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the Complete Review
the complete review - autobiography



Errata

by
George Steiner


general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase Errata



Title: Errata
Author: George Steiner
Genre: Autobiography
Written: 1997
Length: 171 pages
Availability: Errata - US
. Errata - UK
. Errata - Canada
. Errata - France
. Errata - Deutschland
  • An Examined Life

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Our Assessment:

C+ : an interesting life, but a misguided rendering.

See our review for fuller assessment.




Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Boston Globe B- 19/3/1998 Bill Marx
FAZ . 17/4/1999 .
The Globe and Mail A+ 3/1/1998 Rex Murphy
The Guardian C- 11/9/1997 John Dugdale
The LA Times A- 15/3/1998 Richard Eder
The NY Times Book Rev. D 12/4/1998 Anthony Gottlieb
Rev. of Contemp. Fiction A- Spring/1999 Thomas Hove
Salon D 18/3/1998 Scott McLemee
San Francisco Chronicle B- 12/4/1998 Kenneth Baker
The Spectator B 6/9/1997 Gilbert Adair
The Washington Post C+ 22/3/1998 Michael Dirda

  From the Reviews:
  • "Tatsächlich wäre auch die Enttäuschung überErrata leicht zu haben. Denn hier predigt jemand Bildung, die er mit seinen Büchern selbst nicht vermittelt. Man lernt nichts über den Kanon, den Steinermit eiserner Hand verwaltet. Die großen Namen sind Zitate, denen keine Bildungserzählung Leben schenkt. Sie werden auf die Bühne der Polemik geschoben,sollen dort seriös auftreten und verschwinden dann bis zum nächsten Mal in der Requisite." - Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

  • "It's a telling book about a special human being, a Midrash on a life of the mind, and I recommend it without reserve." - Rex Murphy, The Globe and Mail

  • "What promised to be a classic, a different diaspora's more cerebral answer to Nabokov's Speak, Memory, has become an incoherent, broken book, an early draft mistakenly, perhaps unkindly, published." - John Dugdale, The Guardian

  • "Errata is a much better book than it could have been." - Thomas Hove, Review of Cont. Fiction

  • "To admirers of Steiner (the only people likely to pick it up to begin with), Errata is bound to disappoint and embarrass." - Scott McLemee, Salon

  • "But the question most likely to glare in the mind of the reader who has just finished Errata will be why did Steiner write it ?" - Kenneth Baker, San Francisco Chronicle

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Our admiration for George Steiner is great. A fine thinker, a great writer, we always look forward to his literary efforts. His multicultural, trilingual background, his career -- that has seen him hold positions at both The Economist and The New Yorker, as well as academic chairs at Oxford and Geneva --, his intellectual interests and pursuits, all make for a fascinating figure. The eagerly awaited autobiography held the promise of offering greater insight into the man. Ah, but as so often with promises .....
       Humbly titled Errata Steiner's book purports to be "an examined life." A relatively short account, it does cover much of his life and what has influenced him, framing the intellectual and philosophical questions that concern him in an autobiographical manner. Absent, however, is the rigor we are used to in Steiner's work. This autobiographical study is a casual piece, Steiner's self-consciousness and proximity to his subject hampering the text. He means to be honest and straightforward, but remains highly selective in what he reveals. Turning to questions of language, religion, literature, culture he (briefly) does what he does best, but the asides (which at times want to overwhelm the text) fit uneasily in the autobiographical work.
       There are enough striking moments. "One of the doctors assisting at my awkward birth then returned to Louisiana to assassinate Huey Long," he writes. Steiner lived a turbulent life in turbulent times, and he lived it well. Nevertheless, the uneasy mix he has chosen for this book leaves it unsatisfactory. Even his prose, which we enjoy so in both his essays and his fiction, falls short here, at turns trying to be evocative (in imitative pastiches), sentimental, or -- too rarely -- dispassionate.
       We would like to know more about the man George Steiner, and we had hoped to find it here. He tries to be revealing, but it is too obvious that too much is also concealed here. He will have a true biographer some day. In the mean time, we hope he returns to writing pieces more suited to his style.

       It is a curious book, and we can really only recommend it to those with a greater interest in Mr. Steiner -- with the warning that they will not find what they seek here.

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Links:

Errata: Reviews: George Steiner: Other works by Steiner under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       George Steiner, born in 1929, is one of the foremost intellectuals of our time. A professor at Cambridge and Geneva, visiting professor at Oxford he is the author of numerous books.

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© 1999-2008 the complete review

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