waiting for man’s liberty to give Him anchance to transform the world by love.”nHe traces Pasternak’s career and spiritualndevelopment from the 1920’s, when henwrote ambiguous political poems fornwhich he was both praised and condemnednby the Communist Party,nthrough his ordeal after publication ofnZhivago. He believed that much of Pasternak’snsuffering at the hands of thenSoviet government and literary establishmentncan be blamed on the West for seizingnon Zhivago as an anticommunistntract, when, as he writes, “The protest ofnDr. Zhivago is spiritual, not political, notnsociological, not pragmatic. It is religious,naesthetic, and mystical.” Mertonnwas particularly fond of Pasternak andncorresponded with him from 1958,nbefore the appearance oi Zhivago, untilnthe persecuted Soviet author’s death.nTheir intellectual and spiritual kinshipnwas deep, and while Pasternak sizfferednscorn and ostracism in his homeland, asnwell as the loss of the proffered NobelnPrize, Merton, in the United States, criednout that he was misunderstood in thenWest as well. His letters and essays inndefense of Pasternak, although lacednwith moody and bitter aiticism of capitalism,nare actually an eloquent explicationnof Christian spirituality transcendingnpolitics.n^uch is the theme of all of Merton’snwriting on literature. He studied closelynthe works of 20th-century writers—nCamus, Faulkner, Joyce, the LatinnAmerican poets—^who, like him, grapplednwith the contradictions between thenseedy materialism of modern culture andna higher moral code. Merton felt a specialnsympathy for Camus. He expendednmuch time and energy combing hisnnovels, plays, and the Notebooks,nsearching for intimations of Christiannsensibility. His analysis of Pere Paneloux,nthe Jesuit hero of The Plague, holds thatnCamus invested him with an ambiguousnmix of Christian and secular values.nPaneloux, Merton wrote, is both Christiannand Nietzschean, a disciple of St.nAugustine who at the same time ex­npresses a disillusioned fatalism about thenpervasiveness of evil. This, Merton exclaims,nis Camus: he was almost a Christian.nThe problem is that he was exposednto a “distorted” idea of grace. “Grace,”nin Camus’s eyes was nothing more thannthe “state of smug self-assurance bynwhich the elect convince themselves ofntheir election.” This is the view of gracenin The Plague, ia which Ricux and Tarrou,nCamus’s “saints without God,”npractice charity.nMerton explains that “Camus’ deepestnaffirmation is that of an almost traditionalnand classic humanism, with a fewnsignificant modern doubts, austerities,nand reservations.” He suggests thatnCamus was alienated by his exposure tonFrench Catholic collaborationists duringnthe war, and held back by a consciencenQuantification StylenMr. John Simon admiringly describesnin Rolling Stone the youthfiil but sexuallynoverripe femininity of a barely postadolescent,nvery much “in” movie “star”nby the name of Nastassia Kinski. Hencharacterizes her as, “at twenty-one, thenbiggest sex symbol of 1982.”nHow he measures the bigness of a sexnsymbol is not only logically obscure butnalso grammatically untidy and semanticallynslipshod, especially when we recallnthat his reputation is that of an intellectualnbeacon of modern New York criticism.nMr. Simon’s routine is to offer slapdashnopinions that are hailed as provokingnby the halfwits of the liberal press. Henis also the film “critic” for NationalnReview (?), where he oozes judgments onn”stars” but never on normative ethics.nWhat a National Review contributor isndoing in the pages oiRolling Stone we donnot know; his presence there is, to ournmind, a matter not of freedom of expressionnbut of one’s sense of smell and taste,nnot of eclecucism but of dignity. But Mr.nSimon elaborates on Ms. Kinski’s illus­ntoo exquisitely scrupulous to acceptnmembership in a historic community ofnless-than-perfect believers. “The peculiarnisolation of Camus’ position comesnfrom his inability to cope with the idea ofnGod and of faith to which his sense ofnjustice and his instinctive nonviolencennevertheless enticed him.” This is ann”inability,” to be sure. Does it merit thensympathy Merton showers on Camus?nInstead of recognizing Camus as indecisivenand unwilling to make an orthodoxncommitment to faith, Mertonnagain blames the modern institution ofnthe Church.nIn his later years, Merton walked anself-drawn line between highbrow advocacynof the leftist social agenda andnliterate, eloquent explorations of man’snLIBERAL CULTURE 1nnntrated seminudity for the hosting organ:nThe breasts are perfect, thoughnsome might think them a bit small,npubescent . . .nWhich makes him less a critic and more anquintessential kibitzer. Such a “literary”nattitude sells well nowadays: it is cheap,neasily merchandised, it moves smoothlynthrough journalistic K-Marts of the RollingnStone brand. But what does it have inncom mon with criticism ? DnHMHH17nMarch 1983n