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Monday, January 07, 2008

George Steiner in Love

It’s been too long since the world’s last instalment of Steinerisms, but it’s a pleasure and a relief to learn from a Sunday Times review of his latest, My Unwritten Books, that (to adapt the philosophico-ethical recensions of the Sartro-Camusian homme dans le boulevard) he is still the total fuckwit we know and love:

Ch. “when nearing climax . . . would cry out, though in a muted register, the name ‘Sankt Nepomuk the Lesser.’ ” Another used the euphemism “taking the streetcar to Grinzing” to signify “a gentle, somewhat respectful anal access”.

In bed, in Angers, a French conquest used the rare subjunctive pluperfect, as perfected by Proust, “which arrested me, in, as it were, mid-flow” – something worth remembering if trapped in a lift with the professor. Another rebuked him for taking an unspeakable liberty: “ ‘How dare you address me as tu?’ panted V even as I parted her comely legs.”

He recalls “a glorious ebony partner” in Tulsa, Oklahoma, an intriguingly “unmentionable caress” called “our flowering cactus”, and another’s “lobelias gently watered with saliva”. A woman whose initial he cannot remember, a one-off in a hotel bedroom, observed as they undressed, “Am I myself? Are you you?” “The question,” Steiner muses, “seemed to stem directly out of Fichte’s meditations on the cancellation of the self.” Well, maybe. Or maybe she was just drunk.

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