Jacques Rivière claimed that great writers could not be great moral characters, because their necessarily self-centred natures made them poorly equipped for devotion and sacrifice, and since they had to distance themselves from their feelings in order to see them, these were never as genuine as with other people. Jean Guéhenno, a writer free of any taint of collaboration, wrote in his diary in 1940: “The species of the man of letters is not one of the greatest human species. Incapable of surviving for long in hiding, he would sell his soul to see his name in print.”
Didion’s sensibility has roots in sixties drift and New Journalism iconoclasm, but refracted through a conservative temperament, not unlike the satirical streak of her contemporary Tom Wolfe, that is partly an expression of her origins: Episcopalian, California old money, daughter of a career army officer.
Many claim that Ahern was constrained by the desire of the PDs and liberal ministers in his Cabinet to cut back the state. This misses the point that the social partners, including the unions, were central to the call for tax cuts, and also ignores the fact that the size of the state grew enormously under Ahern. As neoliberals go, the PDs and McCreevy were either not very good at it or less powerful than is sometimes thought.
Many self-proclaimed radicals choose to exercise their freedom in order to tell students what to think, rather than take the slower, truly academic (and ultimately more subversive) path of teaching them how to think. As such they bear an uncanny resemblance to their sworn opponents … the difference being in their preference of ideological content and not on the grounds of an ethical principle.
It would seem that it was in Beckett that he found the literary model for a kind of narrative based on a deconstruction of received knowledge, on doubt as an instrument of style that could be inserted into an historical reconstruction, and, indeed, for a defence of the individual person and an openness to a visionary spirituality.
Critics of his revisions, Yeats wrote, needed to grasp “what issue is at stake: / It is myself that I remake”, but self-reinvention is one thing and tinkering for tinkering’s sake another, the low-level molestation of poems to no discernible end or advantage. The guard who awoke to find Bonnard retouching a painting of his on the gallery wall chased the artist out of the building, we might remember.
Of the love poems, the two outstanding examples are by an archbishop of Tuam, Maol Mhuire Ó hUigín. One is addressed to a young man called Eoghan, but the point is to warn this youth not to fall in love with a woman, as the poet has done … “Don’t look,” is the message, “and if you find yourself looking, look away!” But as the poet goes on to describe the eye, the cheek, the lip that Eoghan may see if he looks, the calf, the instep, the foot, it is obvious that he cannot take his own advice. The misanthropy or misogyny which often comes into poems like this is absent.
On July 9th, 2004, the International Court of Justice found the separation wall, with the judge appointed by the United States the sole dissenting voice, to be in violation of international law. The government of Ariel Sharon ignored the judgment and ordered its completion, deepening the suspicion that the commitment of Israel (clearly evident during the hope-filled era of Yitzhak Rabin) to the negotiation of “land for peace” (essential to the creation of a Palestinian state) was waning, if it had not already been abandoned.
Strategic thinking is always a bonus in politics, never more so than during a crisis. It is comparatively rare in Irish political life, notably in linking national and international developments. Arguably, and paradoxically, Ireland has been better at long term strategy, such as its overall approach towards the EC/EU, than in dealing with more immediate change. There is a strong strain of inertia in the political and bureaucratic culture once high policy is decided on.