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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book with something for everyone., 19 May 2003
This review is from: Two Cheers for Democracy (Paperback)
I first bought a copy of this book back in April 2000, merely because I had read some of Forster's novels and had enjoyed them. I thought that Forster might have more interesting things to say, and was quite prepared to give him a fair hearing.
I was in no way prepared, however, for the profound effect that this collection of essays, articles and broadcasts would have on me. Before long I was hooked, and it wasn't long before I was underlining bits that I particularly liked, and even now, three years later, I have some of his more perceptive phrases stuck on the wall of my bedroom. It is as if he articulated vague impressions that I had already been entertaining, as if he gave me a nudge and I suddenly understand things.
It was not the entire book that affected me in this way. Two Cheers for Democracy can be divided into two halves. The first half was mostly writing just before and during the second world war and is more philosophical in outlook. The rest of the book is more to do with criticism of literature, art and music. While it is a hugely satisfying read in its entirity, it is the first half that had the most profound impact upon me.
Forster discusses a myriad of subjects, including the threat from Nazi Germany, the importance of criticism, the necessity of the defence of culture, the dangers of belief systems, and the need for tolerance. His insights of the world around him are perceptive almost to the point of prophetic , and always underlined with that humanity that uplifts all of his writing. He is worried, and at times repulsed, by the world of men, but he is also not without hope that things will get better and that mankind is essentially good . Understanding, kindness, humour and hope underpin even the most gloomy of his essays. Whether he is writing about literature or philosopical questions , his engaging style will keep you hooked.
Whatever your beliefs or your interests, there will be something in this book for you. If you plan to dip into it from time to time, I would suggest that you begin by reading his essay "What I Believe" which is my personal favourite and which really brings you face to face with the wonder that was E. M. Forster.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A free spirit haunted by the past, 28 Nov 2010
By 
Luc REYNAERT (Beernem, Belgium) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Two Cheers for Democracy (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.

Society
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.

Christianity
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.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Forster at his best, 18 Sep 2011
By 
D. J. Andrews "David Andrews" (Keele, UK) - See all my reviews
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This collection of essays certainly rivals Orwell in the authors understanding of his contemporary world. The main lessons indicative in Forsters novels come to the fore in his essays on tolerance and democracy. There is also a swath of literary criticism that is pretty much top notch for its time.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Warm, erudite and beautifully written, 17 July 2012
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This review is from: Two Cheers for Democracy (Paperback)
I've always liked Forster. There's something warm and Edwardian about him that endears me to him. His tone reminds me of Gonzalo in The Tempest, a talent that others mock.

I've not finished the book yet, but am thoroughly engrossed by this State Of The Nation book and the wise, warm words that come from it.
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Two Cheers for Democracy
Two Cheers for Democracy by E. M. Forster (Paperback - 29 Oct 1970)
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