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This article is taken from PN Review 48, Volume 12 Number 4, March - April 1986.

La chambre claire - the lost dimension Roger Poole

This should be the most exciting and fascinating moment in the whole history of literature and of literary criticism. Yet it is soured, to what I feel is an increasingly high degree, by fear, bitterness, mistrust and intolerance. I have not forgotten, no, Pope's anguish at the lowness of Grub Street. I am not proposing any kind of Golden Age. Yet, as the literary experience grows richer and more many-sided, as it encompasses more and more of our experience, it seems to impoverish readers and writers as human beings. It is almost impossible to hold a literary conversation any more. The phrase, which I constantly invoke in the course of discussions nowadays, 'in the common pursuit of true judgment' is more often than not met with a wry or contemptuous, in any case a dismissive, smile, as if we have left the decencies of Johnsonian expectation far behind, and I ought to know that. Nevertheless, I do not in fact believe that it is a standard we should abandon.

Part of my regret comes through a kind of madeleine which I often dip in my tea: the memory of those heady days in Paris in the mid-1960s, when not only was the sky the limit so far as political improvement was concerned, but the same was true of literature. It was absolutely exhilarating to attend, for instance, Jean Hyppolite's usual weekly lecture on Hegel's Logic at the Collège de France, and to see a man who had ...


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