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The Silence of Animals: On Progress and Other Modern Myths Hardcover – June 4, 2013
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“Gray's godless mysticism asks us to look outside ourselves and simply see. This is a lot more difficult than it sounds . . . Sometimes I think John Gray is the great Schopenhauerian European Buddhist of our age. What he offers is a gloriously pessimistic cultural analysis, which rightly reduces to rubble the false idols of the cave of liberal humanism.” ―Simon Critchley, The Los Angeles Review of Books
“[Gray's is] a powerful message, and not without elements of profundity. And it is conveyed with eloquence of language and dignity of thought.” ―Robert W. Merry, The National Interest
“Gray's fans should find much here to please them. The range of literary, historical and philosophical extracts--from Conrad and Zweig to Borges and John Ashbery, and from Nietzsche and Freud to Robinson Jeffers and Czeslaw Milosz, to name only a few--is broad and deep. Gray's own utterances are by turns characteristically dark, audacious and outrageous.” ―Caspar Henderson, The Telegraph
“Silence of Animals is a beautifully written book, the product of a strongly questioning mind. It is effectively an anthology with detailed commentary, setting out one rich and suggestive episode after another, each of which becomes only more suggestive by the juxtaposition.” ―Philip Hensher, The Spectator
About the Author
John Gray is the author of many critically acclaimed books, including The Immortalization Commission, Black Mass, and Straw Dogs. A regular contributor to The New York Review of Books, he is Emeritus Professor of European Thought at the London School of Economics.
Top Customer Reviews
The Silence of Animals is arranged in three parts. The first looks at the idea of progress and how people's belief in it has disintegrated when faced with human barbarity. The two world wars left ruin in their wake and Gray looks at the reactions of writers such as J G Ballard, Norman Lewis and Stefan Zweig to the rapid disappearance of civilised behaviour in the brutality of war. Barbarism can also emerge from economic crisis: the Great Depression and the inflation in inter-war Germany, and the financial crash of 2008, each destroyed the wealth of countless families. They rendered years of faith in saving and building a future utterly meaningless, even as the alchemists of finance breathed a sigh of relief over their canapés at finding their own fortunes unscathed.
Gray was previously an academic political theorist and he sees authoritarian politics, whether of the left or right, as an attempt to deny the chaos of reality and to fake a sense of order. People like certainty and the dream of a better day to come, and therein perhaps lies the appeal of those charlatans who would have us believe that they can plan and control our future.
In the end, progress is a myth because evolution is about survival, not about constant improvement.Read more ›
Ignore Thomas Nagel's NY Times book review. As much as I like Nagel's work, his review is off considerably. He claims that Gray inserts far too much secondary quotation from other books. This is not really even a matter of opinion. It is simply false. Gray uses what is necessary to convey his ideas within an intellectual's context. Nagel also claims that Gray hammers away for no reason as there are many examples of progress available. Well, Nagel just walks into the trap here as Gray explains why such examples are part of a greater myth.
Gray has carefully explained the nature of our wishful thinking and, without ideological bias or academic rancor, he has done his part for disenchantment. Yet, he has not, in any way, attempted to create a nihilist's playbook. He allows much for the advance of meaning.
Really--a marvelous book. It deserves much more attention than it seems to be getting.
I love this book. To be fair, I'm a huge John Gray fan, so I pretty much knew I was going to love it from the outset. I was right. By using the lives and words of others to build his arguments and illuminate his world view, Gray creates a haunting, moving dreamscape of thought, a ghostly fortress of logic, that carries readers along to his inescapable conclusions: progress is a myth, humans are animals (and unexceptional animals at that) and we do ourselves a disservice by hiding behind religion and other myths which prevent us from just being ... and therefore being happy.
It's not for everyone. If you enjoy having your belief systems shaken like a martini, or relish in seeing atheism called into question for falling short of the mark, or wonder if faith in science and progress is really just the recycled and misguided faith of the religious, this short, epic, sad, funny, tragic, exasperating, ultimately uplifting book is for you.
Some of my favorite lines:
"According to some historians, inequality in America at the start of the twenty-first century is greater than in the slave-based economy of imperial Rome in the second century. Of course there are differences. Contemporary America is probably less stable than imperial Rome.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This collection of essays was a dense read, but it must be read more than once. I couldn't help but underlining a couple of lines - simply so I could return to them later. Read morePublished 20 hours ago by Umer Vakil
In this great book, Gray discusses some obvious myths in the ideology of progress, but forgets to tackle its origins and the current destruction of the natural world, which... Read morePublished 6 months ago by J. D. Shockley
I was skeptical, I generally don't read modern philosophy. It's usually watered down concepts rehashed from 19th century thinkers. I was wrong. Read morePublished 13 months ago by KoalaFace
The Silence of Animals: On progress and other modern myths. (2013) John Gray
This book is what gives higher education its general derogatory, as in over –valued/bloated... Read more
This collection of essays is a must read. As almost all of his other titles, they are inspiring and instigant at the same time and commands you to think - unusual pastime in an age... Read morePublished 17 months ago by Luiz H.S.de Vasconcellos
John Gray picks up the Nietzschean hammer in this book to smash the idols of "progress", "humanism", "rationality", "Pauline Christianity', and all... Read morePublished 17 months ago by sully
Gray introduced me to Schopenhauer. I recommend reading both seriously. Grays analysis here and elsewhere on human folly and cognitive dissonance are worth considering. Read morePublished 20 months ago by baroque listener
Different ideas sell no matter you agree with or not. John Gray is a shameless pessimist that may turn the last light off over your head and turn your room to bleak dark. Read morePublished 20 months ago by M. Azizoglu