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The Twilight of the Intellectuals

Culture and Politics in the Era of the Cold War


Hilton Kramer (View Bio)
Hardcover: Ivan R. Dee, 1999; Paperback: Ivan R. Dee, 2000.

The Twilight of the Intellectuals

"The intellectuals of Kramer's title are the politically committed cultural journalists who started and contributed to the Partisan Review in the U.S. and Horizon in Britain.... On each figure Kramer assesses, he writes partisanly but with impressive critical acumen. He praises or damns no one only on account of their politics; rather, his knowledge of a subject's writing and character (he personally knew the Americans he discusses) weighs more heavily. Yet politics is the animating theme, just as particular books are the immediate occasions of all these wonderfully well written essays." — Booklist

"Hilton Kramer's fearless challenges to cultural shibboleths made him a controversial figure a generation ago when he was writing about art and other forms of expression for the New York Times. In his important new book, he has surrounded a series of brilliant estimates of individual writers with personal memories and historical reflections." — Kenneth S. Lynn, The Wall Street Journal

"Brilliant." — Kenneth Minogue, Times Literary Supplement

"An honest, unsparing, and often devastating analysis of how the intellectuals of the left — and for much of the last 70 years the term 'intellectual' was almost synonymous with the left — dealt with the supreme moral conflict of our times, that between communism and democracy. Kramer (THE REVENGE OF THE PHILISTINES: Art and Culture 1972-1984 (1985)), editor of the New Criterion), calls the Cold War 'as much a war of ideas as it was a contest for military superiority' and writes bluntly that 'many talented people in the West fought on the side of the political enemy.' The evidence is presented in a series of essays written over the last 25 years, mostly dealing with individuals, of whom the Americans cause him the greatest anguish: those, for example, who condemned Whittaker Chambers who at great personal cost revealed the part he had played in a Communist spy ring, rather than Alger Hiss, who in the face of increasingly incontrovertible evidence denied any role; the left in Hollywood ...; the radicals of the '60s who likened Amerika to Nazi Germany; Mary McCarthy, who in Hanoi praised the virtuous tyranny of the regime and castigated both the American prisoners-of-war and America itself; and George Steiner, who attacked Solzhenitsyn for the moral indecency of implying that Soviet terror was as hideous as Hitlerism.... The Cold War was a war, and Kramer is scarred, but few fought it with more honor, consistency, and moral passion." — Kirkus Reviews

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