Winter 1960 • Vol. XXII No. 1 Nonfiction |

Georg Lukács and His Devil’s Pact

I. In the XXth century it is not easy for an honest man to be a literary critic. There are so many more urgent things to be done. Indeed, criticism is a most ancillary Muse. For the art of the critic consists in bringing works of literature to the attention of precisely those readers who least require such concourse (does a man read critiques of poetry or drama or fiction unless he is already highly literate on his own?). On either hand of this minor Muse, moreover, stand two tempters. To the right, Literary History, with its solid air and academic credentials. To the left, Book Reviewing—not really an art, but rather a technique committed to the implausible theory that something worth reading is published each morning in the year. Even the best of criticism may succumb to either temptation. Anxious to achieve intellectual respectability, the firm stance of the scholar, the critic may, like Sainte-Beuve, become a literary historian. Or he may yield to the claims of the novel an

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George Steiner is a fellow at Churchill College, Cambridge, United Kingdom.

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