Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Norman Geras

I am late in making a tribute to Norman Geras, author of Normblog, who died on 18th October. Partly this is because I haven't been blogging at all (I've been immersed in writing), but partly I have felt too affected to feel up to making any public statement. Norm was the husband and father of my dear long-time friends writers Adele Geras and Sophie Hannah. For many years I didn't in fact know Norm personally - whenever I went to Adele's he'd be at the university or up in his room working - but I got to know him somewhat after I started blogging in 2006. By the time I first talked to him at the Manchester blog awards (which he'd won the previous year) and for which we were both shortlisted, I was of course already entirely smitten with his blog, which as countless others have said, was an oasis of calm and reason in an internet world of increasingly knee-jerk reaction. He couldn't understand, when I first talked to him, why I had two blogs - my author blog as well as this critical commentary blog. I explained the kind of conflict that I and I think other authors feel between the need don a promotional hat for our work and the need to be free to challenge such market forces. He still thought I should have the courage to combine the two blogs. I didn't - I went on finding it politic not to - but I always felt that by not doing so I was falling short of the intellectual rigour that Norm personified.  Norm was frankly an intellectual giant, and I always turned to his blog, as others have said they did, to see what he made of any issue. I am going to miss dreadfully his incisiveness and reason, his intellectually tough yet humane presence, and the online world is vastly poorer without him. Fortunately he will still be with us in the form of the Normblog archive which is being kept open, a vast repository of reason and enlightenment.