Appeared in Spring 2002, Vol. XXVII, No. 1
Gabriel Josipovici is a practitioner of what George Steiner, in his fine book of 1959, Tolstoy or Dostoevsky, called the Old Criticism. He is a Jewish polymath who was born in France in 1940 and, together with his wealthy Egyptian family, survived the Second War there, before living for a dozen years in Egypt and then immigrating to England in 1956. Now a research professor in the humanities at the University of Sussex, Josipovici is also a novelist, a playwright, and a critic who ranges over the entirety of Western literature. He approaches the great texts from love and admiration, not with a captious desire to deflate and unmask. With Matthew Arnold, he agrees that we need to keep recurring to the “ five or six supreme poets of the world” who have asked fundamental questions in lasting literary ways, there to derive fundamental answers for our own time. This task requires the critic to have a philosophical temper of mind and the willingness to make large moral judgments, in the conviction that technique and metaphysics are inseparable.
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