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Grammars of Creation Paperback – 18 Feb 2002

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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber; New Ed edition (18 Feb. 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571206425
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571206421
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 2 x 20 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 606,456 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

In Grammars of Creation critic George Steiner discusses how key differences between the historical meanings of concepts of "creation" and "invention" in the arts and the sciences relate to time, the world, and the human psyche.

For Steiner there are four interrelated and, as it were, "transcendental", domains in which men and women seek to escape "the eradicating dictates of biological-historical time" (or death): music, poetry and the arts, pure mathematics and speculative metaphysics. He argues that the "creation" and reception of works of art have rendered them "more indispensable to men and women than even the best of science and technology." On the other hand, industrial and technological "invention" answerable to specific needs is viewed as worldly, pragmatic and utilitarian.

Steiner's belief that the current changes in "the experience of communication, of information, of knowledge, of the generation of meaning and form, are probably the most comprehensive and consequential since Homo sapiens development of language itself" provides the background for these reflections. He also believes that the root and branch critique of language in Central Europe during the first third of the 20th century (supported currently by philosophy, literature, sociology, political science, sociology and the arts) may have consequences more far-reaching than those of the political revolutions and economic crisis which have marked our age.

He wonders if the creation of art, poetry and metaphysics in the future may prove more difficult. If artists and philosophers have been enabled and fuelled, in some sense, by an explicit engagement with transcendence, then what is the fate of the creative process in a technologically driven age and in an intellectual world where the notion of "transcendence" is ridiculed?

What is most impressive about Grammars of Creation is Steiner's breadth of knowledge: he is equally at home talking about Plato and Dante as he is Heidegger and Hegel, the Romantic poets, music, mathematics, modern art or the Bible. Overall, this is a dense, unapologetically high-toned book perhaps not suitable for those with weak powers of concentration. Nevertheless it remains a fascinating work of creative synthesis unusual--by contemporary standards--in its willingness to allow the ultimate metaphysical questions to sit centre-stage. Well worth the sustained effort required to read it.--Larry Brown --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


'This is a mesmerizing book... Expressed in prose that is unfailingly apt, luminous and evocative.' Guardian

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By RR Waller TOP 500 REVIEWER on 21 Aug. 2011
Format: Hardcover
This volume is the collected Gifford Lectures of 1990 in which Steiner looks deeply into the nature of creation and invention; in this long essay, he organises and shapes his argument with great skill and authority making many nice distinctions to separate these two.
"Most radical are those aesthetic traditions and artists who negotiate nothingness." (P 113) Here he looks at the minimalists, e.g. Mondrian, to discover ways in which their art works. "We have long been ... guests of creation. We owe to our host the courtesy of questioning." In this final sentence, he sums up this wide-ranging, fascinating book.
Typically erudite Steiner - recommended.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 4 April 2001
Format: Hardcover
In this long Essay, George Steiner attempts to analyse the dichotomy between invention and creation. Through this analysis, he succeeds in bridging the divide. This is no surprise, as he is an eminent critic and also an excellent writer. This book encourages the reader to delve into the dictionary for his most complex explanations of themes. This is not a criticism as this enables the reader to gain a thorough grasp of the mechanics of the creative process. Steiner investigates the birth of the creative impulse from Biblical times, through to the Internet sophistication of the present day. Along the way, he discusses the creation philosophies of the Pre-Socratics and Shakespeare, who remain icons in the Artistic realm. This book was a highly original and inventive thesis and removed the mystery behind the artist's work.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Dani on 5 Mar. 2012
Format: Paperback
I bought Grammars of Creation by Professor Emeritus George Steiner as I already have many of Steiner's books, all of which, without exception have proved to be not only an enjoyable read, but also a most challenging one.

George Steiner has a unique style of writing in that the author's voice resonates from the first words on page one until the end of a book. Whether Steiner is writing about the intricacies and nuances of language as in ['Language and Silence' or a marvellous comparative work titled 'Tolstoy or Dostoevsky'] one emerges, by the end of a Steiner book, having had ones curiousity satisfied and with a feeling that the time spent reading was worthwhile and most rewarding. Of course, other authors have this capability also, but we are discussing Steiner at this time! Enjoy!
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