It was my very great pleasure over the past weekend to listen to two different podcasts each featuring a great thinker and liberal artist. Almost six decades separate their ages. George Steiner is close to his ninth decade and Maria Popova has just entered her third. Both were born in Europe and emigrated to the U.S. Where Steiner’s thinking has been characterised as ‘doom laden’ (I think that is laying it on a bit thick, myself, but I can see how people might subscribe to this view), the interview with Popova revealed her as a bright and hope-centred person. Both seem to enjoy very fruitful relationships with the dead. Popova was born and raised in communist Bulgaria, and Steiner’s European childhood was marked by flight from Nazism. For each of them, intellectual life was and remains a form of spiritual revivification, one in which literature and poetry, reading and writing are not only not taken for granted but serve as mooring points for the orienting of the human person.
I was particularly drawn by the wide-ranging thoughtfulness of each of the speakers and link the podcasts below.
George Steiner on Intelligence Squared (March 21, 2016)
Maria Popova on On Being (May 14, 2015)