PN Review Print and Online Poetry Magazine
Most Read... Rebecca WattsThe Cult of the Noble Amateur
(PN Review 239)
Mark FordLetters And So It Goes
Letters from Young Mr Grace
(aka John Ashbery)

(PN Review 239)
Henry Kingon Toby Martinez de las Rivas
(PN Review 244)
Eavan BolandA Lyric Voice at Bay
(PN Review 121)
Vahni CapildeoOn Judging Prizes, & Reading More than Six Really Good Books
(PN Review 237)
Tim Parksin conversation with Natalia Ginzburg
(PN Review 49)
Next Issue Colm Toibin on Thom Gunn's Letters Allice Hiller and Sasha Dugdale in conversation David Herman on the life of Edward W. Said Jena Schmitt on Hope Mirrlees Brian Morton: Now the Trees
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
PNR 250 Poetry Archive Banner
PN Review New Issue

This interview is taken from PN Review 78, Volume 17 Number 4, March - April 1991.

George Steiner in conversation Nicolas Tredell


Nicolas Tredell: In your books, you've given some glimpses of your early life - of the 'polyglot matrix', as you call it in After Babel (1975, p. 116), in which you were raised, of the influence of your father, of your schooling at lycĂ©es in Paris and New York, of the growing threat of Fascism. Could you give us an outline of your early cultural development?

George Steiner: Yes. The first and central point is that it was physically very safe and privileged in Paris. Psychologically, my father had no doubt at all, from the late twenties on, that the catastrophe was coming, and among my earliest memories are those of Hitler's voice on the radio being picked up by my parents with a sense of absolute and terrible certainty. So I was educated under the pressure of trying to get ready to move. My father saying, on a Monday you start packing your steamer trunk and on a Tuesday your hand baggage, stuck with me even before I quite understood it. And the polyglot matrix gave a kind of wonderful sense of not being afraid of being caught in any one place. Very systematically, my father suggested to me that the more languages you knew, the more you learned of other cultures and other ways, the more you might have a chance of acting, of making a contribution, without necessarily being where you were as a child. I'd like to stress that this, far from introducing any particular ...

Searching, please wait... animated waiting image