George Steiner interviewed by Alan Macfarlane
Steiner was born in Paris in 1929, delivered - according to family lore - by an American doctor who then returned to Louisiana to assassinate Huey Long. His parents, Frederick and Else Steiner, were Austrian Jews who had taken French citizenship, and the children were brought up speaking English, French and German, to which Steiner later added Italian. His father, an investment banker, was "an agnostic, a Voltairean", Steiner says. But he "had deeply the Jewish sense that there is no higher vocation than teaching" and encouraged his son's classical studies. When rumours of war came, "Mamam was indignant. She said, 'They will die on the Maginot Line if they dare attack.' My father, bless him under the name of God, saw more clearly." Tipped off by a German former colleague while visiting New York on behalf of the French government, Frederick Steiner arranged for his wife and children to join him there in 1940.(more...)
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