More Clive James

The point Clive James makes in his discussion of Sartre is this: the theorists who inflicted on us the idea that everything is relative and nothing is completely real collaborated with the Nazis and wanted that to not be noticed.

And today, we are sitting here, watching documentaries about trans-toddlers because of a bunch of Nazi collaborators who bamboozled us into believing their self-serving crap.

James’s Cultural Amnesia is about the devastating effect of Nazism on the entire Western civilization and he doesn’t mince words in the book.

I expected James to detest Sartre and Heidegger but he also really does a number on Jose Saramago, the Portuguese novelist and the Nobel Prize winner. Saramago was an avowed Communist, which for James is a peg lower than even a Nazi sympathizer.

Saramago is a charming diarist, but his political stance has nothing to it beyond a formidable inbuilt capacity to gloss over its own consequences. Europe might have taught him Euroscepticism. There was a whole ruined world that should have taught him to be sceptical about communism. He never got the point. As a diehard believer who had refused to give up his faith even in the face of limitless evidence that it was a pack of lies whose first victims were the people it claimed to benefit, Saramago was reminiscent of Pablo Neruda and Nicolás Guillén: he had to be taken seriously because there was no other way to take him. Beyond the ludicrous, the scale of the preposterous starts coming back in the other direction, so that we return to the point where a mind can be granted a kind of dignity for its persistence in folly.

I will never be able to read another line by Saramago without remembering that “beyond the ludicrous, the scale of the preposterous starts coming back…”

7 thoughts on “More Clive James”

  1. A funny comment I saw somewhere (maybe on Twitter) a couple of days ago: “If I gain any more weight during this pandemic, I’m going to change my pronouns to ‘they/them.'”

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  2. “I will never be able to read another line by Saramago ”

    Not for nothing is one of his most famous works: Ensaio sobre a cegueira (Essay on blindness)

    Haven’t read it (and don’t want to now) but looking at the wikipedia summary….. is the blindness a metaphor for capitalism (and the return of sight a metaphor for socialism/communism?)

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  3. I read one of your posts on Clive James a while ago and thought I need to read his work. It was the first time I’ve heard about him. I purposely didn’t read any posts on Clive James that followed because I wanted to keep clear mind for when I read it myself. Having said that, I want to ask for his books for Christmas. What would be your recommendation to start with?

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    1. I only read Cultural Amnesia and I highly, highly recommend it. It takes forever to read but imagine reading a bit of this wonderfulness every dñow winter evening. It’s paradise.

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    2. Another nice thing about Cultural Amnesia is that it’s a bunch of self-contained essays that can be read in any order (unless you’re a real fanatic about alphabetization). So you just dip into the book at whichever one seems interesting to you at the moment.

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