‘Polemics pertinent at the time of publication’: Georg Lukács, International Literature, and the Popular Front

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Spring 2017
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It is a hitherto unexamined axiom of literary, cultural, and intellectual history that Georg Lukács had no interwar reception in Britain. Largely derived from Perry Anderson’s attacks on British parochialism of the 1960s and 1970s, the persistence of this presupposition can be observed in the search for autochthonous figures who might provide a proxy for Lukács in the 1930s, Christopher Caudwell being the most prominent example. And yet, there was an ‘English Lukács’: one ‘George Lukacs’ whose essays appeared in translation in the English edition of the Soviet multi-lingual journal International Literature from 1935-39. The translations included two important articles later trans-lated by Arthur Kahn, ‘Narration vs. Description’ (1937), and ‘The Intellectual Physiognomy of Literary Characters’ (1936), as the earlier translations rendered the titles; the first two chapters of The Historical Novel (1938); three lesser-known essays not re-translated, ‘Essay on the Novel’ (1936), ‘Nietzsche: Forerunner of Fascist Aesthetics’ (1935), and ‘On Socialist Realism’ (1939); and a funeral address Lukács gave for Maxim Gorky, ‘Gorky: Great Proletarian Humanist’ (1937).

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Twentieth Century Communism Journal Issue 12: Communism and the written word