54 thoughts on “Messages

  1. Martin Robb Post author

    “I can think of few political writers, who have influenced me more comprehensively. Whenever I faced a difficult moral question, I would at some point think ‘ah, what is Norm saying about this,’ go to his blog and see that Norm had found a way through.’

    My thoughts exactly, Nick.

    1. Rob Marchant

      Indeed, Martin. I just cut and pasted exactly the same lines into the blog piece I just wrote, now posted up on this site: http://t.co/w9RfKVCIWF

      Luckily, my interest in his take on politics has helped put me in touch with many other like-minded people – such as your good self and comrade Cohen himself – which will help sustain me in the absence of Norm’s brilliantly-argued nuggets of truth.

  2. Terry Glavin Post author

    What a terrible loss. Norm was an inspiration and a consolation to me, a distant beacon in a very dark time. A true original: a liberal Marxist, an actually-existing anti-fascist, and a man of great moral bearing. Requiescat in pace.

  3. Fabian Glagovsky

    I am so sorry that he is not with us anymore. Thank you Norm for all the work you did, and all the thoughts you had and shared. You always knew how to explain things and how to stick it to the bad guys… just with words.
    Thank you for guiding us this stretch of the way.

  4. Judy Keiner Post author

    So very sad to learn just now that Norman Geras has died. It feels like a dear friend has gone. One of my favourite bloggers, and we exchanged many emails, though I never got to meet him in person. A great soul, and valiant for truth. I will miss him very much. My deepest sympathy to his beloved Adele and all his family.
    ברוך דיין האמת

  5. Jon Pike

    Very sad to hear the news. I first read (and was convinced by) Norm’s beautifully cogent philosophical work on Marx and Luxemburg in the early eighties, and it was great to have such immediate access to the thoughts of norm in the last ten years. A huge inspiration and a huge loss.

  6. Rob Newman Post author

    Very sad to read that the fantastic Norman Geras has died. I have held, and still hold, some views that don’t commend themselves to a lot of colleagues on the Left. The intellectual rigour of Norman, among others, gave me confidence in those views and led to me adding my little name to the Euston Manifesto years ago. I shall miss reading his blog and being challenged by his clarity of thought.

  7. Judy Keiner

    I think of Norm as a profoundly humane man, a fighter against anti-semitism, a man who never ceased to confront the meaning then and now of the Holocaust, a man who was proud to declare his love, pride in and devotion to his wife, his children and his parents. And as a man of the left who never hesitated to analyse and reveal cant and self delusion wherever he found it on his chosen space amongst the New Left of his youth.

  8. John Abeles

    To all my dear friends and Norman’s family — especially Adele and your daughters…

    Norman’s passing is a shattering loss to us all.

    To describe him as a Great and Good man doesn’t sum it up adequately. Norman Geras was loved and respected by thousands through all his astute and amusing writings, and adored by his friends and family…

    To those who really knew him and loved him — his family and friends — his ineffable, deep wisdom, huge knowledge, splendid humour, vast kindness and humaneness, unbridled musicality, robust sport-loving joy, were marks of an extraordinary character — a truly Renaissance Man…

    I love him like a brother and have been long graced and inspired in my life by knowing him..

    I hope the pain of losing him will not linger more than it should, and that then deep thanks be given for his truly meaningful life and its full enrichment of ours..

    I wish you all Long and Sweet Lives!

    With Abiding Love

    Abby

  9. Marc Mulholland

    Norman was a clear and trenchant writer and a scourge of lazy or insidious prejudice. He will be sadly missed.

  10. Linda Grant

    I first came across the name of Norman Geras in the Seventies when I was in my twenties. The name appeared on the cover of issues of New Left Review, articles I was too intimidated to read. I thought of him as an austere, angry Marxist who spoke in sentences pendulous with the words hegemony and praxis.

    In 2003 I was a don’t know on the Iraq war. I was searching widely for arguments for and against and came across his recently-launched blog. What I read there was a revelation: a clear moral argument from a Marxist perspective. I did not follow him into the anti-war camp but I started to read his blog regularly and shortly I emailed him. He got back to me straight away and not long after we met.

    Who was Norm? He was a mensch, simple as that. His perspective on ideas, the clarity of his thought and his straightforward language was amazing, always subject to compassion. He could be sentimental (his love of country and western was very Jewish) and the cricket stuff was baffling to me, let alone his support for ManU. What came across form him was his LOVE of many subjects, and his desire always to be civil, never mean or aggressive. When he raised his quiet voice it was to two thirds of the decibels of anyone else.

    The last time I spoke to him he said that despite his illness, he tried to do something productive every day. He was such a wonderful man. Loveable, as Francis Wheen says, and how many members of the New Left Review editorial board will have that as part of their epitaph?

  11. Hasan A.

    I had very recently discovered Norm’s work and found the clarity of his thinking extremely refreshing in today’s discourse. My thoughts and prayers are with his family.

    1. Martin Robb

      Shocked and saddened by the news that Norman Geras has died. Brilliant political philosopher, pioneering and best political blogger bar none, generous mentor and friend, and (on a personal level) the person who has most influenced my own thinking about politics and so much else in the last few years. It was a privilege to be invited to lunch with Norm and Adele earlier this year – he was characteristically generous and modest. So pleased to have met him.

  12. BenSix

    It is strange how the Internet has allowed people to grow familiar to us without their ever knowing it. I did not exchange more than a few emails with Mr Geras – all of them in disagreement, but all courteous and thoughtful – yet he challenged and intrigued me with every week that passed. In a medium that is susceptible to egomania, his interviews and polls were evidence of a great generosity of spirit. Even in his last days he was recommending books to us.

    I offer my sympathies to his friends and relatives.

  13. Fay Ginzberg

    It is with incredible sadness that I learnt of the passing of Norman Geras this morning. Besides knowing him as the brother of very close and dear friends and as the brilliant, erudite writer of one of my favourite blogs, I also had the pleasure of meeting him in Melbourne in 2006 when Norm came to support his beloved Australian cricket team during The Ashes tour of that year. It was a huge thrill and honour that Norm dedicated a post to a part of that afternoon. My deepest condolences go out to Norman’s family on their loss.

  14. Aaron Stebbings

    I disagreed with Norman Geras on many issues but always found him interesting and insightful, I read Normblog almost everyday and will no doubt continue to do so. RIP

  15. Rosa Anderson

    Recently, Norm wrote this about Ralph Miliband: ‘He wrote in a clear and compact prose, uncluttered by needless jargon and informed by an evident moral seriousness that wasn’t in hock to any narrow orthodoxy.’ I found it wonderful that he was pretty much describing himself.

    For these reasons, and for many others, Norm was a hero of mine. I can’t imagine how we’ll get by without him.

  16. Eamonn McDonagh

    Sorrier than I can say to hear of Norm’s death. My heart goes out to his wife and daughters. I feel privileged to have corresponded with him over the years and to have met him and Adèle during the summer.

  17. Stephen Berghoff

    I’ve been reading Norm for the past 10 years. To learn of his death was a loss. A real loss. I don’t recall how I found Norm. All I remember is that when I did, I knew he was my sensei. 🙁

  18. Pat Lowe

    Norm will be so missed. Condolences to Adela and family. Untold numbers of strangers are thinking of you now, and are feeling so much the poorer themselves.

  19. Ben Stanley

    Very sad to learn of the death of this wonderful man. I will miss his clarity of thought, economy and elegance of expression, and palpable decency, and try as best as I can to follow his example.

    “Bowling, Norm!”

  20. Rullsenberg

    Norm was one of kindest and most thoughtful people writing online. I met him at a blogmeet in Manchester and he was generous, entertaining and as ever thought-provoking. He gave me a lift my including me amongst his Friday blogger profiles (I didn’t deserve it) and always welcomed responses to his polls and questions. I find it fitting that his final post showed the side of him that could get lost amidst his incisive political commentary – his recommended reading list demolishing the feel-bad poor choices of so many lists. He loved reading, music , film and of course cricket. I will miss his thoughtful contributions on political debates, but also that deeply human and humane interest in culture and society at large. He was much loved by many and will be missed. Thoughts with his close and extended family for their loss, of which we feel but a small part.

  21. David Allen Green (Jack of Kent)

    You did not even have to be a political blogger to have the benefit of the generosity of Norman Geras.

    He contacted me out of the blue in 2010 with kind and encouraging words and asked if my fairly unknown legal blog could be profiled. It was a thoughtful act which gave this (then) budding blogger a huge boost of pride.

    I always enjoyed his blogging and admired his gift of conveying complex ideas in simple and clear language.

  22. Michael Ezra

    I was fortunate enough to meet Norm on a number of occasions, the first time in around 2005 at a “supper club” dinner hosted a friend interested in politics. A number of people were invited and Norm was one. I recall speaking to him then and not really knowing what a “blog” actually was. It did not take me long to find out.

    I kept in contact with Norm over the years and despite the fact that he was aware of my less than positive views on Marxism, he was always helpful with questions and ready to recommend a book for me to read for a greater explanation. His latest recommendation to me was Ian Steedman’s book, Marx After Sraffa which I duly purchased.

    Having said that, it was not politics for which I am most grateful to Norm. Readers of his blog will know that away from politics his loves included cricket, jazz, and literature. Of those three, it was his posts on English literature that captivated my interest. It is largely because of his posts that I have followed his path to read the works of Jane Austen and Charles Dickens. I am still going through them and am delighted to be doing so. The joy I am receiving from these novels is attributable to Norm Geras, an inspiration.

  23. Soupy One

    Words fail me.

    Norm, you will be remembered when those shifty politicos and the flotsam/jetsam of contemporary politics, that you fought against, are long forgotten or only recalled with a curse.

  24. Philip Bounds

    For what it’s worth, I posted the following message on my Facebook page today:

    I was very sorry this morning to hear about the death of Professor Norman Geras, one of the finest Marxist scholars of the last thirty years. By common consent, Professor Geras’s blog Normblog was among the most important political and cultural blogs of the age. Perhaps the biggest tribute one can pay to him is to say that he was a man for whom the word “liberal” was as important as the word “socialist”. His life and work stand as a powerful rebuke to those people on the left who treat democratic values with disdain.

    Back in 2007, Professor Geras invited me to contribute an article to Normblog’s weekly Writer’s Choice series. I was honoured to accept his invitation and dashed off a slightly intemperate and polemical piece on John Berger. The link is below. The left is much diminished by Professor Geras’s death. I shall honour his memory.

    http://normblog.typepad.com/normblog/2007/08/writers-choic-2.html

  25. Caroline Ben-Ari

    I was a regular reader of normblog and admired his writing (and the person that shone through with such clarity, intelligence and humanity). I will miss his writing immensely.

    My deepest condolences to Adele, Sophie Hannah, and Jenny.

  26. Kathy Williams

    I am so sorry to read this very, very sad news. Norm brought enormous comfort to many ordinary people with his sane, lucid, intelligent and illuminating blog posts. Sincere sympathies to his family.

  27. Antony Surr

    My last fleeting contact with Norm was to contribute to his wonderful series of ‘gatherings by the river’; there was so much more than politics to his writing but that alone inspiried me like no other writer since Orwell. What a terribly sad day.

  28. jim nolan

    Norm’s Australian friends will miss him terribly – it was such a pleasure to have him stay with us when he and his colleague, friend and fellow cricket tragic Ian Holliday came out for that famous ashes tour – I know that it was a special trip for Norm and that he had fond memories of Sydney and Australia – we enjoyed every moment he was with us. It was always a source of joy for me to exchange emails with him.

    Others are better placed to testify to Norm’s brilliance as a scholar and philosopher – but as everyone who had the great good fortune to meet him knows, he was much more than that. He was a source of real wisdom, judgment and inspiration.  He was also possessed of great humanity and a fine sense of humour. Along with Christopher Hitchens he was the leading public intellectual of the anti-totalitarian left of the last two decades. We have lost another truly great man. He will be greatly missed.

    Jim Nolan
    Sydney, Australia

  29. Jim Denham

    A truly great and good human being has passed. Even on those occasions when I didn’t entirely agree with him I felt he was ‘wrong’ for all the right reasons.

    A man of extraordinary integrity, generosity of spirit and good humour.

    My thoughts are with his beloved family.

  30. Jim Vaughan

    I cannot count the times I found myself looking to @normblog when I wanted sense, sophistication, clarity and an ability to cut straight to the heart of whatever the matter was. Norm combined erudition and precision with a sense, communicated time after time after time, of being an enormously nice man. My thoughts and condolences are with his family and friends. In the blogosphere, my favourite bit of the internet now feels very empty indeed. On top of everything else, Norm was, by some distance, my favourite Australia cricket fan. Rest in peace, comrade.

  31. peter

    Such sad news.

    As I posted, Norm was a great fan of Montgomery Clift, and he missed dying on Monty’s birthday by just a few hours.

  32. Mike Burton

    Very sad to read the news this morning when I went for my regular fix of “Norm blog”.
    I was privileged to have been taught by Norman in 84/85 when I was a final year politics student. His clarity of thought and comments on a wide range of issues have stayed with me over the years.
    I can recall his office decorated with his London marathon numbers and book covers by Adele as if it was yesterday.
    He was a writer who was always thought provoking and had something interesting to say on a wide range of subjects.
    The world is a much poorer place with his passing.
    His love of his family and pride in their achievements shone through his blog and my thoughts are with them.
    An inspiration of how to live your life.

  33. Catherine Annabel

    I never met Norm but I corresponded with him occasionally and loved his blog, and admired him enormously. His writing was full of passion and conviction, warmth and humour, love of family and of books, music (and, inexplicably to me at least, cricket). He will be missed by so many people including those who, like me, never met him except through his writing. Shalom, Norm.
    http://cathannabel.wordpress.com/2013/10/19/farewell-to-norman-geras-1943-2013/

  34. Rebecca Lesses

    I was very sad when I heard of Norm’s death. I know him only from reading his blog, but like many others, I found him a beacon of rationality and ethical thinking. He was one of the bloggers that I began to read after the 9/11 attacks and then the invasion of Iraq because I was desperate to find someone who held a more nuanced position than the rigid pseudo anti-war position I was surrounded by in my academic setting. I particularly liked his series on why we should remember the Holocaust – in the face of people who think it’s time we all moved on.

    The blogging medium gives one the very curious sense of getting to know someone whom one actually never meets in person. I hoped that some day, when I visited Britain, I would get a chance to meet him and sit and chat. I’m sorry I never had that opportunity.

    My condolences to Norm’s family and friends – may he rest in peace.

  35. Rosie Williams

    Very sad in our bit of manchester to read the news. Norman my first real boss, who taught me about how academics could be serious and silly. Two memories neither remotely linked to his academic heights. The first when we won the treble and the front page of the MEN was stuck to his office door, and a James track repeatedly blasted from his office, the second was being with him at Old Trafford and watching him sing the songs with gusto (yippity, yippity yap stam….) before opening and eating his packed lunch at half-time. A true individual.

  36. Ian Holliday Post author

    I’m loving all the memories, and they do capture the Norm I met in Manchester in 1990 and came to know well thereafter. Still, there are some aspects of his character that I haven’t yet seen added to the record.

    Normblog readers will recall the two maxims that governed his life: “stay home”, and “never hope”. As with everything else Norm said or did, these were issued with absolute seriousness and observed faithfully.

    Stay home. There’s a post from several years ago in which Norm lists a few of his favourite things – I think it was a top ten. At the end he wrote that there was no particular order to the items, except that his family really was number one. How very true.

    In consequence, what a real privilege it was to be welcomed into that family, sat down for dinner at the kitchen table in Danesmoor Road, and allowed to live for an hour or two with a family functioning as all families should.

    Often for me it was then off with Norm for another shot at an elusive Monday night victory at Manchester Bridge Club on Palatine Road. Working with the “normian” system we’d patiently invented, we did it just once. How sweet that was.

    But stay home for other reasons too. When you travel, you’re without all your stuff, Norm would say. Not a good situation to be in. More than once he told the story of finding himself alone in Paris for a weekend. What to do? Of course get the first flight back to Manchester.

    Never hope. It’s not that Norm was deeply pessimistic – but certainly he was cautious, methodical, leaving nothing to chance. At the cricket I sat for days on end with him watching perhaps the finest team ever maul the best England could muster. The Australian Supremacy was what we both came to call it. Yet living through it Norm would frequently be riven with anxiety.

    I’ve thought of a way England can still win this one, Ian, he’d say. If they can score 450 in their second innings, then Australia will face 150 to win on the final day and that could be tricky. Occasionally he said this with a smile and you knew even he could see the absurdity of it all. Usually, though, he meant it.

    Happy days.

    1. Bob Borsley

      ‘Riven with anxiety’ is right. Although a devoted supporter of Australia he was very English is his pessimism about the prospects for his team. But yes, happy days.

  37. Clive Bradley

    Norman taught me at university in the early eighties. When I was a postgrad I used to drop in on him in his office quite often for a chat. Over the last decade or so I had some communication with him by email and by phone.

    He was a brilliant teacher – extremely incisive, often very funny. He could be quite cutting – in department seminars, for instance – towards other academics, but never towards students, even if they said the most cretinous things.

    The Legacy of Rosa Luxemburg is brilliant. So too is ‘Marx and Human Nature’ – which he was working on when I was his student, and ran I think several seminars on the subject. He completely convinced me (Marx did have a concept of ‘human nature’, and he was quite right to do so – without it no socialist politics is possible or even meaningful) – and it’s an argument that’s had a profound effect on me ever since.

    I knew he was ill, but was very shocked to learn he’d died, and have been unable to stop thinking about it. He will be badly missed.

  38. Rena Lis Horwitz

    On a lighter note, here are some memories of Norm’s childhood written by my brother, Romy Lis, who is currently living in London.

    ….. “Of course you know that Norm lived next door to us in Cawston Street, North End, Bulawayo. He used to throw stones on our corrugated iron roof which made a big noise. One day, his aim was not great and a stone went through mum/dad’s bedroom window. Mum went next door and spoke to Beryl, who gave him hell and paid for the window to be fixed. He was quite mischievous. I would come home from school and find in the small open porch by our front door, the table-cloth laid out neatly on the FLOOR with the large glass ashtray on top of it. This happened often. I would replace them but I never reported him.”

    (Romy was a few years younger than Norm and probably somewhat intimidated by him. I was much younger and we moved before I had too many memories of life in Cawston Street .)

    Norm wrote a blog about some memories of Bulawayo: http://normblog.typepad.com/…/2005/01/bulawayo_breakb.html.

    What a childhood!

  39. Rob Steadman

    Norm was a hero to me for over 20 years. I was lucky enough to have him as a tutor whilst I took my politics degree in Manchester. I remember he had a poster of Rosa Luxembourg and of Emmylou Harris. I took a course he ran on the Holocaust which had a particularly profound effect on me and cemented my existing links (as a non Jew) to the Jews, in the diaspora and Israel.

    Then his views were more standard democratic Marxian socialist but I was very impressed by his very strong commitment to liberal democracy and to social justice. I also liked his rejection of the worst of radical politics – post modernism and identity politics. He seemed like a fundamentally wise and good person then – and since.

    I re-discovered Norm in the early 2000s when I stumbled across his blog. By then my thinking had moved on post 9/11 with the introduction of Islamism under my consciousness and the issue of the Iraq war. I was sickened with the reaction of most of the Left, whilst still believing myself to be part of it. When I came across Normblog I felt that I was not alone. Not only was there a “decent” Left which was, as I saw it, on the right side of the main political issues of the day, but there was at its intellectual head, a man of true decency and wisdom.

    I was really saddened to hear of his death. A real loss and an irreplaceable and truly great man. I didn’t agree with him on everything but he articulated my post Marxist liberal / left internationalist secularism better than any I’ve seen.

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