Sunday, March 16, 2008

`Civilisations Do Collapse'

Theodore Dalrymple has a splendid piece in the Spectator on the "malevolence" of book sellers and the sort of threat faced by Prof. Peter Kien in Elias Canetti's Auto-Da-Fe. Here's a sample:

"I have the not altogether unsatisfying impression that civilisation is collapsing around me. Is it my age, I wonder, or the age we live in? I am not sure. Civilisations do collapse, after all, but on the other hand people grow old with rather greater frequency."

1 comment:

Ron Slate said...

"I am not sure" is a respectable answer. Here's something from Auden that triggered similar questioning this past weekend: "JULIUS CAESAR has great relevance to our time, though it is gloomier, because it is about a society that is doomed. Octavius only succeeded in giving Roman society a 400 year reprieve. Our society is not doomed, but in such immense danger that the relevance is great. It was a society doomed not by the evil passions of selfish individuals, because such passions always exist, but by an intellectual and spiritual failure of nerve that made the society incapable of coping with its situation." (From LECTURES ON SHAKESPEARE.) You wrote a few days ago about grievances. I fear a politics based on allaying grievances, since its force of emotion may disguise its failure of nerve to deal with the complexity of situations, to compromise, and to see through its own good intentions. But I am not sure.