Concerning EM Forster

From The Telegraph:

Kermodestory_1541871f EM Forster was once asked why he wasn’t more open about being homosexual, even at the cost of living abroad. After all, the French novelist André Gide had done it. Forster’s answer came quickly: “Gide hasn’t got a mother.” It’s a beautifully Forsterian answer, funny, glum and putting human considerations in front of ethical principles. Forster attempted high ethical debate in his novels, but discovered a human story could almost always make him think twice. Frank Kermode has turned a series of Cambridge lectures on Forster into a short but instructive book, adding a series of unordered reflections on aspects of Forster, which he calls a “causerie”. There is no key to Forster, apart from the general one of being an English liberal, and always being ready to retreat from and apologise for most intellectual positions. Which is a fairly unassailable intellectual position, as someone in the act of apology is always in.

Forster is caught for all time in his comments on the death of D H Lawrence. T  S Eliot found them inadequately serious: “Unless we know exactly what Mr Forster means by ‘greatest’, ‘imaginative’ and ‘novelist’, I submit that this judgment is meaningless.” Forster wrote that he, indeed, couldn’t explain what he had meant by the words and moreover couldn’t explain what ‘‘exactly’’ meant. Eliot, he said, “duly entangles me in his web”, but “there are occasions when I would rather be a fly than a spider and the death of D H Lawrence is one of these”. It’s a marvellous comment, both genuinely humble and a terrific stroke of one-upmanship.

More here.

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