"Murray is the best kind of literary biographer" – The Financial Times.
For more information about the books of Nicholas Murray
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Winner of the 2015 Basil Bunting Award for poetry

Sunday, 22 July 2007

A Thought for Today

"I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound and stab us. If the book we're reading doesn't wake us up with a blow on the head, what are we reading it for...A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us. That is my belief."

"...ein Buch muss die Axt sein für das gefrorene Meer in uns. Das glaube ich."

Franz Kafka


Andrew said...

Hi, Nicholas, I'm presuming you're the author of the Huxley biog I've upstairs...just checked- indeed you are. Thanks for a fine work. On topic, the early works, in particular, of Knut Hamsun would seem to be the kind of books described by Kafka. Or I suppose, the figure that looms over all modern literature & indeed perhaps life...who else but Dostoevsky.

Andrew said...

Just to add, Nicholas, I presume you are aware of the John Carey review of your Huxley book in the ST(I'm not fully sure it was of your biog, but I'm presuming it most likely was). That had to be the most astonishing piece of ignorant vitriol that ever passed itself off as a book review...which I suppose is a compliment to Huxley that he evidently makes such figures as Carey so uneasy.

Nicholas Murray said...

Thanks for those comments, Andrew, and as regards Carey and Huxley this is a tiff between the two of them that has been going on for some time. In fairness to Carey I criticised him in my preface for his approach to Huxley in every TV documentary and books programme and review. I feel that he is wrong about Huxley and that his monopoly view (an easy and attractive one to English audiences because it involves debunking progressive or liberal writers) needed to be challenged. I find his book The Intellectuals and the Masses deeply unsatisfactory; others love it precisely because it validates the dismissal of these writers. In the end, as you wisely say, it is a tribute to Huxley that he still has the power to vex Mr Murdoch's Reviewer in Chief.

Andrew said...

Huxley vs Carey...heavyweight vs light featherweight. I'm not English myself(Irish) so I hope you won't mind my mentioning there's a reason that figures like Dostoevsky & Nietzsche culd be so disparaging about certain characteristics of "the English", which is the point you've alluded to- a comfort in mediocrity; Nietzsche's "poverty, dirt & a miserable ease." Carey evidently sides with the Grand Inquisitor in their attitude to humanity...keep them in their lowly place-they're not fit for freedom. It's a humiliating job Carey's taken on but someone's got to do it, I suppose. I've a very short piece on a figure I'm sure Carey(& Murdoch) would approve of here