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One of the Guardian Unlimited Books' top 10 literary blogs: "A home-grown treasure ... smart, serious analysis"

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Blog entries on '05 February 2007'

Monday 05 February 2007

Malcolm Bowie RIP

I've just learned of the sad death of the British academic, and Master of Christ's College, Cambridge from 2002 to 2006, Professor Malcolm Bowie. Malcolm (May 5th 1943 - January 28th 2007) was an acclaimed scholar of French literature who wrote several books on Marcel Proust, including the excellent Proust Among the Stars. As yet, I've seen no obituaries and have no further information (if you know more, please leave a comment or email me. Thanks).


Update: There is some information about the funeral ceremony to be held for Michael, this coming Wednesday, at the University of Cambridge website. (Thanks to Dave Lull for this.)

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Monday 05 February 2007

New Rieff

Frantically busy here (busy adding content to The Book Depository site, finishing a review of -- one of my Books of the Month -- Rosalind Belben's wonderful Our Horses in Egypt for the TLS, and busy painting my cellar) ... so you must forgive the scant posting here at RSB. However, whilst I am here, do note that the latest (last? he died last summer) Philip Rieff volume Charisma: The Gift of Grace, and How It Has Been Taken Away from Us has just landed:


In Charisma, Philip Rieff explores the emergence and evolution of this mysterious and compelling concept within Judeo-Christian culture. Its first expression was in the idea of the covenant between God and the Israelites: Charisma – religious grace and authority – was transferred through divine inspiration to the Old Testament prophets; it was embodied by Jesus of Nazareth, the first true charismatic hero. Rieff shows how St. Paul transformed charisma into a form of social organization, how it was reworked by Martin Luther and by nineteenth-century Protestant theologians, and, finally, how Max Weber redefined charisma as a secular political concept. By emptying charisma of its religious meaning, Weber opened the door to the modern perception of it as little more than a form of celebrity, stripped of moral considerations.

Rieff rejects Weber’s definition, insisting that Weber misunderstood the relation between charisma and faith. He argues that without morality, the gift of grace becomes indistinguishable from the gift of evil, and it devolves into a license to destroy and kill in the name of faith or ideology. Offering brilliant interpretations of Kierkegaard, Weber, Kafka, Nietzsche, and Freud, Rieff shows how certain thinkers attacked the very possibility of faith and genuine charisma and helped prepare the way for the emergence of a therapeutic culture in which it is impossible to recognize that which is sacred. Rieff’s analysis of charisma is an analysis of the deepest level of crisis in our culture.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Serendipoetry

Memorial Tablet

Squire nagged and bullied till I went to fight,
(Under Lord Derby’s Scheme). I died in hell—
(They called it Passchendaele). My wound was slight,
And I was hobbling back; and then a shell
Burst slick upon the duck-boards: so I fell
Into the bottomless mud, and lost the light.

At sermon-time, while Squire is in his pew,
He gives my gilded name a thoughtful stare:
For, though low down upon the list, I’m there;
‘In proud and glorious memory’... that’s my due.
Two bleeding years I fought in France, for Squire:
I suffered anguish that he’s never guessed.
Once I came home on leave: and then went west...
What greater glory could a man desire?

-- Siegfried Sassoon
Collected Poems (Faber and Faber)

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Word of the Day

The Dord, the Diglot, and an Avocado or two

Pre-order Anu Garg's new book: The Dord, the Diglot, and an Avocado or Two: The Hidden Lives and Strange Origins of Common and Not-So-Common Words (ISBN 9780452288614), published by Penguin more …

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October's Books of the Month

The New Spirit of Capitalism The New Spirit of Capitalism
Luc Boltanski; Eve Chiapello
Horizons Touched: The Music of ECM Horizons Touched: The Music of ECM
Steve Lake, Paul Griffiths

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