Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Kirsch on Stern

Once in America, Mr. Stern found a new life opening before him. He was still deeply occupied with conditions in Europe, especially once the war began, and writes poignantly of the high-school debates and editorials in which he tried to infect his classmates with enthusiasm for the Allied cause. But America was also a liberation — for one thing, from the medical career that his family traditions pointed toward. Instead, studying at Columbia with professors like Lionel Trilling and Jacques Barzun opened his eyes to the worlds of literature and history. Remarkably quickly, Mr. Stern would become their colleague, and join them in espousing the civilized liberalism of Cold War Morningside Heights. One of the best later chapters of Mr. Stern's memoir deals with his principled resistance to the student radicals of 1968, whom he recognized as enemies of a hard-won liberal order. He writes proudly that his speech at a crucial meeting helped to defeat a faculty motion in support of the student strike.
— Adam Kirsch, “A Happy life in Difficult Times” (review of Five Germanys I Have Known, by Fritz Stern), The New York Sun, August 23, 2006.

See also Fritz Stern.