KY WILLIAM BARRETT
The Nuremburg trials, which were denounced by the late Senator Taft as contrary to our own legal traditions, touched off a series of prosecutions of war criminals in Poland, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Greece, and France. In none of these so-called Successor Trials were the legal issues so tangled and questionable as in the proceedings against Adolf Eichmann in an Israeli court in 1961. EICHMANN IN JERUSALEM: A REPORT ON THE BANALITY OF EVIL (Viking, $5.00) by HANNAH ARENDT is a hard-hitting, courageous, bluntly outspoken analysis of this trial; but it seems to me, despite Dr. Arendt’! great intellectual gifts, to raise many more questions than it settles. Perhaps this is as it must be, and the controversy will rage until the structure of international law has caught up with the conscience of mankind.
First of all, Eichmann was the victim of illegal seizure; he had been kidnapped in a Buenos Aires suburb and flown without extradition to Israel. Second, he was not tried at the scene of his crimes, as our jurisprudence requires; and how could any judge, hearing evidence of the horrible crimes against his own people, not be so human as to be swayed by passion? Though sympathy would be wasted on so worthless a specimen of humanity as Eichmann, the questions of law here are not empty formalities. Law is concerned not only that justice be done but that it be done in a recognized manner. It would now be possible, Dr. Arendt points out, for agents of an African state to kidnap a white segregationist in Mississippi, bring him to trial in Ghana or Guinea, and urge the Eichmann case as a valid precedent.
As background for the trial, Dr. Arendt traces in detail how the various Nazi programs against the Jews led up to the infamous plan, called by its perpetrators the Final Solution, which was nothing less than systematic genocide. It is not pleasant reading, but is useful as a historical record, if only to remind us of what man can do to man. A more subtle but equally frightening lesson on what the state can do to man is evident in the way a totalitarian regime can mold creatures like Adolf Eichmann. Dr. Arendt’s report is most valuable in its deep grasp of the character of the accused. Far from being a monster. Eichmann was so very ordinary that he was virtually a hollow man. He lived so much by slogans and platitudes that he could even go to his death “gallantly” because he had the proper clichés to mumble. Never during or after his trial did he seem to feel guilt, or to understand the human import of what he had done; the jaws of bureaucracy had longsince devoured whatever soul he once had.
But this very banality of Eichmann raises some of the most acute difficulties at law. Eichmann claimed that he was simply obeying orders. Obedience, Dr. Arendt rejoins, is endorsement and constitutes guilt. Yet, if the modern mass state, bureaucratically employing thousands of ordinary people, commits crimes against humanity, just where does one draw the line between guilty and guiltless? This question the Eichmann trial did not answer, just as the Nuremburg trials had left it unanswered.
When he was three years old. CARL JUNG had a dream that he could remember in detail at the age of eighty. Not only that: in this dream, he tells us, lay all the motifs that he spent the second half of his life passionately elaborating. To have been claimed so early by an inner vision might, in another period and another intellectual climate, have turned Jung into a Nostradamus or a Swedenborg. But the other side of his nature was a practical and hardheaded Swiss bourgeois, who put this uncanny visionary gift to use, not to read the stars or tea leaves, but to advance science and cure souls. This duality of character, I believe, is what made Jung the unique and imposing figure he was.
MEMORIES, DREAMS, REFLECTIONS, recorded and edited by Aniela Jaffé (Pantheon, S7.50), is an altogether unusual autobiography, dealing with the inner experiences which Jung deems the only things worth telling about in his life. He began this book in the last years of his life as a series of conversations with his colleague and friend Aniela Jaffé, but as he warmed to the project, he took over the writing of the principal chapters himself. The conversational quality persists in the informal and hearty style of the finished version. The energy of the man is amazing. Past eighty, detached from earthly ties and beyond caring for the fashions of the world, he nevertheless has all the zest and curiosity of youth. Thoughts in abundance — on psychology, religion, immortality — pour from his pen, and they are all stimulating. To the end his mind remains open and undogmatic.
The most dramatic external events here related have to do with his friendship with Freud. Jung had already embarked upon his career as a psychiatrist in Zurich when he came upon Freud’s writings. Though he could not accept the Freudian dogma that the root of every neurosis is sexual, he nevertheless felt that Freud’s contributions were so significant that he had to come to the latter’s defense in the scientific journals. The two subsequently met and became friends. But they were so antithetical in nature that from the first the friendship was uneasy on both sides. Freud suspected Jung’s “mysticism”; Jung thought that the dogma of sexuality had a personal, probably neurotic source in Freud’s own personality. Freud then spoke of Jung as the crown prince, his son and heir, which left Jung’s sense of independence fretful. However, as soon as Jung had worked up his own theories, he was excommunicated by the Freudians, and his friendship with Freud ended.
Left to his own, Jung plunged anew into the task of confronting the unconscious. It was a risky business, he tells us; and had he not been safely anchored in his family and professional life, he might have been swept away. As these unconscious materials crowded upon him, his later writings became more difficult and esoteric; for many they still seem bizarre and fanciful. Jung could not help it, for he was in the grip of his daemon. He could not take time to explain himself; he had to hasten to catch up with his vision. This autobiography may help others to catch up with that vision.
The growing audience of ANTHONY POWELL’S admirers on this side of the Atlantic will welcome WHAT’S BECOME OF WARING? (Little, Brown, $4.00) as a fine sample of his earlier style. Here the mood is much more casual and lighthearted than in the later novels of the Music of Time series, where Mr. Powell trains a massive slow-molion camera on the tragicomedy of the changing social life in England during the 1930s. The proper comparison is with the earlier Evelyn Waugh, though the satire is much less bitter than Waugh’s and the fantasy more muted and whimsical. As in his later work, Mr. Powell’s chosen vein is the comedy of understatement.
The characters saunter at leisure through a plot so casual that it looks almost unpremeditated. T. T. Waring is the author of some dreadful but popular travel books and is one of the prize properties of the firm of Judkins and Judkins, two daft brothers who ought to be in any business other than publishing. The news of Waring’s death is a financial blow to the brothers, and they decide that a biography of the dead writer is not only called for but would be avidly bought by all his fans. However, Waring proves a complete mystery; nobody has ever seen him, and no facts about him can be traced. The unhappy biographer discovers that the famous travel books were all cribbed from obscure and outdated guides over which the devious Waring had merely spread the treacle of some romantic and homespun philosophizing. The mysterious writer finally turns up very much alive, and he happens to be the black-sheep brother of the girl whom the biographer plans to marry. Tired of plagiarism and potboiling. Waring had married a rich widow and engineered the news of his own death.
Mr. Powell weaves this light arabesque of plot through and around some deliciously candid snapshots of life in London, country houses, publishing offices, and the Riviera, in that carefree time long before the shadows of World War II had begun to loom and chaps had nothing much to worry about beyond meeting their tailors’ bills.
With each new book IRIS MURDOCH moves further away from brittle satire toward the more robust virtues of the old-fashioned novel. In THE UNICORN (Viking, $5.00) she has taken a headlong plunge into the dark and turbid waters of the midVictorian Gothic romance. Her story follows a basic and time-tested pattern that romancers have worked again and again since Jane Eyre: the young governess, wide-eyed and innocent, arrives at a somber country house and presently discovers that it conceals some unspeakable mystery.
From the moment she sets eyes on Gaze Castle, situated on a wild seacoast, Marian i’avlor senses this mystery. Later she learns that the lady of the castle, a young wife to whom Marian is supposed to read, is a modern Sleeping Beauty held in enchanted imprisonment by order of her husband, who will return to the castle after seven years. It is now the seventh year. Will he return? After setting the stage so romantically. Miss Murdoch proceeds to embroider a plot intricate with horrors, sexual inversion, and a couple of murders. In the end, Sleeping Beauty is revealed to be both victim and victimizer, holding others in thrall even as she herself is kept prisoner. If Miss Murdoch owes a debt to Charlotte Brontë, she leaves no doubt that she has read her Freud too.
It is refreshing, after so much urban and sophisticated fiction, to have a return to the rustic, the romantic, and the mysterious. But Miss Murdoch overdoes it a bit, and her novel makes one think of a mid-Victorian room cluttered with heavy mahogany furniture. Shuttling constantly between realism and symbolism, her story becomes too contrived and overingenious, and her characters so carefully pieced together that they resemble figures in a jigsaw puzzle. Nevertheless, Miss Murdoch is a writer of considerable skill, and readers who still have a sneaking fondness for the Gothic romance will find this novel fascinating, even if they cannot quite believe in it.
SALT by HERBERT GOLD (Dial, S4.95) is a brilliant, witty, mournful fantasy about some of the more sleazy circles of New York life.
Though his plot is a bit well-worn, Mr. Gold prods it into life with a staccato and unrelenting verbal brilliance. Peter. Dan, and Barbara are all Bohemians, and their story is the age-old triangle with some offbeat dissonances. Peter is a sad young Lothario, handsome and clever, who makes conquests easily but cannot stick with any one woman. Barbara jostles him out of his complacency, but not enough. When she sees that he is incapable of love, she orders him out of her apartment. Dan, the good guy and Peter’s war buddy, arrives from Cleveland and promptly falls in love with Barbara. Now the viciousness of Peter the werewolf comes out into the open; not being able to love, he does not want anybody else to love either, and he does his best to break up Dan and Barbara’s affair. Bad guy and good guy have one hell of a brawl, just like on TV. Good guy wins and takes the girl.
More interesting than the story itself are the colorful and off-color fauna introduced from Madison Avenue and Southampton. When Dan gets a job writing copy on Madison Avenue, Mr. Gold’s chattering style is exactly right; we seem to be inside a factory hammering and clanking and grinding out not bolts or rivets but punch lines and advertisement slogans. Dan also falls in with a weird group engaged in making pornographic films. Here the author’s remarkable gifts for comedy are at the top of their form.
But when the razzle-dazzle dies down and the style grows deliberately quieter in the last section, as if the characters were now about to emerge into daylight, Peter, Dan, and Barbara stand forth as a pretty forlorn and insubstantial trio. I find it hard to say why Mr. Gold, who seems to have all the necessary talents, should leave me disappointed. Gould he perhaps be the victim of his own cleverness? Sometimes he seems to be writing not so much as a novelist, from inside his people, but as a flashy journalist doing an article about some Village characters in which every sentence must jump.
CITIZENS OF THE WORLD
In his novels NELSON ALGREN has always been a strict regionalist of Chicago’s South Side, but in WHO LOST AN AMERICAN? (Macmillan, $4.50) he shows himself to be a surprisingly accomplished, if highly unorthodox, cosmopolitan. Taking us on a tour of the “seamier sides" of life in the great capitals — New York, Dublin, Paris, Barcelona, Istanbul he is die tough-guy traveler never to be conned by any place or face, irreverently and raucously himself.
He is also, when he chooses, a very perceptive observer, though what he sees may not always be the whole truth. New York, for example, was for Mr. Algren mainly a city of rapacious publishers and authors’ agents, where writers gather at cocktail parties to hurl their egos at each other. The Irish perplexed him because the fumes of the Middle Ages still seemed to curl around their heads. He was more at home in Paris, where he was received in the circle of Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, and in Spain; but Istanbul awakened the traveler’s jitters once again as a place “where ancient and modern world meet and both are that much worse for meeting.”
When Mr. Algren got home to Chicago, he found it changed and changing; and the last four pieces in this genially dyspeptic book go to work like a battery of air drills excavating the entrails of his native city. The old Chicago has gone, Mr. Algren laments. The lusty brawling Chicago, the Stacker of Wheat and Hog Butcher for the World celebrated by Carl Sandburg, has succumbed to the perfumed embraces of expense-account living and Playboy clubs.
In THE WATER BEETLE (Harper & Row, $3.50) NANCY MITFORD records trips to Russia and the French countryside, but it is chiefly her voyages through history and books, bringing to life eccentrics or imposing lords and ladies, that delight us in this fine collection of essays.
The water beetle, in Hilaire Belloc’s poem, glides safely on the surface of the water, but if ever asked to think, it would sink. Miss Mitford’s touch is light, but her title exaggerates her frivolity. Casual as these essays may seem, they are the product of wide and diligent reading and of much experience of the world: and their style, which appears to be artless in its simplicity, has a terseness and precision that can come about only through much pruning.
Miss Milford has made her home in Paris for the last fifteen years. She likes a great many things about the French, but none more than their love of conversation for its own sake. One of the most entertaining essays here is a brief history of the great salons of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, which were dedicated to perfecting the art of talk. The salon was the creation of strong-willed and unusual women, and as a unique social institution it could not be obtruded upon even by the family. “What became of that man I used to see sitting at the end of your table?” somebody once asked of Mme. Geoffrin, a famous eighteenth-century hostess. “He was my husband. He is dead,” came the crisp reply. Nancy Mitford is of the same indomitable and witty breed as the ladies who once presided over the salons.
BOUND NOT TO RISE
If you were not one of the 2700 people who bought a copy of JACK CONROY’S novel THE DISINHERITED in 1933, its reissue now with an excellent introduction by Daniel Aaron (Hill & Wang, $1.95) provides an opportunity to refresh your memory of how the world looked, smelled, and tasted during the Great Depression.
Jack Conroy grew up in the coalmining country of northern Missouri. Like his hero. Larry Donovan, he saw the mines take the lives of his father and brothers. Like Larry, too, he rode the freight trains to search for work in the steel mills of Ohio and the factories of Detroit. From this firsthand contact with the hard life of the workingman, Mr. Conroy writes with a pungency and veracity that can make us tolerate his deficiencies as a novelist: flat characterization, a ramblingplot, and a stock ending when the hero, at last become class-conscious, is about to go out into the world to struggle as a labor organizer.
Some of the freshest writing is found in the opening pages, which evoke the author’s own boyhood. Though Larry lives in a mining camp, he spends much time roaming the fields and farms that stretch in the shadow of the slag heaps. There is, in fact, an old-fashioned rural American quality about the Donovan family that recalls Horatio Alger. The Mother’s cry—“Oh, I wish nobody had to work in the mines!” — is a touch of pure Alger. But this is Horatio Alger in reverse, for these people struggle under the hopeless conviction that they are bound not to rise. It was a mood that gripped many in the nation then. It seems very long ago now, yet one wonders if a novel written by a West Virginia coal miner today might not read like Mr. Conroy’s.