MIDWAY : Lust for language
Fiercely original and audacious” is how the publisher described professor George Steiner’s new book, called, self-contradictingly, My Unwritten Books.
Sex-crazed is the way most critics have seen it, predictably ignoring all the dull stuff on Judaism, education, Chinese civilisation and artistic rivalry, and homing in on chapter three, The Tongues of Eros, where Steiner relives a lifetime of lovemaking in a variety of languages.
“Compared to Professor Steiner, the autobiography of the busty glamour-model Jordan is a beacon of restraint,” said one critic.
Steiner’s premise - the intellectual justification for his candour - is that sex and language are intertwined. “Ejaculation is integral to both,” he says. “The male orgasm is an exclamation mark.”
Even masturbation “enacts the paradoxes of soliloquy”. This, though, is a mere prelude to Steiner’s journey through the “echo chambers of the erotic”.
What has really got the reviewers’ goat is his litany of sexual conquests.
He is fluent in at least four languages, and has had memorable sex in them all. “To make love in Italian is to know that certain days run to 25 hours” . . . “Gloriously astride me, my first teacher in the arts of orgasm . . . bade me ‘Come, come now and deep.’ But did so using the formal language.”
“V’s grammar of love-making was Viennese . . . She mapped her own opulent physique and that of her lover(s) with place names derived from the capital’s varied districts and suburbs.
Thus ‘taking the streetcar to Grinzing’ signified a gentle, somewhat respectful anal access.” You can understand why the critics are so worked up.
Steiner seems to have had the most interesting and varied sex life, in numerous languages. The rest of us are lucky to get occasional sex, and probably only in English.
Steiner says he is convinced that a book on “oral sex” (in its fullest sense of the word) would have been a goer.
Only discretion (sic) held him back. Even now, hundreds of eager researchers will be applying for PhD grants and brushing up on their languages. Anyone for a spot of cunnilingus in Latin?