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George Steiner: the outsider who changed the cultural landscape of Britain

The writer and academic, who has died at the age of 90, brought European philosophy into an insular intellectual world

By David Herman  

George Steiner, pictured here in 2013, has died aged 90. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Prospect composite

In his 1997 memoir, Errata, George Steiner describes calling on the Oxford don Humphry House shortly before his doctoral viva: “On his Victorian lectern lay the handsomely printed text of my Chancellor’s English Essay Prize. I waited, I ached for some allusion to it. It came when I was already at the door. ‘Ah yes, yes, your pamphlet. A touch dazzling, wouldn’t you say?’”

Two things are striking about this passage. First, the crushing put-down—“a…

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