Cultural Amnesia by Clive James
Necessary Memories from History and the Arts

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Synopsis

Forty years in the making, a new cultural canon that celebrates truth over hypocrisy, literature over totalitarianism.

Echoing Edward Said’s belief that “Western humanism is not enough, we need a universal humanism,” the renowned critic Clive James presents here his life’s work. Containing over one hundred original essays, organized by quotations from A to Z, Cultural Amnesia illuminates, rescues, or occasionally destroys the careers of many of the greatest thinkers, humanists, musicians, artists, and philosophers of the twentieth century. In discussing, among others, Louis Armstrong, Walter Benjamin, Sigmund Freud, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Franz Kafka, Marcel Proust, and Ludwig Wittgenstein, James writes, “If the humanism that makes civilization civilized is to be preserved into the new century, it will need advocates. These advocates will need a memory, and part of that memory will need to be of an age in which they were not yet alive.” Soaring to Montaigne-like heights, Cultural Amnesia is precisely the book to burnish these memories of a Western civilization that James fears is nearly lost.
 

About Clive James

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Born in Australia, Clive James lives in Cambridge, England. He is the author of Unreliable Memoirs ; a volume of selected poems, Opal Sunset ; the best-selling Cultural Amnesia ; and the translator of The Divine Comedy by Dante. He has written for the New York Times Book Review , The New Yorker , and The Atlantic . He is an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) and a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE).
 
Published March 17, 2007 by W. W. Norton & Company. 912 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction, Law & Philosophy, Education & Reference. Non-fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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even Adolf Hitler thought of himself as a humanist, though, James writes, “his connection with the civilized traditions was parodic at best and neurotic always.” James adds elsewhere that the connection was more genuine than Stalin’s and Mao’s, if bested by Hitler’s comrade Goebbels, who kept a m...

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The New York Times

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Schorske’s classic “Fin-de-Siècle Vienna” and Stefan Zweig’s “World of Yesterday,” as well as lesser-known works like Friedrich Torberg’s memoir “Die Tante Jolesch” and George Clare’s “Last Waltz in Vienna.” On Ludwig Wittgenstein, he recommends both Ray Monk’s first-rate biography, “The Duty of ...

Mar 20 2007 | Read Full Review of Cultural Amnesia: Necessary M...

The New York Times

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It is irresistible to hijack one of his favorite aphorisms (said by Cocteau of Victor Hugo) and conclude: Clive James was a madman who thought he was Clive James.

Apr 08 2007 | Read Full Review of Cultural Amnesia: Necessary M...

The Guardian

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To describe Clive James as a distinguished former TV critic of The Observer is rather like saying Jefferson was a Virginian landowner or Socrates a clever bloke with a penchant for chatting with bright young men.

May 27 2007 | Read Full Review of Cultural Amnesia: Necessary M...

Slate

The standard view of the contending couple is that Brecht's poetic art was dedicated to social revolution, whereas Rilke's poetic art was dedicated to art.

Mar 23 2007 | Read Full Review of Cultural Amnesia: Necessary M...

Slate

But if my hirelings are occupying all the key posts in the apparatus, how is it that Stalin is in the Kremlin and I am in exile?—Leon Trotsky, quoted by Dmitri Volkogonov in Stalin.

Apr 02 2007 | Read Full Review of Cultural Amnesia: Necessary M...

PopMatters

In his “overture” to Cultural Amnesia, titled “Vienna”, Clive James pays tribute to that city’s café culture around the turn into the 20th century: “the best evidence that the most accommodating and fruitful ground for the life of the mind can be something more broad than a university campus.” Th...

Nov 13 2007 | Read Full Review of Cultural Amnesia: Necessary M...

Bookmarks Magazine

Ilan Stavans Critical Summary For more than 40 years a critic, writer, and public personality, the Australian-born Clive James, prolific author of Unreliable Memoirs, The Meaning of Recognition, and North Face of Soho, among many other books, has garnered a well-deserved reputation as "an ec...

Aug 03 2007 | Read Full Review of Cultural Amnesia: Necessary M...

News Review.

Cultural Amnesia culls historical snippets, essays and literature from the collective cultural pool.

Jul 05 2007 | Read Full Review of Cultural Amnesia: Necessary M...

The Paris Review

I’ve been reading bits and pieces of books I’ve read before many times (Darkness Visible, Diving Into the Wreck), trying to get something from them.

Mar 16 2012 | Read Full Review of Cultural Amnesia: Necessary M...

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