Notes on “Georg Lukacs: Record of a Life”

Tuesday, 10th April, 2018

Book details

Georg Lukacs: Record of a Life
Georg Lukács, István Eörsi
1981 (English translation of “Gelebtes Denken. Eine Autobiographie im Dialog” 1983)

Summary & comments

This book collects together notes made by Lukacs towards an autobiography, “Gelebtes Denken” (Lived Thought), and a series of interviews with Lukacs about his life — notes and interviews all done in the months before Lukacs died of illness in 1971. The material covers Lukacs’ whole life, from childhood, revolutions, exiles and returns.

It is very interesting, and occasionally moving, to see Lukacs bring his characteristic unblinking insight to bear on his own life. He does not separate his intellectual development from his political activity, and separates neither from his love life. One of the central figures throughout is his wife Gertrud Bortstieber.

Lukacs does not waffle and consequently the book is packed with ideas and observations, on cultural, philosophical or political figures (Bartok, Mann, Spinoza, Hegel, Lenin, Stalin), historical events and situations (the Hungarian and Russian revolutions, Hungary 1956, Czechoslovakia 1968).

Consequently, it is extremely annoying that Verso decided not to include an index.

Otherwise a beautiful, indispensible book.

Next steps

Lukacs ranged widely (both under the Attribute of Extension and under the Attribute of Thinking). Reading this autobiography prompts me to think about his life’s work as a coherent developing whole. I am familiar with Lukacs’ “mature” work in politics & philosophy (e.g., H&CC, Young Hegel, Destruction of Reason), and literary criticism (e.g. The Historical Novel, Contemporary Realism, essays on Mann & on Solzhenitsyn), but less familiar with his very early (i.e. pre-Marxist) or very late (e.g. his Ontology) work.

So, my Lukacs “to read” list:

  • Georg Lukacs: Life, Thought and Politics (Kadarkay, 1991)
  • Lenin’s criticism of Lukacs
  • Lukacs’ own later criticism(s) & defense(s) of H&CC
  • Lukacs’ book on Lenin
  • the Blum Theses (1928)
  • look at the social ontology
  • doesn’t look like the Aesthetics (1972-9) has been translated into English. Maybe read The Aesthetics of Gyorgy Lukacs Bela Kiralyfalvi 2015 Princeton UP

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