A Commentary (July 1929)
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652 ] A Commentary The Criterion: A Literary Review, 8 (July 1929) 575-79 National Preservation A good deal has been accomplished, during the last year or two, towards preserving monuments and places of historical interest or beauty; and much generosity, devotion and hard work have been well spent. Much has been done locally at Oxford and at Cambridge, and the danger and desecration of Stonehenge is known to everybody.1 We choose this moment for expressing regret that none of the political parties found room to provide any programme of National Preservation among its mostly vague or dubious policies. For, as we have said before, our present behaviour is hardly more than hand to mouth, and should at least be supplemented by some far-sighted central direction. We say “direction,” rather than “authority,” because there are obvious demerits in replacing local zeal by central bureaucracy. Yet, while Oxford and Cambridge are comparatively able to look after themselves, there are many parts of the country , and isolated monuments, which cannot. A central Association could do much towards surveying the whole country, with an intelligent eye to necessary or inevitable developments, and calling attention in good time to those buildings and pieces of countryside which may be threatened and ought to be preserved.2 But an organization having government standing and government funds (to be supplemented, no doubt, by private generosity ), could accomplish much more. What is needed is a working arrangement between central and local effort and between public and private responsibility. There is all the more reason for some government responsibility, in that any government is (as at Lulworth) a possible offender, and a difficult one to bring to book.3 When reading the Liberal election pamphlet on unemployment, we reflected that this enthusiasm for construction might, in the name of making work, involve a good deal of destruction too, or at least of defacement; and some of Mr. Lloyd George’s phantom employees might well have been engaged on work of preservation. We need a central organization under government auspices and with government funds to deal with the country as a unit; if we cannot have [ 653 A Commentary (July) that, there should at least be a central private association. Such a society should prepare, with the assistance of affiliated local societies, a report of the condition of every county and every village; and when any building or piece of country worth preserving is in danger, it should be ready at least to advertise the fact, and be able to arouse interest. It should be concerned with the City Churches as well as the Wye Valley; with buildings which are merely perishing from decay as well as those which are in risk of demolition .4 At present there is always the danger that while our attention is being directed to one menace something else will be happening of which we may notheartilltoolate.St.MagnusMartyrwasnotasimportantasStonehenge, but still it was not insignificant.5 An International Award The Criterion is to co-operate with four other European reviews in presenting a new form of literary prize. The five reviews – The Criterion representing Britain, La Nouvelle Revue Française representing France, La Revista de Occidente representing Spain, Nuova Antologia representing Italy, and Die Europäische Revue representing the German-speaking countries, will compose a jury to decide on the merits of unpublished fiction of suitable length submitted to it from each of the five countries in turn.6 As the project originated with the Europäische Revue, it is right that the first competition should be for stories in German. The story chosen as the best by a majority of the jury will be published as nearly simultaneously as possible in the five reviews, but of course in translation. The intention is to follow the competition for German fiction, with awards to be made in the same way for the beststoriessubmittedinEnglish,French,ItalianandSpanish.Anannouncement of the conditions will be made when the jury is ready to consider English fiction. It is obvious that such an enterprise is sympathetic to a review like The Criterion, which has always tried to make known in England the best of foreign thought and literary art. We feel some pride in the fact that The Criterion was the first literary review in England to print work by such writers as Marcel Proust, Paul Valéry, Jacques Rivière, Ramon Fernandez, Jacques Maritain, Charles Maurras, Henri Massis, Wilhelm Worringer, Max Scheler, E. R. Curtius, and others.7 We welcome...