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A free spirit haunted by the past,
This review is from: Two Cheers For Democracy (Harvest Book) (Paperback)
In these partially out-of-date and also contradictory comments, E.M. Forster reveals clearly his vision on society, liberalism, religion, art and the artist.
He saw a huge economic movement from agriculture towards industrialization. It meant the destruction of feudalism and relations based on land, and also the transference of power from the aristocrat to the bureaucrat. (`Personally, I hate it.') (!)
He sees a class `which strangled the aristocracy, and has been haunted ever since by the ghost of its victim. It is a class of tradesmen and professional men and little Government officials, and it has come to power consequent on the Industrial Revolution. (Its) minds still hanker after the feudal stronghold which we condemned as inhabitable.'
Liberalism (economical, political, spiritual)
E.M. Forster has `no faith in the people', only in the individual.
He also has no faith in economic liberalism, which `led to the black market and the capitalist jungle.'
What he wants is political and spiritual liberalism; not an authoritarian State which tries to control men's mind and creates censorship, the secret police, the road to serfdom, the community of slaves. What he wants is real democracy which starts from the assumption that the individual is important as well as free speech.
What he also wants is tolerance and in no way force and violence. Some people call the absence of force and violence `decadence', for him it is civilization.
Another anti-liberal power is religion (Christianity): `I cannot believe that Christianity will ever cope with the present world-wide mess, and I think that such influence that it retains in modern society is due to the money behind it, rather than to its spiritual appeal'.
On the other hand, he praises Toynbee's work, which explains `the rise and fall of civilizations in accord with a religious law.'
The artist, art, literature
The superb example of the individualist is the artist with his `power of invention' (K. Clark). His heroes are L. Tolstoy and M. Proust, not V. Woolf.
M. Proust is the eminent representative of that other strong movement in society and literature: psychology, the reinterpretation of human nature, the subconscious and the irrational.
About V. Woolf, he notes: `she does not tell a story or weave a plot, and can she create character? Did she get people to live?'
A few errors
Voltaire was not one of the greatest men of European civilization. He was a slave trader.
Also, bureaucracy is not inevitable in a technical age.
These comments (on sometimes totally forgotten people and events) by a free, courageous (during WW II), sincere and `liberal' mind are a must read for all E.M. Forster fans and scholars.