L in the Beginning, cont.

It was not as Philip Zaccharov that the Royal Navy’s chandler
attended the investiture. Shortly before the publication of his honour, he
effected two changes in his personal state. He converted to Anglicanism,
along with his wife Miriam and only child Nicholas, and he changed
his name. He told his wife that Zander was the name of an old friend
of his, a writer on politics, whom he admired. Articles by writers of
that name are to be found in political journals of the 1920s, 1930s and
1940s, but there is no record yet found of Philip Zaccharov having been
acquainted with any of them either in Vienna or London. It has been
suggested* that Philip Zaccharov himself might have been one of the
Zanders, perhaps using the name when he wished to express views in
the Vienna journals which he thought it inadvisable to publish under
his own name as head of a government-patronized business.
So it was as Sir Philip Zander that the senior partner of The East
West Shipping Company launched the ill-fated luxury liner, the Rose of
Lancaster, in 1920. It sank off the coast of Newfoundland in the spring
of 1921. Passengers and crew were all saved, but it is said that the event
turned Sir Philip grey “overnight”.
It was in 1922 that the name of his company was changed to Flook
Zander. In 1925 the Flook Zander Merchant Bank opened its doors for
business in the City of London. Sir Nicholas succeeded to his father’s
title, fortune, estates and responsibilities in 1934, the year in which he
became engaged to the Honourable Amadea Montfort. The shipping
firm, and to a lesser degree the bank, had gone down, understandably,
during the depression; but, more perhaps because general economic
conditions improved than because of any special gifts Sir Nicholas
himself possessed, they began to pick up again after 1936, and by 1939
were flourishing as never before.

Even the enormously high taxation introduced by Attlee’s Labour
government after the Second World War, and later in the 1960s the
galloping inflation, did not significantly reduce the magnificent style
of living the Zanders enjoyed and could afford. Once the years of
austerity (1940-1951) were over – austerity which to some extent affected
even such families as theirs – Louis lived a life of luxury, and, whatever
levelling there may have been for most of the population, of privilege
too. Under the guidance of the best tutors his father could find and
induce away from less lucrative posts, he attained high marks in the
public examinations.
In 1965 he entered Trinity College, Cambridge. He emerged with
a double first in Philosophy, and proceeded to Vienna, where he was
awarded his doctorate in 1972. He returned to London and took up an
appointment at the Slade School of Art, London University, as Lecturer
in Aesthetics, in 1973.
Within four years, and after publication of only two books,
WORLDNESS AND HUMANDOM (which appeared in Vienna as
WELTHEIT UND MENSCHTUM), and what was to prove his most
important and enduring work, -NESS, he had acquired a reputation as
a Marxist theoretician of a stature little below that of Herbert Marcuse.
And his literary reputation grew with each book. One highly esteemed
contemporary critic, writing admiringly of L’s “plastic prose”, declared
him to be “as fine a writer as can be found in the glittering history of
English literary genius”.*
From 1975 onwards he did not use his full name except on legal
documents. Even at the university he was known as L − Professor L
when he was appointed to the chair of Theoretical Aesthetics in 1978,
at the early age of thirty-one. His colleagues and all associates called
him L. A reporter on a Sunday newspaper, interviewing him when he
became consultant editor of the NEW WORKER in 1978,* asked him
why he preferred to be known by the initial only, even in private life, and
he replied: “A thinker is always a cipher to others” − on which cryptic
reply, the interviewer reported, he “refused to elaborate”.
In the political events of 1979-1987, leading up to and including
the Declaration of the People’s Republic, L took an increasingly
important part, though remaining behind the scenes. His teaching
and writing had so strong an effect that he had become an influence
on real politics before he intended to, or “even imagined it possible”,
as he said.* “My words became deeds, and then I became a doer.”
Once he had become a doer, he shaped rather than merely affected
the course of history. Kenneth Hamstead, the Prime Minister in the
cabinet which “suspended” constitutional government on the 12th
November, 1987, invited L to join the Council of Ministers which took
total power into their own hands. L was one of only three members of
the junta who had not been elected to Parliament in the first instance by
constitutional democratic procedure. Then began that final part of L’s
life as the thirteenth member of “The Terrible Twelve”. Of this period
little need be said in this introduction, except to record that within
the first month of L’s accession to power, the bookshops, newsstands,
public libraries, private bookshelves, schools, academies and government
offices were well stocked with the works of L in editions of all kinds,
from leather-bound to paperback. All his published works were reissued,
and several volumes of hitherto unpublished essays, criticism, lectures
and fragments appeared. Only the two plays and the poetry he had
written before going to Trinity remained unpublished. There was also in
1987 a spate of books on his works: academic theses, political exegeses,
philosophical examinations, students’ handbooks, unabashed eulogies,
collected essays and lectures, volumes of correspondence about and
with “the Master” – as he was already called – and several biographies
which, though acknowledging his birth “in London” in 1946, seemed
anxious to promote the view that his significant life began at the Slade
in 1973.

 

 

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