Georg Lukács Herbert Read - Essay

Herbert Read

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[George Lukács's] importance as a critic was first made clear to me by the late Karl Mannheim, who had known him well in Hungary, and who … did not agree with the Marxist basis of Lukács's criticism. What one was made to realize after the reading of a single essay by this critic (and to envy), was the formidable superiority of any polemicist who combines dogma with sensibility. It is the same kind of formidability that one finds in certain Catholic writers (such as Jacques Maritain), and it makes one realize, rather ruefully, that sensibility is not enough: our humanist or libertarian criticism must have an equally strong foundation in faith. (p. 156)

[Lukács is different from most Marxist critics.] He is saved, not only by his innate sensibility, which leads him to respect those elements of form and style so often contemptuously dismissed by Marxist critics, but also by his passionate humanism, which leads him to concentrate on Balzac and Tolstoy and to present their essentially humanitarian ideals with sympathy. All this leads …, to a certain amount of "doublethink"; but how refreshing, for example, to find a Marxian critic expatiating on "the extraordinary concreteness of poetic vision" in Tolstoy, or, more generally, seeing in romanticism, not one more form of bourgeois escapism, but "the expression of a deep and spontaneous revolt against rapidly developing capitalism." (p. 158)

There can be no question of the acuteness of Lukács's intelligence—he is by far the most formidable exponent of the Marxist point of view in literary criticism that has yet appeared anywhere in the world. Like most Marxist critics in whatever sphere, Lukács begins with claims that are merely pretentious. "Marxism," he said in Studies in European Realism, "searches for the material roots of each phenomenon, regards them in their historical connections and movement, ascertains the laws of such movement and...

(The entire section is 797 words.)