Books: The Revolt of the Pendulum |
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The Revolt of the Pendulum

Essays 2005–2008

To the memory of
Pat Kavanagh

A commentator has indeed great temptations to supply by turbulence what he wants of dignity, to beat his little gold to a spacious surface, to work that to foam which no art or diligence can exalt to spirit.

— Johnson, Preface to Shakespeare

Many times, unsettled by his own astonishment, Golo Mann returned to the question of how, in the 1960s, there could have been such a remarkable renaissance of Marxism, whose recipe for health had already, for a generation, been laden with intellectual compromise and victims by the million. To him, it was as if a spectre had reawakened. And if that filled him with anxiety, he also had the counter-spectre before his eyes, together with the knowledge that it had been in their competition with each other that they had both first grown strong. From the common experience of the older generation, the ruins and the traces of suffering were still visible, indeed written in the wind. Most frightening of all, it had become obvious that no historical disaster could quell the longing for one or another of the world-burning ideologies; that even the bloodiest of evidence could do nothing against it; and that there seemed to be no horizon where such a no-man's-land might end.

— Joachim Fest, Begegnungen

A Note on the Text

Most of the essays in this book appear just as they were first printed by various publications whether in Britain, Australia or the United States. To all those many generous editors, my thanks, and I mean them no disrespect by having occasionally restored production cuts, undone the rigours of house style, or reversed the effects of supposedly beneficial changes in the prevailing version of the English language. In Australia, for example, the Symphony Orchestra, in any major city that has one, is nowadays called the Symphony: a clear case of needless confusion introduced through the itch for improvement. A symphony is something composed by, say, Beethoven. A symphony orchestra is something that performs it. To restore such distinctions I counted as a simple duty, like clarifying my own prose where it seemed necessary. But on the whole I have tried to leave a piece exactly as it was, following my established practice of adding afterthoughts only in a postscript. An updated essay would be torn loose from its time, and the resulting claim to prescience would falsify everything in it, because my main aim as a cultural commentator is to help define the connections between the past and the present, in the sure conviction that the future is uncertain. The date given at the end of each piece is therefore the first clue to its beginning.


Quadrant (Australia)

Independent (Ireland)