cover image Real Presences

Real Presences

George Steiner. University of Chicago Press, $29 (246pp) ISBN 978-0-226-77233-2

Going against the grain of much current thought, Steiner ( After Babel ) argues here that our experience of meaning in music, painting and literature presupposes the existence of God as a ``necessary possibility.'' To this eminent critic, art makes a difference: it permanently modifies our sensory awareness (``Poplars are on fire since Van Gogh''). Steiner finds mystical hunger in Dada, Surrealism and abstract art; he interprets tragedy as a ``God-haunted'' dramatic medium; in Joyce, Beckett, Picasso and Pasternak he perceives myth to be a mooring. Even the ``purest'' work of art is, to Steiner, a value-statement that touches on moral and metaphysical issues. Dense, difficult, rewarding, this passionately argued essay ranges fluently over esthetics, linguistics, philosophy, post-structuralism, the range of Western culture. (Aug.)