M I Finley, reviewing, and what to do about student protests
I have spent most of the week (when I havent been dodging the BRICKbats) with Moses Finley. As I said a few posts ago, I am giving a paper at the end of May on Finley's journalism; and the more I go on the more of it there turns out to be.
Quite how he found the time, through the 1960s and 1970s, to write so many book reviews and radio broadcasts (not to mention the colour supplement articles on the temples of Sicily etc), I really cant imagine. There was, it is true, a bit of re-cycling (the comparison of etruscheria to chinoiserie comes up more than once), and he had a number of standard tactics (like the trope of isolating a key theme and then saying "it's not even in the index").
By and large, the reviews are pretty sparkling...and pretty devastating, sometimes unkind, stuff. Finley didn't really admire many of the books he was sent to review. And it is clear from their wounded "letters to the editor" that the victims smarted at such swipes as "There are limits of tolerance and respect for errors and I am sorry to say that this book transcends them" (for "sorry", read "delighted"); or "so much earnest effort to so little purpose".
Amidst the reviews I've also come across quite a few of his little essays on culture, the state of Classics, or university politics. Given the current debates in Cambridge about the punishment meted out to Owen Holland for disrupting David Willetts's speech here earlier in the year, one particular article caught my eye.
It was a comment article in the Cambridge Review for 19 April 1968, entitled (groan) "Dr Finley's Casebook". It obviously followed some kind of student protest and subsequent punishment.. in which someone had been "sent down".
This is what Finley had to say: "Expulsion from a university is a life sentence wildly out of proportion to a pot of red pain, a pocketful of pepper or even shouting down one of Her Majesty's ministers".
Spot on really. Can hardly be bettered for good sense, some of which we could do with now.
(On another, related topic, I am trying to get hold of any audio recordings of Finley's Third Programme (later Radio Three) talks in the 1960s and 70s. These aren't preserved in the BBC Sound Archive. If anyone knows of any recordings lurking anywhere, do let me know -- bootleg or not.)