... despite antennae exceedingly alert to the changing 'spirit of the age', I apprehended too late certain key shifts. Aware, early on, of the widening authority of the mathematical and experimental sciences, intensely involved in the 'language-revolution' and the coming of the new media of meaning, I none the less did not identify rigorously the underlying tectonic drift. Educated in a hypertrophied reverence for the classics, in that near-worship of the 'titans' of thought, music, literature and the arts, so characteristic of emancipated central European Judaism, I felt committed to the canonic, the confirmed and the 'immortal' (those immortels mummified in the French Academy!). It took too long before I understood that the ephemeral, the fragmentary, the derisive, the self-ironising are the key modes of modernity; before I realised that the interactions between high and popular culture, notably via the film and television - now the commanding instruments of general sensibility and, it may be, of invention - had largely replaced the monumental pantheon. Influential as they are, deconstruction and postmodernism are themselves only symptoms, bright bubbles at the surface of a much deeper mutation. It is, as I have suggested, of the related classical impulse in art and poetry to endure, to achieve timelessness which are, today, in radical question. It is the transformation of these ontological-historical categories, in Kant's sense of the word, it is the ebbing of ideals and performative hierarchies instrumental since the pre-Socratics, which define what I have called 'the epilogue' but which others acclaim as 'the new age'. There is too much I have grasped too late in the day. Too often my activity as a writer and teacher, as a critic and scholar, has been, consciously or not, an in memoriam, a curatorship of remembrance. But could it be otherwise after the Shoah.
George Steiner, Errata