George Steiner


1929 –


Who is George Steiner?

Francis George Steiner, FBA, is a French-born American literary critic, essayist, philosopher, novelist, and educator. He has written extensively about the relationship between language, literature and society, and the impact of the Holocaust. An article in The Guardian described Steiner as a "polyglot and polymath", saying that he is "often credited with recasting the role of the critic".

Among his admirers, Steiner is ranked "among the great minds in today's literary world." English novelist A. S. Byatt described him as a "late, late, late Renaissance man ... a European metaphysician with an instinct for the driving ideas of our time." Harriet Harvey-Wood, a former literature director of the British Council, described him as a "magnificent lecturerprophetic and doom-laden [who would] turn up with half a page of scribbled notes, and never refer to them."

Steiner was Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Geneva, Professor of Comparative Literature and Fellow at the University of Oxford and Professor of Poetry at Harvard University.

He lives in Cambridge, England, where he has been Extraordinary Fellow at Churchill College at the University of Cambridge since 1969. He is married to author and historian Zara Shakow Steiner; they have a son, David Steiner and a daughter, Deborah Steiner.

Famous Quotes:

  • Words that are saturated with lies or atrocity, do not easily resume life.
  • The age of the book is almost gone.
  • The violent illiteracies of the graffiti, the clenched silence of the adolescent, the nonsense cries from the stage-happening, are resolutely strategic. The insurgent and the freak-out have broken off discourse with a cultural system which they despise as a cruel, antiquated fraud. They will not bandy words with it. Accept, even momentarily, the conventions of literate linguistic exchange, and you are caught in the net of the old values, of the grammars that can condescend or enslave.
  • To many men... the miasma of peace seems more suffocating than the bracing air of war.
  • Men are accomplices to that which leaves them indifferent.
  • It is not the literal past that rules us, save, possibly, in a biological sense. It is images of the past. Each new historical era mirrors itself in the picture and active mythology of its past or of a past borrowed from other cultures. It tests its sense of identity, of regress or new achievement against that past.
  • We know that a man can read Goethe or Rilke in the evening, that he can play Bach and Schubert, and go to his day's work at Auschwitz in the morning.
  • Language can only deal meaningfully with a special, restricted segment of reality. The rest, and it is presumably the much larger part, is silence.
  • The immense majority of human biographies are a gray transit between domestic spasm and oblivion.
  • There is something terribly wrong with a culture inebriated by noise and gregariousness.

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Apr 23, 1929
  • Judaism
  • Austrian American
  • United States of America
  • France
  • University of Chicago
  • Balliol College
  • Harvard University
  • Fellow, Churchill College, Cambridge
  • Economist Group

on July 23, 2013


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