We Need Silence to Find Out What We Think

Selected Essays

Shirley Hazzard. Edited with an Introduction by Brigitta Olubas

Columbia University Press

We Need Silence to Find Out What We Think

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Pub Date: January 2016

ISBN: 9780231173261

248 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $30.00£25.00

Pub Date: January 2016

ISBN: 9780231540797

248 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $29.99£25.00

We Need Silence to Find Out What We Think

Selected Essays

Shirley Hazzard. Edited with an Introduction by Brigitta Olubas

Columbia University Press

Spanning the 1960s to the 2000s, these nonfiction writings showcase Shirley Hazzard's extensive thinking on global politics, international relations, the history and fraught present of Western literary culture, and postwar life in Europe and Asia. They add essential clarity to the themes that dominate her award-winning fiction and expand the intellectual registers in which her writings work.

Hazzard writes about her employment at the United Nations and the institution's manifold failings. She shares her personal experience with the aftermath of the Hiroshima atomic bombing and the nature of life in late-1940s Hong Kong. She speaks to the decline of the hero as a public figure in Western literature and affirms the ongoing power of fiction to console, inspire, and direct human life, despite—or maybe because of—the world's disheartening realities. Cementing Hazzard's place as one of the twentieth century's sharpest and most versatile thinkers, this collection also encapsulates for readers the critical events defining postwar letters, thought, and politics.

This book shows that Hazzard is a fierce defender of the humanistic belief in the efficacy of literature (especially poetry) and art to illuminate the truth and to provide meaningful insight into the mystery of human existence.

Michael Collier, author of An Individual History

Hazzard's essays are full of crystalline turns of phrase and aphoristic expressions of her core humanist principles—as well as of revealing, often fascinating, political contradictions. Scholars and students of Hazzard will strike gold.

Claire Seiler, Dickinson College

A rich, urbane, insightful collection.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

In these essays there is a lovely sense of witnessing a brilliant and judicious mind at work. Shirley Hazzard has a way of finding the right phrase, and capturing a tone and a rhythm, that offer a sort of sensuous pleasure to the reader. She cares passionately about writing, the life of the mind, and also the public realm. As in her novels, her essays display the quality of her sympathy, her ability to make distinctions as well as connections, and her acute analysis. She is an inspiring presence in our literary lives, and having these essays is both a gift and a revelation.

Colm Tóibín

Hazzard employs language like a knife, with precision and incisiveness.... What comes through most clearly is Hazzard's delight in the English language and its capacity for expression and communication.

Publishers Weekly

An elegant and cultured collection.

Andy Miller, The Spectator

We Need Silence to Find Out What We Think manages the difficult task of making old-school, mid-century liberal humanism feel alive, urgent and necessary once again.

Geordie Williamson, The Australian

Breathtaking and challenging.

Sarah Murdoch, The Toronto Star

Absorbing.... Illuminating.... Throughout this brief, captivating collection, which also includes essays on literature, history, and travel, Hazzard is articulate and humane.

Rona Cran, Times Literary Supplement

Her fiction, with its stylistic elegance and intellectual verve, is quite enough to warrant our admiration.

Los Angeles Review of Books

From We Need Silence to Find Out What We Think, Shirley Hazzard emerges, to paraphrase Olubas, as eloquent, thoughtful, civil, and intellectually generous.

Brian Matthews, Australian Book Review
Introduction: Shirley Hazzard—Author, Amateur, Intellectual, by Brigitta Olubas
Part I. Through Literature Itself
We Need Silence to Find Out What We Think
The Lonely Word
Part II. The Expressive Word
A Mind Like a Blade: Review of Muriel Spark, Collected Stories I and The Public Image
Review of Jean Rhys, Quartet
The Lasting Sickness of Naples: Review of Matilde Serao, Il Ventre di Napoli
The New Novel by the New Nobel Prize Winner: Review of Patrick White, The Eye of the Storm
Ordinary People: Review of Barbara Pym, Quartet in Autumn and Excellent Women
Translating Proust
Introduction to Geoffrey Scott's The Portrait of Zélide
Introduction to Iris Origo's Leopardi: A Study in Solitude
William Maxwell
Part III. Public Themes
The Patron Saint of the UN is Pontius Pilate
"Gulag" and the Men of Peace
The United Nations: Where Governments Go to Church
The League of Frightened Men: Why the UN is So Useless
UNhelpful: Waldheim's Latest Debacle
A Writer's Reflections on the Nuclear Age
Part IV. The Great Occasion
Canton More Far
Papyrology at Naples
The Tuscan in Each of Us
Part V. Last Words
2003 National Book Award Acceptance
The New York Society Library Discussion, September 2012

Read Shirley Hazzard's Introduction to Iris Origo's Leopardi: A Study in Solitude:

About the Author

Shirley Hazzard won the National Book Award for her 2003 novel The Great Fire and the National Book Critics Circle Award for The Transit of Venus. She is the author of The Evening of the Holiday and The Bay of Noon, which was nominated for the Lost Booker Prize; Greene on Capri, a memoir of Graham Greene; and People in Glass Houses, a short-story collection based on her time at the United Nations. She lives in New York City and Capri.

Brigitta Olubas is associate professor of English in the School of the Arts and Media at the University of New South Wales. She is an editor of the Journal of the Association for the Study of Australian Literature and the author of Shirley Hazzard: Literary Expatriate and Cosmopolitan Humanist.