Book review: Ian Buruma on Simon Leys - The Man Who Got It Right
by Simon Leys; Reviewed by Ian Buruma
The desire to destroy beauty, according to Leys, applies not just to aesthetics but as much, if not more, to ethics: "In every department of human endeavour, inspired talent is an intolerable insult to mediocrity. If this is true in the realm of aesthetics, it is even more true in the world of ethics. More than artistic beauty, moral beauty seems to exasperate our sorry species. The need to bring down to our own wretched level, to deface, to deride and debunk any splendour that is towering above us, is probably the saddest urge of human nature.”
Simon Leys - The Man Who Got It Right
Near the beginning of Simon Leys’s marvelous collection of essays is an odd polemic between the author and the late Christopher Hitchens, fought out in these very pages. Leys takes Hitchens to task for attacking Mother Teresa in a book entitled The Missionary Position. He writes: “Bashing an elderly nun under an obscene label does not seem to be a particularly brave or stylish thing to do.” Hitchens replies: What do you mean, obscene? You know perfectly well, answers Leys. And so on and on.
(NB: An extract from the book, from one of its essays, entitled The Empire of Ugliness, may be read at the bottom of this post - DS)
Extract from the book, from one of its essays, entitled The Empire of Ugliness
Once—many years ago—a minuscule incident afforded me a deeply upsetting revelation. I was