Sunday, August 23, 2015

deep blue clarities of a delighting mind

--- Robert Conquest, quoted in the obituary by Charlemagne in The Economist, 15 August 2015.

From the column:

When the Soviet archives opened, his meticulous work was utterly vindicated. His books were published in Russia, and he brought out updated editions in English. Mulling a new title for “The Great Terror”, his pal Kingsley Amis suggested “I told you so, you fucking fools”. He preferred derision to self-righteousness, summarising Soviet Communism in a much-quoted limerick:
There was a great Marxist called Lenin
Who did two or three million men in.
That’s a lot to have done in,
But where he did one in
That grand Marxist Stalin did ten in.
The kind of people who overlooked such trifles, he reckoned, were also willing to scrub their minds on other issues. He despised much modern literary criticism: it used “important” freely but shunned “beautiful”. For him, the great pursuit was the “deep blue clarities of a delighting mind”. He wrote: “Just as it is people who think they have discovered the laws of history who have, in our time, inflicted our major public catastrophes so—in a lesser field, or at least one in which the results are not so literally bloody—it is those who think they have discovered the laws of literature who have been the destroyers.”

Another lovely little poem quoted, "Sooner or Later", introduced as follows: "Having seen where grand designs led, he cherished scepticism and moderation."

What’s helpful? Not much. Nothing?
But to fill in the time
There’s little harm in clothing
Such nude truths with a rhyme.