty employment and/or sordid unemployment for the more satisfactory one of literary fame.  But he was never worldly in any ostentatious sense, and always retained the mark and character of a man who had known hard times and could never expect to entirely forget or outgrow them.  If he was to remain something of a 'bum person', to use a phrase favoured by Robert Graves in his assessment of D.H. Lawrence, he was yet the kind of person who is a 'bum' not because he is beneath the society into which he was born but, on the contrary, because he has the ability to tower above it and because that society, in its dedication to the average philistine level, pushes him to the outside in its preoccupation with making money by whatever means prove most efficacious, irrespective of the moral or social or, indeed, intellectual consequences.  A man who knows poverty because he is morally too good for the society in which he has to live is an altogether different proposition from the one who fails to come up to it in the first place.  Henry Miller was such a man, and it is for this reason that his closest literary ancestor was neither Whitman nor Emerson, nor even Dostoyevsky, but Baudelaire.

 

 

GEORGE ORWELL

 

Judged from a smugly philistine standpoint, Orwell could also be regarded as a 'bum person', at least during that short period in his life when he threw himself into the garbage world of Paris and London dropouts for the sake of a new experience, some fresh material for his writings, and to kill time before taking up a school-teaching post in England.  Not that he was completely down and out during this relatively brief period of time.  For he did have his job as plongeur to fall back-on for a meagre support, at least whilst in Paris, and he did have to bear in mind his future pedagogic appointment and literary ambitions.  He simply wanted to discover what he could about proletarian low-life, to infiltrate the ranks, one might say, in the interests of what was then a trendy, quasi-socialist vocation for those intellectuals of left-wing persuasion who saw their salvation in an identification with the common man.

     Not that Orwell was a drop-out aristocrat or anything of the sort.  He was scarcely a drop-out bourgeois, although he had been educated at Eton and had intellectual connections of one kind or another.  He also had experience of police service in Burma and was acquainted with journalism.  But he hadn't been to university and probably felt more kinship with the common man in consequence.  Down and Out in Paris and London wasn't his first novel, nor even his best, but it certainly became one of his most famous, and took its place as a kind of British literary equivalent to Tropic of Cancer, without being in any sense a copy of that great book or an attempt at emulation.  It just so happened that more than a few people were behaving in what could be termed a Milleresque fashion in those days, when poverty, partly associated with the great depression and mass unemployment, was almost respectable.  But the motives which drew Orwell and Miller to their respective lifestyles were by no means identical, and one would look in vain in Miller's writings for indications that he harboured any kinds of socio-political reasons for rubbing shoulders with the common herd.  Indeed, the characters that crowd Tropic of Cancer are generally artistic, like Van Norden and Boris.  Those that grace the pages of Orwell's novel, by contrast, are simply bums - without aesthetic pretension or literary ambition, and with scarcely any moral sense.  Here if anywhere is a clue to the vast difference between the two men.  Miller's was an artistic sensibility in search of aesthetic nourishment.  Orwell was simply an intellectual philistine who, like most of his compatriots, with their Protestant traditions, cared nothing for aesthetics and only wanted to extend his sociological studies into the lower depths.

     Yes, the fact of Orwell's philistinism comes across very clearly from a study of his works, only one novel of which, namely Keep the Aspidistra Flying, borders on an aesthetic attitude to life or, at any rate, embraces aesthetic considerations ... in the form of Gordon Comstock's ambitions and struggles as a minor poet and sometime-bookshop assistant.  If this is not the best of Orwell's less than profound novels, it is at least one of the most entertaining of them, leaving the reader with a sense of sympathy for the vicissitudes of its fairly romantic protagonist, whose fate at the hands of a philistine world must be the common experience of thousands of young idealistic poets every generation.  But Keep the Aspidistra Flying was as much a self-lesson for Orwell as a parable for others, since he never again cherished any such romantic illusions as his hero Comstock, preferring, instead, to meet the philistine world on its own pragmatic terms.  The prospect of Orwell discoursing on art or music or higher religion or philosophy in his writings thereafter could only be remote, and only in certain of his essays does one come across anything approximating to aesthetic self-indulgence, and then merely in connection with poets and novelists like Swift, Houseman, and Miller.  In this respect his temperament resembles James Joyce, who would have been no less incapable of seriously discoursing on the life of the spirit, as applying to higher aesthetics or religion, and whose basic creative urge was also philistine, since shackled to the everyday world of vulgar reality.  Unlike Joyce, though, Orwell had strong political interests, and it was to politics that, directly or indirectly, he dedicated most of his creative energies, becoming associated, in the process, with writers like Koestler and Muggeridge, whose political disillusionment with Soviet Communism resembled his own.

     Having gone out to fight on the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War, Orwell found the brutalities and authoritarian rigidities of the communists engaged in the struggle with Franco unacceptable to his fundamentally liberal temperament, and he began to lose his faith in communism - rather as Malcolm Muggeridge had done during his visit to the Soviet Union in the late 1920s, and as Koestler was in the process of doing, following similar disillusioning experiences both in the Soviet Union and elsewhere.  An outcome of this change-of-heart on Orwell's part was the bitter satire on the Soviet system and leadership which bore the title Animal Farm and sought to demonstrate, in the form of a parable, that no matter how good the intentions, all revolutions are sooner or later corrupted by power-hungry men like Stalin, who adopt the ways of the previous governing class in opposition to the furtherance of any real social amelioration among the masses.  Although the ousting of the humans in Animal Farm signifies a revolution, the re-establishment of a leadership under the pigs eventually leads to a situation wherein the ways of the humans are being 'aped', and a return to the status quo is effectively brought about with the reconciliation of pigs and men, both of which appear identical to the other animals, i.e. to the masses generally.  Hence the betrayal of the revolution as paralleled, so Orwell believed, by the example of Soviet Russia.

     Whether or not he was entirely right to believe this, his slender novel became a best-seller in Britain and is still widely read there today, not least of all in schools, where it has long been a pillar of support for the bourgeois establishment.  If revolutions are betrayed in the manner described in Animal Farm, then why make them at all?  For if, once made, they only lead to the emergence of people like Stalin ('Napoleon'), then surely one is better off with the status quo, even though it may fall short of perfection?  These and other such questions, well known to Camus and other liberal humanist writers, are raised by Animal Farm, which, despite its literary merits, is probably one of the most cynical, reactionary, and fatuous novels ever to have appeared in print.  We need not doubt that socialist progress requires a strong and at times ruthless leadership, or that socialist leaders will behave differently from the masses, despite the efforts Orwell makes to put doubt into our minds.  His opposition to Soviet Communism, no less apparent in Nineteen Eighty-Four - at the time it was written a futuristic projection of a world divided between three dictatorial powers who form an uneasy symbiosis - could, in some sense, be described as prophetic, although, within the Western context, it simply marks him out as a bourgeois apologist of leftist inclination who prefers to remain on the wrong side of history - an upholder of bourgeois democracy in response to a liberal capitalist tradition, given the fact that Social Democracy, in any real socialist sense of that much-abused term, is virtually inconceivable without a Marxist precondition.

     Can we blame him for this?  No, because he was, after all, British and essentially petty-bourgeois, not proletarian, and he did have reasons to become disillusioned with the state of communism in certain parts of the world.  All in all, his response was not untypical of the liberal intelligentsia of his generation, although the way he exploited it as a writer was certainly most unusual.  As a writer, however, Orwell was fundamentally too narrow and cynical to accomplish anything truly great.  His contribution to bourgeois/proletarian literature was temporal rather than eternal, apparent rather than essential, and his intellectual status somewhat modest in consequence.  The twenty-first century will be more than satisfied, I feel confident, to consign all or most of his works to the rubbish heap of history, where some of them already belong.

 

LONDON 1982 (Revised 1983-2010)

 

 

BECOMING AND BEING

 

 

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____________

 

APPENDIX

 

The list of books borrowed from Hornsey Library which follows is intended both as a record and indication of my reading habits over a twelve-year period, beginning in November 1977.  Naturally, I had read a good deal before then, including most of the works of Nietzsche, Baudelaire, Hesse, Camus, Sartre, Miller (Henry), Ginsberg, Joyce, Kafka, Powys (John Cowper), Wilde, etc., and this may help to explain the absence of certain books and authors from the list in question.  Furthermore, it should be remembered that, in a library, one is not always or invariably free to choose exactly the kinds of books one would like to, but is obliged to select from those available - many examples of which one would doubtless hesitate to buy in a book shop.  Nevertheless, I must confess that the Hornsey library was, and doubtless still is, exceptionally well-stocked, as the following list should confirm.

     The asterisk (*) in front of various of the titles which follow is intended to be an indication as to what I thought of the books, i.e. whether I admired and/or enjoyed them, depending on the type of book in question.  On the other hand, the absence of an asterisk may either indicate that, for one reason or another, I didn't like the book or even that, finding it disagreeable to begin with, I didn't finish it.  For although I must admit to having read a majority of the listed books, I by no means read everything, partly through lack of time and partly through lack of inclination.  One could argue, however, that the experienced library-goer soon learns to borrow between the shelves, so to speak; for selecting from between four and six books at a time is no easy task!

     Finally, I should point out that what may at first appear as an arbitrary placement of dates on each page derives from the original notepaper pages on which I originally compiled the list.  By keeping a note of the dates for each page, the months of which sometimes overlap, I was able to plot my course through the year - a factor which makes the retrospective study of my reading trends over this twelve-year period, some of which extends beyond the original composition date (1982) of BECOMING AND BEING, all the more accurate.  Also I have kept, where possible, to the original title style ... irrespective of overall stylistic inconsistencies.

 

 

NOVEMBER-DECEMBER 1977

 

     Montaigne - A Biography: Donald M. Frame

     *Three Decades of Criticism - Critical Essays on the life and works of Henry Miller: Edited by Edward B. Mitchell

     *The Complete Works of Oscar Wilde

     L'Étranger (In French): Albert Camus

     Outcries and Asides: J.B. Priestley

     The Moments and Other Pieces: J.B. Priestley

     *My Belief: Hermann Hesse

     In Praise of Idleness: Bertrand Russell

     *The Basic Writings of Bertrand Russell

     *The World as Will and Idea (Vol.III): Arthur Schopenhauer

     Hermann Hesse (The man who sought and found himself) -

A Biography: Walter Sorell

     A Tale of a Tub and Other Satires: Jonathan Swift

 

 

JANUARY-MARCH 1978

 

     The Books in my Life: Henry Miller

     *The World as Will and Idea (Vol.II): Arthur Schopenhauer

     A Treatise of Human Nature: David Hume

     Delight: J.B. Priestley

     *If the War Goes On: Hermann Hesse

     The Modern Textbook of Astrology: Margaret E. Hone

     The Planets and Human Behaviour: Jeff Mayo

     The Black Book: Lawrence Durrell

     Bird in the Bush (Obvious Essays): Kenneth Rexroth

     Hesse - A Collection of Critical Essays: Edited by Theodore Ziolkowski

     *The Portable Jung: Edited by Joseph Campbell

     The Wisdom of the Heart: Henry Miller

     Imagination: Jean-Paul Sartre

     The Rexroth Reader: Edited by Eric Mottram

 

 

MARCH-JUNE 1978

 

     *Fragments of a Journal: Eugene Ionesco

     *The Maxims of La Rochefoucauld

     Mythologies: Roland Barthes

     *Jung and the Story of Our Time: Laurens van der Post

     *Psychological Reflections: Carl Jung

     Francis Bacon: Edited by Arthur Johnston

     A Dictionary of Platitudes: Gustave Flaubert

     The Persian Letters: Montesquieu

     Plays Vol.5: Eugene Ionesco

     James Joyce - The Undiscovered Country: Bernard Benstock

     Plays Vol.7: Eugene Ionesco

     *The Way of Individuation: Jolande Jacobi

     Poesies: Lautréamont

     On Living in a Revolution: Julian Huxley

 

 

JULY-NOVEMBER 1978

 

     *Nietzsche - A biographical introduction by Janko Lavrin

     Victoria: Knut Hamsun

     Finnegans Wake: James Joyce

     *Youthful Writings: Albert Camus

     Collected Plays: Albert Camus

     *Maldoror: Lautréamont

     *Literary Essays: Ezra Pound

     *Wandering: Hermann Hesse

     Camus - A Collection of Critical Essays: Edited by Germaine Brée

     A Season in Hell & The Illuminations: Arthur Rimbaud

     *Selected Prose 1909-1965: Ezra Pound

     *Madame Bovary: Gustave Flaubert

     The Trial: Franz Kafka

     Selections from Les Amours Jaunes: Corbière

     The Complete Works of Francois Villon

     The Cantos of Ezra Pound

 

 

NOVEMBER 1978 - JANUARY 1979

 

     *Sentimental Education: Gustave Flaubert

     *Là Bas (Down There): J.K. Huysmans

     Stories of Five Decades: Hermann Hesse

     Guide to Kulchur: Ezra Pound

     The Roaring Queen: Wyndham Lewis

     *Against the Grain (À Rebours): J.K. Huysmans

     Marius, the Epicurean: Walter Pater

     Melmoth the Wanderer (Vol.1): Maturin

     On the Eve: Turgenev

     *The Anti-Philosophers: R.J. White

     *Sex and Marriage: Havelock Ellis

     Bouvard and Pecuchet: Gustave Flaubert

     *The Red Room: August Strindberg

     *Diderot's Selected Writings: Edited by Lester G. Crocker

     *The Human Situation: Aldous Huxley

 

 

JANUARY-MAY 1979

 

     *The Murder of Christ: Wilhelm Reich

     *The Decline of the West: Oswald Spengler

     Getting Married: August Strindberg

     *The Hour of Decision: Oswald Spengler

     The Betrothed: Manzoni

     *Janus (A Summing Up): Arthur Koestler

     Faust: Goethe

     Reich Speaks of Freud: Wilhelm Reich

     Appearance and Reality: F.H. Bradley

     *Understanding Philosophy: James K. Feibleman

     Poems: Mallarmé

     Behind the Mirror: Konrad Lorenz

     *On Art (Collected Writings 1913-56): Wyndham Lewis

     *Eyeless in Gaza: Aldous Huxley

     Tractatus Logico Philosophicus: Ludwig Wittgenstein

     Selected Writings: Charles S. Peirce

     *The Call-Girls: Arthur Koestler

     The Disinherited Mind: Erich Heller

     Autobiography: John Cowper Powys

 

 

JUNE-AUGUST 1979

 

     The Best Tales of Hoffman: E.T.A. Hoffman

     *Locus Solus: Raymond Roussel

     The Women at the Pump: Knut Hamsun

     Magic, Science, and Civilization: J. Bronowski

     Nietzsche - Imagery and Thought: Edited by M. Pasley

     Bel-Ami: Guy de Maupassant

     The Waves: Virginia Woolf

     *Phoenix - the Posthumous Papers of D.H. Lawrence

     John Christopher (Vol.1): Romain Rolland

     *Darkness at Noon: Arthur Koestler

     *Hidden Faces: Salvador Dali

     *Things Past: Malcolm Muggeridge

     Dinner in Town: Claude Mauriac

     The Decameron: Giovanni Boccaccio

     *Men and Technics: Oswald Spengler

     Tread Softly for you Tread on my Jokes: Malcolm Muggeridge

     *The Picture of Dorian Gray: Oscar Wilde

 

 

AUGUST-SEPTEMBER 1979

 

     The Collected Fiction of Albert Camus

     Doctor Pascal: Emile Zola

     *Point Counter Point: Aldous Huxley

     *Drinkers of Infinity: Arthur Koestler

     Uncle Silas: J.S. LeFanu

     *The Evening Colonnade: Cyril Connolly

     Songs of Innocence and of Experience: William Blake

     Vile Bodies: Evelyn Waugh

     *Time Must Have a Stop: Aldous Huxley

     A Certain World: W.H. Auden

     *Island: Aldous Huxley

     Vico and Herder: Isaiah Berlin

     Robert Schumann (The man and his music): Edited by Alan Walker

     Hermann Hesse - Life and Art: Joseph Mileck

     *After Many a Summer: Aldous Huxley

     A Love Affair: Emile Zola

     Moulin Rouge: Pierre La Mure

 

 

SEPTEMBER-NOVEMBER 1979

 

     *Interpretations and Forecasts: Lewis Mumford

     The Man who would be God: Haakon Chevalier

     *Those Barren Leaves: Aldous Huxley

     The Myth of the Machine: Lewis Mumford

     *Letters of Aldous Huxley: Edited by Grover Smith

     *Two or Three Graces: Aldous Huxley

     *Crome Yellow: Aldous Huxley

     À Rebour (in French): J.K. Huysmans

     *Secret Journal & other writings: Pierre Dreiu La Rochelle

     Golden Codgers: Richard Ellmann

     Collected Early Poems: Ezra Pound

     Manhood: Michel Leiris

     *Ape and Essence: Aldous Huxley

     *Mortal Coils: Aldous Huxley

     Wuthering Heights: Emily Brontë

     Coleridge - Selected Poetry, Prose, and Letters: Edited by Stephen Potter

 

 

NOVEMBER-DECEMBER 1979

 

     *The Act of Creation: Arthur Koestler

     *The Unquiet Grave: Palinurus (alias Cyril Connolly)

     The Man Within: Graham Greene

     Scarlet and Black: Stendhal

     *Lady Chatterley's Lover: D.H. Lawrence

     Morwyn (or the Vengeance of God): John Cowper Powys

     *Enemies of Promise: Cyril Connolly

     *What is Art and Essays on Art: Leo Tolstoy

     Aspects of the Novel: E.M. Forster

     *Collected Short Stories: Aldous Huxley

     *Do What You Will: Aldous Huxley

     *Aldous Huxley - A Critical Study by John Atkins

     Wisdom of the West: Bertrand Russell

     Swann's Way (Part One): Marcel Proust

     La Nouvelle Heloïse: Jean-Jacques Rousseau

     In a Valley of this Restless Mind: Malcolm Muggeridge

     Journey to the East: Hermann Hesse

     Chateau Bonheur: Philippe Jullian

     Rodmoor: John Cowper Powys

 

 

JANUARY-FEBRUARY 1980

 

     Aldous Huxley: Keith May

     *Over the Long High Wall: J.B. Priestley

     Lovestyles: John Alan Lee

     White Nights: Dostoyevsky

     The Really Interesting Question and Other Papers: Lytton Strachey

     *Strange Powers: Colin Wilson

     *Dawn and the Darkest Hour - A Study of Aldous Huxley: George Woodcock

     Selected Critical Writings of George Santayana

     The First and Last Freedom: J. Krishnamurti

     The Turn of the Screw & The Aspern Papers: Henry James

     The Novels of Thomas Love Peacock (Vol.2): Edited by David Garnett

     Thomas de Quincey: Edited by Bonay Dobrée

     Aldous Huxley - The Critical Heritage: Edited by Donald Watt

     Pornography Without Prejudice: G.L. Simons

 

 

FEBRUARY-MARCH 1980

 

     *Pleasures and Regrets: Marcel Proust

     *Women in Love: D.H. Lawrence

     The White Notebook: André Gide

     The End of Philosophy: Martin Heidegger

     Topology of a Phantom City: Alain Robbe-Grillet

     The Collectors: Philippe Jullian

     *Art and Technics: Lewis Mumford

     *Aldous Huxley - Satire and Structure: Jerome Meckier

     Mrs Dalloway: Virginia Woolf

     News From Nowhere: William Morris

     Agents and Patients: Anthony Powell

     *Mr Norris Changes Trains: Christopher Isherwood

     *Aldous Huxley (A Memorial Volume): Edited by Julian Huxley

     *This Timeless Moment: Laura Archera Huxley

     Remember to Remember: Henry Miller

     The Artist's Journey into the Interior and Other Essays: Erich Heller

     Particular Pleasures - J.B. Priestley

 

 

MARCH-MAY 1980

 

     Koestler: Wolfe Mays

     *Kangaroo: D.H. Lawrence

     *Men of Mystery: Edited by Colin Wilson

     *Life After Death - Contributions by Arnold Toynbee, Arthur Koestler, and others.

     Martinu: Brian Large

     The Atlas of Medieval Man: Colin Platt

     At the Sign of the Reine Pedauque: Anatole France

     *Brave New World: Aldous Huxley

     Kindred by Choice: Goethe

     *And Again?: Sean O'Faolain

     Experiences: Arnold Toynbee

     *Philosophical Dictionary: Voltaire

     Lovers in Art: G.S. Whittet

     *The Plumed Serpent: D.H. Lawrence

     *Texts and Pretexts: Aldous Huxley

     Selected Stories of Sean O'Faolain

     Word and Image: C.G. Jung

     Jude the Obscure: Thomas Hardy

     Roland Barthes by Roland Barthes

 

 

MAY-JULY 1980

 

     *Art and Society: Herbert Read

     *Doctor Faustus: Thomas Mann

     *Civilization: Kenneth Clark

     *Beyond the Mexique Bay: Aldous Huxley

     *A Meeting by the River: Christopher Isherwood

     German Romantics in Context: Roger Cardinal

     *The Romantic Rebellion: Kenneth Clark

     Treasure Keepers: John FitzMaurice Mills

     French Surrealism (Vol.1): Anton Artaud

     The Conquest of Bread: Peter Kropotkin

     An Idealist View of Life: S. Radhakrishnan

     *Confessions of Felix Krull: Thomas Mann

     The Marquise of O & other stories: Heinrich Von Kleist

     *A Dictionary of Common Fallacies: Philip Ward

     The Egoist: George Meredith

     *Dreamers of Decadence: Philippe Jullian

     *Landscape into Art: Kenneth Clark

     Twilight in Italy: D.H. Lawrence

     Dublin in the age of W.B. Yeats and James Joyce: Richard M. Kain

     *Aldous Huxley: Philip Thody

 

 

JULY-SEPTEMBER 1980

 

     Stories of a Lifetime (Vol.1): Thomas Mann

     The World of Sex: Henry Miller

     *Surrealist Art: Sarane Alexandrian

     Northanger Abbey: Jane Austen

     *Hours in the Garden: Hermann Hesse

     Buddenbrooks: Thomas Mann

     *Movements in Art since 1945: Edward Lucie-Smith

     *Art in the Nineteenth Century: A.M. Vogt

     *Aldous Huxley - A Biography Vol.I: Sybil Bedford

     Art Nouveau: Translated by Elizabeth Evans

     The Cult of Sincerity: Herbert Read

     Essays in Aesthetics: Jean-Paul Sartre

     The Thirties and After: Stephen Spender

     *Aldous Huxley - A Biography Vol.II: Sybil Bedford

     *The Nude: Kenneth Clark

     Meditation: Alan Watts

     *Art of the Twentieth Century: Maurice Besant

     Christopher Isherwood - A Critical Biography: Brian Finney

     The Symbolic Meaning: D.H. Lawrence

     *An Introduction to Rembrandt: Kenneth Clark

     The Genius of the Future: Anita Brookner

 

 

SEPTEMBER-NOVEMBER 1980

 

     Psycho-Yoga: Dr B. Edwin

     Klingsor's Last Summer: Hermann Hesse

     *Another Part of the Wood (A Self Portrait): Kenneth Clark

     Realism, Naturalism, and Symbolism: R.N. Stromberg

     *Art and Act: Peter Gay

     Baroque Painting: Philippe Daudy

     *History of German Art: G. Lindemann

     Try Anything Once: Raymond Mortimer

     The Bloomsbury Group: Edited by S.P. Rosenbaum

     *Mondrian: Frank Elgar

     *Op Art: D.C. Barrett

     *Animals and Man: Kenneth Clark

     *Antic Hay: Aldous Huxley

     *The World in the Evening: Christopher Isherwood

     *The Devils of Loudun: Aldous Huxley

     Modern English Painters: John Rothenstein

     *Art and the Future: Douglas Davis

     The J. Paul Getty Museum: Various contributors

     Science & Technology in Art: Jonathan Benthall

     *Activation of Energy: Teilhard de Chardin

     Baroque: John Rupert Martin

 

 

NOVEMBER-DECEMBER 1980

 

     Unofficial Art from the Soviet Union: Igor Golomshtok and Alexander Glezer

     Let Me Explain: Teilhard de Chardin

     *Modern European Art: Alan Bowness

     Selected Essays 1934-43: Simone Weil

     Exhumations: Christopher Isherwood

     *Principles of Art History: Heinrich Wolfflin

     What is a Masterpiece: Kenneth Clark

     *The Other Half: Kenneth Clark

     *Livia or Buried Alive: Lawrence Durrell

     *The Transformations of Man: Lewis Mumford

     *Progress in Art: Suzi Gablik

     Understanding Art: Betty Churcher

     *Monsieur: Lawrence Durrell

     *Nunquam: Lawrence Durrell

     *Enemy Salvoes: Wyndham Lewis

     Teilhard de Chardin: L'abbé Paul Grenet

     *Visual Aesthetics: J.J. de Lucio-Meyer

     The Best of Antrobus: Lawrence Durrell

    

 

DECEMBER 1980 - FEBRUARY 1981

    

     *Clea: Lawrence Durrell

     Lawrence Durrell & Henry Miller - A Private Correspondence

     The Next Development in Man: L.L. Whyte

     *Foundations of European Art: P.A. Tomory

     de Stijl: Hans L.C. Jaffe

     *Tunc: Lawrence Durrell

     *Reflections on a Marine Venus: Lawrence Durrell

     The Urban Prospect: Lewis Mumford

     *Baroque and Rococo: Germain Bazin

     *Living Architecture - Baroque: Pierre Charpentrat

     World Architecture: William George

     Russian Art: Tamara Talbot Rice

     The Arts of Spain: Jose Gudiol

     William Morris and his world: Ian Bradley

     *Architecture: David Jacobs

     *Brandy of the Damned: Colin Wilson

     The High Renaissance & Mannerism: Linda Murray

     Graphic Art of the Eighteenth Century: Jean Adhemar

     *Turning East: Harvey Cox

     English Architecture: James Steven Curl

     *The New Sobriety - Art & Politics in the Weimar Period: John Willett

 

 

FEBRUARY-APRIL 1981

 

     *Art and Revolution: John Berger

     *The Visual Arts (Taste & Criticism): David Irwin

     *Modern Music - A concise history of: Paul Griffiths

     *Moscow - An Architectural History: Kathleen Benton

     *The English Country House: Olive Cook

     Beyond Modern Sculpture: Jack Burnham

     *Selected Poems: Baudelaire

     Baudelaire - Man of His Time: L.B. Hyslop

     Mies Van der Rohe: Werner Blaser

     Borromini: Anthony Blunt

     Building in the USSR 1917-32: O.A. Shvidkovsky

     Art - the way it is: John Adkins Richardson

     Dali: Jacques Dopagne

     *The Age of Longing: Arthur Koestler

     Twentieth Century Music - A Dictionary of Terms: R. Frink & R. Ricci

     *Paris 1900-1914 - The Miraculous Years: Nigel Gosling

     *Arrival and Departure: Arthur Koestler

     *The Aristos: John Fowles

 

 

APRIL-MAY 1981

 

     *Sartre in the Seventies: Jean-Paul Sartre

     The Arts Betrayed: John Smith

     The Book of Buildings: Richard Reid

     Sculpture Nineteenth and Twentieth Century: Fred Licht

     The Englishness of English Art: N. Pevsner

     *The Tenth Muse: Herbert Read

     Futurism: Caroline Tisdall and Angelo Bozzolla

     *Russian Thinkers: Isaiah Berlin

     Hall's Dictionary of Subjects and Symbols in Art: Introduction by Kenneth Clark

     *Bricks to Babel - Selected Writings: Arthur Koestler

     Fathers and Children: Turgenev

     The Gladiators: Arthur Koestler

     *Life of J.M. Murray: F.A. Lea

     Irish Identity and the Literary Revival: G.T. Watson

     *Social Radicalism and the Arts: D.D. Egbert

     *Spirit of Place: Lawrence Durrell

     Lectures on Philosophy: Simone Weil

     The Thirteenth Tribe: Arthur Koestler

 

 

MAY-JUNE 1981

 

     The Invisible Writing: Arthur Koestler

     *Malcolm Muggeridge - A Life: Ian Hunter

     Marx: Peter Singer

     *Marquis de Sade - Selected Letters: Edited by G. Lely

     Sade/Fourier/Loyala: Roland Barthes

     Marx's Paris Writings - An Analysis: John Maguire

     *Savage Ruskin: Patrick Connor

     *Voyage to a Beginning - An Autobiography: Colin Wilson

     *The Unspeakable Confessions of Salvador Dali - As told by André Parinaud

     *Moksha: Aldous Huxley

     Politicians, Socialism & Historians: A.J.P. Taylor

     French & English: Richard Faber

     Personal Impressions: Isaiah Berlin

     The Collected Poetry of Aldous Huxley

     *Ends and Means: Aldous Huxley

     *Faces of Modernity: Matei Calinescu

     What is Surrealism?: André Breton

     Hidden Faces - Salvador Dali (Re-read)

 

 

JUNE-AUGUST 1981

 

     The Cubist Epoch: Douglas Cooper

     *The Revolt of the Masses: Ortega y Gasset

     Brave New World Revisited: Aldous Huxley

     World Crisis - Essays in Revolutionary Socialism: Edited by Nigel Harris & John Palmer

     *The Life and Death of Lenin: Robert Payne

     *Montmartre: Philippe Jullian

     After the Wake: Christopher Butler

     *Arthur Koestler: John Atkins

     Leonardo da Vinci: Maurice Rowden

     *Ireland - A History: Robert Kee

     La Vie Parisienne: Joanna Richardson

     An Historian's Approach to Religion: Arnold J. Toynbee

     The War Lords: A.J.P. Taylor

     *Stalin - the Man & His Era: Adam B. Ulam

     A Concise History of Ireland: Maire & Conor Cruise O'Brian

     The Genius of Shaw: Edited by Michael Holroyd

     Strangers to England - Immigrants to England 1100-1945: Colin Nicholson

 

 

AUGUST-SEPTEMBER 1981

 

     Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union: Jane Kerr

     *Sicilian Carousel: Lawrence Durrell

     Dublin 1916: Roger McHugh

     *Daniel O'Connell & his world: R. Dudley Edwards

     A Map History of the Modern World: Brian Catchpole

     Eamon de Valera: T. Ryle Dwyer

     *Muggeridge Ancient and Modern: Malcolm Muggeridge

     *Khrushchev - The Years in Power: Roy A. Medvedev and Zhores A. Medvedev

     English Architecture: J.M. Richards

     Great Cities of the World: Nicholas Wright

     *On Literature and Art: Lenin

     *The Promise of the Coming Dark Age: L.S. Stavrianos

     *Lawrence Durrell - A Study: G.S. Fraser

     Russia - The People & the Power: R.G. Kaiser

     An Irish Camera: George Morrison

     Prussian Nights: Alexander Solzhenitsyn

     *The Marble Foot (Autobiography 1905-38): Peter Quennell

     *Belle Epoque: Raymond Rudorff

 

 

OCTOBER 1981

 

     *Twentieth Century History: Tony Howarth

     Bonaparte: Correlli Barnett

     *Treasury of Australian Kitsche: Barry Humphries

     *Chronicles of Wasted Time Vol.2 - The Infernal Grove: Malcolm Muggeridge

     *The Wanton Chase (Autobiography from 1939): Peter Quennell

     *An Historical Guide to Florence: John W. Higson, Jr.

     The Chinese: David Bonavia

     Ottoline at Garsington - Memoires of Lady Ottoline Morrell

     *A Concise History of Spain: Henry Kamen

     *The Venetian Empire: Jan Morris

     Southern Baroque Revisited: Sacheverell Sitwell

     Rome - The World's Cities: Michael Gibson

     Irish Lives: Share/Boler

     Of Women & their Elegance: Norman Mailer

     *Venice: Stephen Spender

     The Glory of Amsterdam: A. Van der Heyden

     Venice: Aubrey Menon

     Baudelaire: Nicole Ward Jouvre

 

 

OCTOBER-NOVEMBER 1981

 

     *Casanova: John Masters

     The Art Institute of Chicago: John Maxon

     *The Meaning of Hitler: Sebastian Haffner

     *Venice - The Rise to Empire: John Julius Norwich

     The 50's: Peter Lewis

     *Lenin & The Bolsheviks: Adam B. Ulam

     Paris: Martin Hurlimann

     The Reformation: Edith Simon

     Palaces of Venice: Peter Lauritzen and Alexander Ziekk

     *Eccentric Spaces: Robert Harbison

     Florentine Journal: Arnold Bennett

     A History of American Painting: Matthew Baignell

     *On Stalin and Stalinism: Roy A. Medvedev

     The Unification of Italy: Christopher Leeds

     Hermann Hesse - Pilgrim of Crisis: Ralph Freedman

     The Heart of the Matter: Teilhard de Chardin

     *Stalin as Revolutionary 1879-1929: Robert C. Tucker

     *The Golden Honeycomb: Vincent Cronin

     *d'Annunzio: Philippe Jullian

     *Deliberate Regression: Robert Harbison

 

 

DECEMBER 1981 - FEBRUARY 1982

 

     Vision & Design: Roger Fry

     Abba Abba: Anthony Burgess

     *Like It Was: Malcolm Muggeridge

     Paris Was Yesterday, 1925-39: Janet Flanner

     *The Mighty Continent: John Terraine

     The Future of Man: Teilhard de Chardin

     *Hitler's Table Talk 1941-44: Introduced by H.R. Trevor-Roper

     *A Concise History of Italy: Vincent Cronin

     Gustave Doré: Joanna Richardson

     *Age of Apocalypse: Barry Jones

     *Russia 1917-1964: J.N. Westwood

     *The Making of Adolf Hitler: Eugene Davidson

     *An Illustrated Cultural History of England: F.E. Halliday

     Portrait of an Age: Erich Salomon

     The Seventies: Christopher Booker

     *The Age of Expansion 1848-1917: Marcus Cunliffe

     *Bertrand Russell & his world: Ronald Clark

     The Music of Man: Yehudi Menuhin & Curtis W. Davis

 

 

MARCH-APRIL 1982

 

     Goodbye To All That: Robert Graves

     *Russia - the Post-War Years: Alexander Werth

     Culture: Raymond Williams

     Memoires: W.B. Yeats

     *W.B. Yeats & his world: Michael MacLiammoir and Evan Boland

     *A Concise History of India: Francis Watson

     *Ireland in the War Years (1939-45): Joseph T. Carroll

     *World Within World: Stephen Spender

     *German Democracy & the Triumph of Hitler: Edited by Anthony Nicholls and Erich Matthais

     Year One of the Russian Revolution: Victor Serge

     About Russia: Henri Cartier-Bresson

     Performing Arts: Edited by Michael Billington

     *Princes & Artists: Hugh Trevor-Roper

     Stalin as Warlord: Albert Seaton

     *Testimony - The Memoires of Shostakovich: as Related to and Edited by Solomon Volkov

     *The First World War: A.J.P. Taylor

     W.H. Auden - A tribute edited by Stephen Spender

     Ireland Observed: May Veber

     Peadar O'Donnell: Michael McInerney

 

 

APRIL-MAY 1982

 

     Collected Poems: Stephen Spender

     *A Concise History of French Painting: Edward Lucie-Smith

     My Works and Days: Lewis Mumford

     *The Rediscovery of Ireland's Past - The Celtic Revival 1830-1930: Jeanne Sheehy

     *Hitler - A Study in Personality and Politics: William Carr

     *About Looking: John Berger

     *Mussolini - the tragic women in his life: Vittorio Mussolini

     A Concise History of Venetian Painting: John Steer

     The Fall of Venice: Maurice Rowden

     *The Man who created Hitler - Joseph Goebbels: Viktor Reimann

     George Orwell - The Road to 1984: Peter Lewis

     *The Thirties: Malcolm Muggeridge

     Tito: Milovan Djilas

     Portraits of Power: S.E. Ayling

     Mussolini's Roman Empire: Denis Mack Smith

     Oscar Wilde: H. Montgomery Hyde

     *Ireland - A Terrible Beauty: Jill and Leon Uris

     *Nietzsche - A Critical Life: Ronald Hayman

     *The Imperial Age of Venice 1380-1580: D.S. Chambers

     *The October Revolution: Roy Medvedev

     *Hearts and Minds - Sartre & de Beauvoir: Axel Madsen

 

 

JUNE-AUGUST 1982

 

     *Mussolini: Denis Mack Smith

     A Fable of Modern Art: D. Ashton

     Being and Nothingness: Jean-Paul Sartre

     The Conspiracy Against Hitler: Harold C. Deutsch

     *Ireland - from old photographs: Maurice Gorham

     Christopher and His Kind: Christopher Isherwood

     Theories of Modern Art: Herschell B. Chipp

     *Stalin's Secret War: Nikolai Tolstoy

     Tito: Fitzroy Maclean

     *Spain Observed: Rodde and Affergan

     *Lenin as Philosopher: Anton Pannekoek

     Critical Essays: Roland Barthes

     *Their Trade is Treachery: Chapman Pincher

     On Socialist Democracy: Roy A. Medvedev

     *Trotsky's Writings on Britain (Vol.1): Trotsky

     *Reinhard Heydrich: G.S. Graber

     *The Climate of Treason: Andrew Boyle

     *Koestler - A Biography: Iain Hamilton

     Country House Camera: Christopher Simon Sykes

 

 

AUGUST-OCTOBER 1982

 

     Ourselves Alone: Robert Kee

     *The Nazi Revolution: Snell and Mitchell

     *My Silent War: Kim Philby

     *The Murder of Rudolf Hess: Hugh Thomas

     The Italian People: Massimo Salvadori

     *The Secret of the Atomic Age: V.S. Alder

     Crystal Night: R. Thalmann & E. Feinerman

     The Two Faces of Russia: S. Johnson

     *Adolf Hitler: John Toland

     Mona Lisas: Mary Rose Storey

     Chagall: Marie-Therese Souverbic

     The Quest for Corvo: A.J.A. Symons

     Memoirs of an Armchair: V. Trefusis & P. Jullian

     *Prospero's Cell: Lawrence Durrell

     Trotsky's Writings on Britain (Vol.3): Trotsky

     Freud - A Man of His Century: Gunnar Brandell

     Nine Lies About America: Arnold Beichman

     *Kaleidoscope: Arthur Koestler

     *Concepts and Categories: Isaiah Berlin

     *Hess: R. Manvell & H. Fraenkel

 

 

NOVEMBER 1982 - FEBRUARY 1983

 

     Prokofiev: Lawrence & Elizabeth Hanson

     *Critique of Modern Art: Frederich Solomon

     *Hitler's War: David Irving

     Camus - A Critical Study: Patrick McCarthy

     *Ciano's Diary (1939-43): Edited with Introduction by Malcolm Muggeridge

     The Thirties: Alan Jenkins

     On Judaism: Martin Buber

     *Literature and Western Man: J.B. Priestley

     *Spandau, The Secret Diaries: Albert Speer

     *Dans La Salle des Pas Perdus: Salacru

     *Politics and Literature: Jean-Paul Sartre

     *The Prime of Life: Simone de Beauvoir

     *My Truth: Edda Mussolini Ciano

     *Hitler's War Aims: Norman Rich

     *Freud: Edited by Jonathan Miller

     Knulp: Hermann Hesse

     *The Redemption of the Robot: Herbert Read

     Modern French Literature: Denis Saurat

     History of Art in the Seventeenth Century: M. & R. Mainstone

     *Yeats: Frank Tuohy

     *Wolfe Tone: Henry Boylan

 

 

MARCH-MAY 1983

 

     *The Hedgehog and the Fox: Isaiah Berlin

     *The Russian Version of the Second World War: Edited by Graham Lyons

     *Prophets Without Honour: Frederic V. Grunfeld

     The Book of France: Edited by John Ardagh

     The Perennial Philosophy: Aldous Huxley

     *Eva and Adolf: Glenn Infield

     *Venice - The Most Triumphant City: George Bull

     History of Art: H.W. Janson

     Invisible Threads: Yevgeny Yevtushenko

     *Wittgenstein's Vienna: Allan Janik & Stephen Toulmin

     The Philosophy of History: G.V.F. Hegel

     *Arrow in the Blue: Arthur Koestler

     *Israel: Chiam Bermant

     *Moments of Vision: Kenneth Clark

     Irish Neutrality and the USA 1939-47: T. Ryle Dwyer

     *Joseph Stalin - Man and Legend: Ronald Hingley

     *Atlas of the Holocaust: Martin Gilbert

     *Hitler: Norman Stone

     *Fin-de-Siècle Vienna: Carl E. Schorske

     Eye Witness (World Press Photos of 25 years): Harold Evans

 

 

JUNE-SEPTEMBER 1983

 

     The Third Mind: William S. Burroughs & Brion Gyson

     *The Spy from Israel: Ben Dan

     *And We are not Saved: David Wdowinsky

     Italia, Italia: Peter Nichols

     *Rain Upon Godshill: J.B. Priestley

     Through Irish Eyes: Terence Prittie

     The Kingdom: Robert Lacey

     *Jerusalem: Teddy Kollek & Moshe Pearlman

     *Constance (or Solitary Practices): Lawrence Durrell

     A Dangerous Place: Daniel P. Moynihan

     *The Goebbels Diaries 1939-41: Introduction J. Keegan

     Recent History Atlas 1860-1960: Martin Gilbert

     *Hitler - A Study in Tyranny: Alan Bullock

     Israel: David Ben-Gurion

     Siren Land: Norman Douglas

     Acts of Union: Anthony Bailey

     *Anti-Semite and Jew: Jean-Paul Sartre

     The Cloud of Danger: George F. Kennan

     *Final Conflict (The War in the Lebanon): John Bulloch

     *The Six Day War: Moshe Dayan & Yitzhak Rabin

     Whose Promised Land?: Colin Chapman

 

 

OCTOBER 1983 - JANUARY 1984

 

     *Journal and Memoir: Cyril Connolly

     *Belle de Jour: Louis Bunuel

     Mahler: Kurt Blaukoph

     *Hitler - A Film from Germany: Hans Jurgen Syberberg

     The Wheat and the Chaff: Francois Mitterand

     The Story of America: Louis Heren

     Dialogue with Death: Arthur Koestler

     Les Fleurs du Mal: Charles Baudelaire

     *The Spy-Masters of Israel: Stewart Steven

     The Greek Islands: Lawrence Durrell

     Britain and the World in the Twentieth Century: G.K. Tull & P. Bulwer

     Irish History and Culture: Edited by Harold Orel

     *The Left Bank (Writers in Paris): Herbert Lottman

     The Heel of Archilles: Arthur Koestler

     *Hitler in Vienna 1907-13: J. Sydney Jones

     Politics and Film: L. Furhammer & F. Isaksson

     Curious Journey: K. Griffith & T. O'Grady

     *Ben-Gurion: Michael Bar-Zohar

     *Bormann: Jochen Von Lang

     The Lebanese War: Harald Vocke

 

 

FEBRUARY-APRIL 1984

 

     *Malraux: Axel Madsen

      Histoires de la Nuit Parisienne: Louis Chevalier

     *The Roots of Coincidence: Arthur Koestler

     *The Crazy Years (Paris in the 20's): William Wiser

     *The Novel Now: Anthony Burgess

     *History: Robert Lowell

     Robert Lowell's Poems - A Selection

     *Antimemoirs: André Malraux

     Eric Gill: Malcolm Yorke

     *To Build the Promised Land: Gerald Kaufman

     *The British Campaign in Ireland 1919-21: Charles Townshend

     Modern Soviet Society: Basile Kerblay

     *Jawaharlal Nehru: Sarvepalli Gopal

     People's History and Socialist Theory: Edited by Raphael Samuel

     *The Squandered Peace: John Vaizey

     *De Gaulle: Bernard Ledwidge

     Mailer: Hilary Mills

     Beating Depression: Dr. John Rush

 

 

APRIL-JULY 1984

 

     *Weimar: Walter Laqueur

     Siegfried - The Nazi's Last Stand: Charles Whiting

     *DeNazification: Constantine FitzGibbon

     *Explaining Hitler's Germany: John Hiden

     Rules of the Game: Nicholas Mosley

     The Goering Testament: George Markstein

     *Hitler's Mein Kampf: Adolf Hitler

     The Art of Humanism: Kenneth Clark

     Stalinism: Edited by G.R. Urban

     The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism: Max Weber

     *Justine: Lawrence Durrell

     *Secret Intelligence in the Twentieth Century: Constantine FitzGibbon

     *To Jerusalem and Back: Saul Bellow

     *The Making of Modern Zionism: Shlomo Avineri

     *Sam White's Paris: Sam White

     *Sebastian: Lawrence Durrell

     *Beard's Roman Women: Anthony Burgess

     *Hitler's Secret Book: Adolf Hitler

     *Twentieth-Century French Literature: Germaine Brée

     *Earthly Powers: Anthony Burgess

 

 

AUGUST 1984 - JANUARY 1985

 

     *The End of the World News: Anthony Burgess

     The Style of the Twentieth Century: Bevis Hillier

     The Flowering of Ireland: Katharine Scherman

     *1985: Anthony Burgess

     *Israel Observed: William Frankel

     *Mantissa: John Fowles

     *The Spanish Civil War: David Mitchell

     *Ireland's Civil War: Carlton Younger

     Selected Letters of James Joyce: Edited by Richard Ellmann

     Enderby Outside: Anthony Burgess

     Oscar Wilde - Interviews and Recollections (Vol.1)

     The Magus: John Fowles

     *The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: William L. Shirer

     Collected Poems: Michael Hamburger

     Charles Baudelaire: Walter Benjamin

     *Vienna: Edward Crankshaw

     *The Alexandria Quartet: Lawrence Durrell

     *The Messiah and the Mandarins: Dennis Bloodworth

     *De Valera and the Ulster Question 1917-73: John Bowman

 

 

FEBRUARY-AUGUST 1985

 

     *The Boss - C.J. Haughey in Government: Joe Joyce and Peter Murtagh

     *Pieces and Pontifications: Norman Mailer

     The New Apocrypha: John Sladek

     *Hitler's Mistakes: Ronald Lewis

     *South Africa - White Rule/Black Revolt: Ernst Harsch

     The Tragedy of Lebanon: Jonathan Randal

     Dialogue on Spain: Santiago Carrillo

     *Force of Circumstance: Simone de Beauvoir

     *Ultra Goes to War: Ronald Lewin

     *Diaries 1918-39: Thomas Mann

     *Rabin of Israel: Robert Slater

     *Fascism: Dr. Paul Hayes

     *Saint-Germain-des-Près: Paul Webster & Nicholas Powell

     Journal of a Wife: Anais Nin

     The Siege of Derry: Patrick Macrory

     Critique of Dialectical Reason: Jean-Paul Sartre

     les anneaux de Bicetre: Simenon

     *The Uncivil Wars - Ireland Today: Padraig O'Malley

     The Mass Psychology of Fascism: Wilhelm Reich

     *The Irish Mind: Edited by Richard Kearney

     *Malraux - Life & Work: Edited by Martine de Courcel

 

 

SEPTEMBER 1985 - MARCH 1986

 

     *1945 - The World We Fought For: Robert Kee

     *Cyprus - Christopher Hitchens

     The Twentieth Century: M.N. Duffy

     Collected Poems 1947-80: Allen Ginsberg

     *Albert Speer: Matthias Schmidt

     *In the Ruins of the Reich: Douglas Botting

     *Paddy's Lament: Thomas Gallagher

     *Church & State: Desmond M. Clarke

     Le Destin des Malou: Simenon

     Memoirs of a dutiful daughter: Simone de Beauvoir

     *Adieux - a farewell to Sartre: Simone de Beauvoir

     *Sex, War and Fancies: Joseph Lehmann

     *Sex and Race: J.A. Rogers

     *Quinx: Lawrence Durrell

     *Pornography: Andrea Dworkin

     *The Age of de Valera: Joseph Lee/Gearoid O'Tuathaigh

     *Recollections: Geoffrey Grigson

     *Self Condemned: Wyndham Lewis

     *Irish Nationalism: Sean Cronin

     *On Literature and Art: Leon Trotsky

     *Opus Pistorus: Henry Miller

 

 

APRIL-SEPTEMBER 1986

 

     *A Book of Booze: Colin Wilson

     *The Course of Irish History: Edited by T.W. Moody & F.X. Martin

     *The Revenge For Love: Wyndham Lewis

     *Ireland - The Propaganda War: Liz Curtis

     *Kenneth Clark: Meryle Secrest

     The Leader and the Damned: Colin Forbes

     *The State of the Nation: Desmond Fennell

     *Letters to Anais Nin: Henry Miller

     Days of Hope: André Malraux

     *Always Merry and Bright - the Life of Henry Miller: Jay Martin

     *War Diaries: Jean-Paul Sartre

     *Camus - A Critical Study of His Life and World: Patrick McCarthy

     Pink Triangle & Yellow Star: Gore Vidal

     *Thomas Mann: Richard Winston

     *The Art of the City: Peter Conrad

     *Collected Poems 1931-74: Lawrence Durrell

     Enderby's Dark Lady: Anthony Burgess

 

 

OCTOBER 1986 - APRIL 1987

 

     *Journals 1939-83: Stephen Spender

     *Literature & Society in Germany 1918-45: Ronald Taylor

     *Jake's Thing: Kingsley Amis

     *L.D. and the Alexandria Quartet: Alan Warren Friedman

     *My Fight For Irish Freedom: Dan Breen

     Advertisements for Myself: Norman Mailer

     *Ending Up: Kingsley Amis

     *Inside The Third Reich: Albert Speer

     *Marriage & Morals: Bertrand Russell

     *Stanley and the Women: Kingsley Amis

     *Civilization in Transition: C.G. Jung

     *Culture and Anarchy in Ireland 1890-1939: F.S.L. Lyons

     More Letters of Oscar Wilde: Edited by Rupert Hart-Davis

     *Homage to Catalonia: George Orwell

     *Simone Weil - An Anthology: Edited and introduced by Sian Miles

     *Falls Memories: Gerry Adams

     *Spain - Dictatorship to Democracy: Raymond Carr and Juan Pablo Fusi

     The Israeli Invasion of Lebanon: Yousuf Duhul

     Orwell - The War Broadcasts: Edited by W.J. West

     *A History of the Irish Working Class: Peter Beresford Ellis

 

 

MAY 1987 - APRIL 1988

 

     Hitler's Rocket Sites: Philip Henshall

     *The Philosophy of Schopenhauer: Bryan Magee

     Hebdomeros: Giorgio de Chirico

     *The Philosophy of Marx: William Leon McBride

     *The World as Will and Representation (Vols. I & II): Arthur Schopenhauer

     *Religion and the Rebel: Colin Wilson

     Picture Palace: Malcolm Muggeridge

     *Writing Against - A Biography of Sartre: Ronald Hayman

     *A History of Western Philosophy: Bertrand Russell

     *The Old Devils: Kingsley Amis

     *The Ghost in the Machine: Arthur Koestler

     *Blood and Soil - Walter Darré  & Hitler's Green Party: Anna Bramwell

     *Goering - The 'Iron Man': R.J. Overy

     Henry and June: Anais Nin

     *Collected Short Stories: Kingsley Amis

     *My Life with Dali: Amanda Lear

 

 

MAY-DECEMBER 1988

 

     The Poetry of Surrealism: Michael Benedickt

     Oscar Wilde: H. Montgomery Hyde

     *Living With Koestler - Mamaine Koestler's Letters 1945-51: Edited by Celia Goodman

     *Adonis and the Alphabet: Aldous Huxley

     La Chute (in French): Albert Camus

     *The Waking Giant - Soviet Union under Gorbachov: Martin Walker

     Slowhand - The Story of Eric Clapton: Harry Shapiro

     *The Philosophy of Jean-Paul Sartre: Edited by Robert Denoon Cumming

     *Marillion - The Script: Clive Gifford

     *Orwell - The Transformation: Peter Stansky & William Abrahams

     Yeats - The Man and the Masks: Richard Ellmann

     Flaubert's Parrot: Julian Barnes

     *All Said & Done: Simone de Beauvoir

     *Human Society in Ethics and Politics: Bertrand Russell

 

 

JANUARY-MAY 1989

 

     Bruno's Dream: Iris Murdoch

     *Irish Life in the Seventeenth Century: Edward Lysaght

     *Selected Poems: Jules Supervielle

     *The Kingdom of the Wicked: Anthony Burgess

     Enigma - The Life of Knut Hamsun: Robert Ferguson

     *Man of Nazareth: Anthony Burgess

     Karl Jaspers Philosophy Vol.I: Translated by E.B. Ashton

     The Greek Islands: E. Karpodini-Dimitriodi

     Before I Forget: James Mason

     *Mao and China: Stanley Karnow

 

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