On the Horizon: The Highbrow Know-Nothings
WYNDHAM LEWIS’s The Revenge for Love, written in 1937 and now published in this country for the first time, is a satirical exposure of Stalinist society in England at the time of the Spanish Civil War. Its virtues are numerous. Lewis shows a remarkably clear grasp of the consequences of the Communist ideology, its appeal, the personal motives that press for its embrace, the pretentious stupidity, neurotic extravagances, and ideological viciousness it fosters. He recognizes that sense of ubiquitous crisis which so often impells and obsesses the Stalinist and the rationalistic liberal: “They only seemed to get really happy when they proved up to the hilt that everything was as hopeless as anything and you might as well go lie down and die.” He knows too that “false politics, of sham-underdogs athirst for power-which treated the real poor, when they were encountered, with such overweening contempt, and even derision.” In fact, he knows-and presents with a large and genuine intelligence-almost everything we have learned about Stalinism and, even more important, the Stalinist personality. When his publisher writes on the dust-jacket, “The incredible thing . . . is that such a book could have been written in 1937,” one may wince at the complacency of “incredible,” but one must grant the point.
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