The dust jacket says this book might be considered Steiner's magnum opus, and we don't doubt it; trouble is, it seems that all of his books somehow merit that description. Which of them lacks his breadth of literary and philosophical awareness, his intuition of the preciousness of great literature, the precariousness of its existence, and even more our ability to worthily comprehend it? More, his horror in the face of the obscenity of those who did acknowledge and comprehend it and yet simultaneously created a vast machinery of destruction of an entire people in the century just past? All these concerns are here again, as Steiner turns to the possibility of hope in what he feels is the twilight of Western civilization. Surveying the impulse of creation in Homer and Virgil, in Shakespeare and Dante, Coleridge and Dostoevsky and Joyce and Celan, he stubbornly clings to that hope, that humane and transcendent values will not be smothered, either by the ''art'' of ''soiled sheets and bisected calves... [or] a Duchamp urinal,'' on the one hand, or by a seductive scientific technocracy on the other. This is a dense book, but is not of that density that results from a writer's love of baroque verbiage; rather, it arises from a soul of formidable brilliance thinking ever-more deeply on the issues close to his heart, and approaching that place where ''grammars'' must be stretched to express realities beyond words. 344 pp.
An Eighth Day View:
"We have no more beginnings," George Steiner begins in this, his most radical book to date. A far-reaching exploration of the idea of creation in Western thought, literature, religion, and history, this volume can fairly be called a magnum opus. He reflects on the different ways we have of talking about beginnings, on the "core-tiredness" that pervades our end-of-the-millennium spirit, and on the changing grammar of our discussions about the end of Western art and culture. With his well-known elegance of style and intellectual range, Steiner probes deeply into the driving forces of the human spirit and our perception of Western civilization's lengthening afternoon shadows. Roaming across topics as diverse as the Hebrew Bible, the history of science and mathematics, the ontology of Heidegger, and the poetry of Paul Celan, Steiner examines how the twentieth century has placed in doubt the rationale and credibility of a future tense-the existence of hope. Acknowledging that technology and science may have replaced art and literature as the driving forces in our culture, Steiner warns that this has not happened without a significant loss. The forces of technology and science alone fail to illuminate inevitable human questions regarding value, faith, and meaning. And yet it is difficult to believe that the story out of Genesis has ended, Steiner observes, and he concludes this masterful volume of reflections with an eloquent evocation of the endlessness of beginnings.