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BERTRAND RUSSELL’S first clash with public authority took place in 1914, when he denounced the British entry into World War I. For this unpatriotic act he spent a year in prison, where, in his usual indomitable fashion, he proceeded to write a book — one of his best — on mathematical philosophy. With World War II he abandoned pacifism and supported the fight against Hitler, arguing that a Nazi victory (unlike the Kaiser’s) would mean a break in Western civilization. Now he has come back full circle to his original pacifism: a nuclear war between West and East, Mr. Russell believes, would be a catastrophe for mankind that cannot be justified by the advantages one political system might provide over the other.
HAS MAN A FUTURE? (Simon and Schuster, S3.00) shows us Russell undiminished by the years in his vigor and brilliance; a polemicist of noble passion and caustic wit. His book will not be generally liked in the United States, for it is hardly flattering to the national ego. Yet, whatever our disagreements with him. we can hardly help but marvel at the wonder of this man, an embattled philosophe in the true eighteenth-century sense, who now, in his ninth decade, is not only engaged in a running fight with the present generation of British philosophers but is also equal to taking on the governments of West and East in his own personal crusade for disarmament. If Bertrand Russell is not the most distinguished intellectual of our century, he is almost certainly its most energetic one.
Mr. Russell would be more perfect than human, however, if his book were not marred by the faults that usually beset him as a polemicist: impatience for the carefully qualified statement, inability to resist the witty phrase even when it distorts, and, strangest of all in so eminent a logician, some plain inconsistencies.
It has been argued against Mr. Russell that the reasons for opposing Hitler apply just as well to the equally bad, perhaps worse, tyranny of Communism. His reply is that the two situations differ because of the presence of nuclear weapons. A war for human liberty cannot be undertaken when it threatens the destruction of all mankind. Patrick Henry’s “give me liberty, or give me death” is admirable as an individual’s resolve about his own future; inadmissible as a resolve ("Give me liberty or let all mankind perish”) for everybody else. A world under Communism might still harbor some possibilities for progress; tyrannies in the past have improved or withered away. The extinction of mankind leaves no possibilities at all.
Must we, however, restrict ourselves to alternatives so stark and exclusive as extinction and submission to Communism (which is what our unilateral disarmament would come to)? Granted that we share Mr. Russell’s fears about nuclear war, the practical question is how to translate the urgent need for disarmament into concrete political steps. Here Mr. Russell fails us: the only suggestion he can come up with in the end is that the West adopt Khrushchev’s proposal of general and complete disarmament.
This book will be most discomforting to those Westerners who believe we have a total monopoly of virtue. However, I think Mr. Russell does us a real service by puncturing any such self-righteous illusions. So long as either side is convinced that it is wholly pure and the other side wholly evil, negotiations will be impossible and mankind will remain in its present dreadful impasse.
But his old wounds at the hands of British and American authorities seem to fester so strongly at certain moments that his polemic against the West becomes intemperate. He does concede that the Baruch plan showed “considerable generosity" on America’s part at a time when we had a monopoly of nuclear weapons; but some pages later the anti-American bias has taken over and he remarks with perfect inconsistency that this plan was deliberately rigged with certain conditions that would make it unacceptable to the Russians. With all our imperfections, we are not quite so bad as Mr. Russell thinks. Certainly, our diplomats are not that clever.


One indispensable mark of the great stage entertainer is “presence” — the ability to carry on his act without pressing or nervous haste lest he lose his audience. Measured by a comparable literary quality, ANTHONY POWELL must be rated one of the most remarkable performers of our time. Elegant and imperturbable, never once raising his voice, Mr. Powell makes it quite clear from the start that his audience must adjust to his pace. In the end we succumb to the pleasure of reading him as we do when we take a ride in an antique, but finely tooled, Rolls-Royce that purrs soundlessly along at about twenty miles per hour.
Mr. Powell’s admirers, most of whom are in England, form a devoted club. A DANCE TO THE MUSIC OF TIME (Little, Brown, $5.95), which contains the first three novels of his long series on English life in the twenties and thirties, will greatly expand the club on this side of the Atlantic; but a club it is likely to remain, since the taste for Mr. Powell is a dedicated and exclusive addiction.
In fact, the club has already acquired something of the passion of a claque, justly but perhaps a little too vociferously applauding its favorite. It will not do, for example, to press the comparison with Proust, which Mr. Powell can hardly survive, any more than any other writer now practicing. Mr. Powell has been aptly described by Evelyn Waugh as “quintessentially English,”and a quintessentially English Proust is something of a contradiction in terms, like a mutton chop with sauce Perigueux. So long as one keeps the Proustian parallel in mind, Mr. Powell seems only to be writing an odd parody, the effect of which is to caricature his own very English qualities.
The similarity to Proust consists in the fact that both writers are engaged with the subjects of time and memory, and the novel of recollection permits a freedom to make characters appear and disappear unexpectedly as the conjunctions of memory suggest. After noting this, if we proceed to forget about the Proustian parallel entirely, we find that Mr. Powell has a quality all his own. Irony and understatement are parts of this quality, but more essential ingredients are the sheer delights of form, stylization, and rhythm. His dance to the music of time moves like a delicate and fantastic minuet.
For this grace of form we forgive a certain thinness of substance. Some dinners, not notable for their substance, can please by the elaborate ritual of their service. Mr. Powell’s settings and service are =* impeccable, but his courses, so far, somewhat meager; one novel centers about a boyish prank on the telephone, another on a girl’s dumping sugar on a young man’s head at a party. The series acquires more depth as it goes on; two of the five completed volumes have not yet been published here; and Mr. Powell still has many volumes to go before he completes the whole scries.
Though the world of IVY COMPTONBURNETT is even more formal and stylized, it is also more charged and electric. After Mr. Powell’s last quiet footfall has died away, to turn to read Miss Compton-Burnett is like being wakened from a halfdream by the sharp voice of Cassandra speaking with the crisp accents of an English headmistress, THE MIGHTY AND THEIR FALL (Simon and Schuster, $4.50) is not Miss Compton-Burnett at the very top of her form, but it is near enough that peak to carry all her usual authority.
Like Greek tragedy, Miss Compton-Burnett’s material is what Freud in a lighter moment called “the family romance” — Lhe intricate relationship, within a large inbred or incestuous family. Here, once again, is that family with its wickedly articulate children and servants, occupying the usual large country house; the intrigue of a will; and the final unexpected reversal that leaves everything in this queerly tragic world just about where it was. It is the mixture as before, but no admirer of Miss Compton-Burnett’s would have it otherwise.
Much has been written of Miss Compton-Burnett’s mastery of her unique form, but it should be clear by this time that her real triumph is one not merely of form but of substance or vision. She does not give us a pleasant vision of the human heart, but it is a true one. Her people are appallingly selfish, mean, perverse, and deceitful — in a word, thoroughly human. The old grandmother. lying on her deathbed, may be taken as speaking for the novelist herself: “I don’t feel I am going to meet my maker. And if I were, I should not fear him. He has not earned the feeling. I almost think he ought to fear me.” God Himself might be a little disturbed by the vision of His creatures given back by Miss Compton-Burnett. But it is an exhilarating vision too, for these people have a ferocious vitality that makes them larger than life.


That English writers on the whole excel the Americans in their sense of form is due in part to the fact that the Englishman begins with the assumption that, as English, he definitely knows who he is, while the American more often than not is thrashing about in search of his own image.
This search for our American image has led us into all kinds of selfdiagnosis. We have had attacks upon the hucksters, the hidden persuaders, our glut and affluence, and our new snobbishness of class and status. DAMEL .). BOORSTIN, professor of American history at the University of Chicago, in THE IMAGE, OR WHAT HAPPENED TO THE AMERICAN DREAM (Atheneum, S3.00), turns the diagnosis back upon itself by insisting that our main trouble is this preoccupation with the image.
Mr. Boorstin’s analysis does not arraign any particular group as the villain of the piece. It represents all of us as victims and victimizcrs alike, caught up in a mass social process that perpetually substitutes the image for the reality. Like all ambitious historians, Mr. Boorstin has baptized a new revolution, this one the Graphic Revolution, which began with the invention of photography in the nineteenth century, developed into slick and streamlined journalism, and now, with the weapons of cinema. radio, and television, threatens to drown us in a sea of images. Not only can we no longer see the forest for the trees; we cannot even see the tree for the photograph of the tree.
This thesis is hardly novel. Some years ago. E. B. White observed that a fateful turn of history had been reached when an eclipse of the moon visible in New York City was televised there on local channels: people who could have seen the real thing out of their window preferred to look at the image on the screen. However, Mr. Boorstin’s book is valuable for the vigor and detail of its documentation; his inventory of commercialized folly contains incidents that are grotesque and sad beyond belief.
But he misses one ray of hope on the horizon. The glut of images produces disbelief in them. Mr. Boorstin belongs to that generation, now in its forties, whose childhood was warped by the once-a-week visit to the distortions of Hollywood in a more naive period. Our children today are more fortunate and have probably seen two or three movies on television by bedtime. They have acquired immunity. They have also heard enough singing commercials to have guessed the whole colossal swindle. And if these young people still go to the movies, they have other things to do in the balcony than to be absorbed in that big image on the screen.


The young novelist who has had a great success with his first novel may find himself confronted by very special difficulties in writing the second. He is, naturally, afraid to repeat himself. On the other hand, he may be tempted to spread his wings and soar — only to fall flat on his face. A more prudent course is to attempt something merely modest and graceful. which in its mastery of craft will make clear that the first success was not just a flash in the pan, but which as yet does not in any way force the fates.
JOHN KNOWLES has managed just sueh a careful pacing of himself in his new novel, MORNING IN ANTIBES (Macmillan, S3.95). His first novel, A Separate Peace, won much critical acclaim and three prizes. While this second does not establish what his exact stature may yet be, it does show beyond doubt that he is an accomplished craftsman who can produce engaging and highly readable fiction. The book is gracefully, and in parts beautifully, written.
Mr. Knowles’s great gift is for rendering atmosphere, particularly physical atmosphere. From its first page the book is awash with the colors and light of the French Riviera in the summer season. The characters moving around in this lush landscape, however, are neither very real nor very interesting. The one exception is a young Algerian who attaches himself to the hero and rapidly displaces the latter as the central character in the book. In this volatile, complex, and proud young Arab, Mr. Knowles has got hold of something first-rate. But on the threshold of creating a major character, Mr. Knowles pauses; he observes his creature deftly but warily, and then lets him drop. Apparently, it is not his moment just now to be too ambitious.


WILLIAM HICKEY, born in 1749, was a dissolute young man who thoroughly enjoyed all the low and high life of London in the latter part of the eighteenth century. After shipping to India, he reformed, made his fortune, and eventually returned to England to settle down in the country in 1808. When country life proved too dull, he set about relieving its tedium by writing his memoirs. Here the mystery of literary creation, always obscure, becomes well-nigh unfathomable. How could this bluff and genial man who had never shown any literary bent before even dare to approach authorship in his sixtieth year, much less manage to summon up from the depths of memory a masterpiece of autobiography that deserves to stand beside Boswell? The gift of total recall can be one of the worst instruments of boredom, but in Hickey’s case it is something for which posterity must be permanently grateful.
Readers will be grateful also to Peter Quenncll, who, in condensing the diffuse original manuscript to one volume, THE PRODIGAL RAKE (Dutton, $6.50), has rescued Hickey from specialists in the eighteenth century and set him down in the place he deserves among lovers of literature.
Hickey is a man of many charms, a principal one being that, unlike many reformed rakes, he really enjoyed the sins of the flesh, and he enjoys them again in remembrance. And if this were not enough, he tops it all by turning his dissolute life into an enduring work of literature; surely the good Lord poured out a grace abounding to this chief of sinners.