Introduction to The Middle of the Journey

Engel, Monroe. Introduction to The Middle of the Journey, by Lionel Trilling, v-xi. New York: New York Review of Books, 2002.


In its own forceful way, very unlike either Faulkner or Hemingway, The Middle of the Journey too is “at work upon the recalcitrant stuff of life.” This is discomfortingly evident in the ways in which the novel portrays the significant deficiencies to which the virtues of liberalism could seem bound—a recurrent matter of concern for Trilling in his criticism as well. In the preface to Trilling’s first and probably most influential collection of essays, The Liberal Imagination (1950), he stresses the need “for liberalism to be aware of the weak or wrong expressions of itself.” And earlier, in a study of E.M. Forster published four years before The Middle of the Journey, he had written that though all Forster’s novels “are politically and morally tendentious and always in the liberal direction…[he was] deeply at odds with the liberal mind” because of its “inadequacy of imagination” which, among the several critical matters it “likes to put out of sight” are “not only the reality but the power of death.”

New York Review of Books [pdf]