Francis George Steiner (Paris, 1929)
Influential literary critic who studied the relationship between literature and society, particularly in light of modern history.
Steiner was born in Paris in 1929 (his parents came from Austria). He studied at the Sorbonne, at the Harvard University and in Oxford. In 1944 he became an American citizen, but after the war he spent much of his time in Europe, as he considered himself "at home in three and a half languages" (the half for American English).
From 1952 to 1956 he served on the editorial staff of "The Economist". In 1958 his first short story, Botteghe Oscure, won an O. Henry Short Story Prize In 1956 he became a member of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton. There he wrote his first essay, Tolstoy or Dostoevsky (1959).
In 1970 Steiner was awarded the first Morton Zabel Prize by the National Institute for Arts and Letters. Steiner is currently Extraordinary Fellow of Churchill College at Cambridge, and professor of English and comparative literature at the University of Geneva.
Among his works we must mention Language and Silence (1967), an essay on the dehumanizing effect that World War II and the Shoah had on literature; Extraterritorial (1971), where he focuses on linguistics and authors who wrote in several languages; After Babel: Aspects of Language and Translation (1975), in which he explores the intersection of culture and linguistics that underlies translation and multilingualism; The Death of Tragedy (1961), In Bluebeard's Castle: Some Notes Towards the Redefinition of Culture (1971), On Difficulty and Other Essays (1978), Martin Heidegger (1979), Antigones (1984), and Real Presences (1989). Language is still the main theme of his last works, collected in No Passion Spent: Essays 1978-1995. His fiction includes Anno Domini (1964), The Portage to San Cristóbal of A.H. (1981), Proofs and Three Parables (1992), and The Deeps of the Sea and Other Fiction (1996).