Personal: RIP Norm Geras

I have been reading the blog of Norm Geras since around 2004. It might seem an odd reading choice for me – as a Marxist scholar and personal atheist he is across the aisle to me in many ways. Nevertheless I always found him an interesting and thought-provoking read. Even when I disagreed with his position, I found he expressed himself in such a way that those defensive hackles which can turn so much discourse on the internet so bitter hardly ever raised. In correspondence with him over the years I found him to a gracious and kind-hearted correspondent, always responding, to the point, and always interested. He always made one feel that he was pleased you had taken the time to send him an email about something that he had written.

I also owe him a great debt. Until I started reading his many blog posts I must admit to having a rather caricatured view of Marxism, and of the socialist left. Norm helped me realise there was more depth to the intellectual tradition to which he belonged. He did this, in part, by being absolutely committed to the idea of human rights. Marxist and socialist, he loathed the way too many on the left made light of the atrocities committed by Communist regimes. It is a lesson of principle that I am still absorbing in my own political thought.

Likewise when it came to matters spiritual Norm was an unapologetic atheist – but again he found repugnant the thought-less scorn that many public atheists had for the religious. In the tricky matter of religious discourse however, where often he was criticising the viewpoints of various theists, he almost always managed to do so in such a way that I considered respectful.

Whilst these were two of the main subjects of his blog posts, he wrote widely. I have him to thank for finally encouraging me to read my first Jane Austen novel. His posts on cricket, particular the “Memories of Cricket” series, greatly informed my own love that game. My knowledge of literature was likewise enriched by the “Writers’ Choice” series.

Alas, it appears that whilst I was away on holiday Norm finally succumbed to the cancer that he had disclosed he had earlier this year.

I will miss him, and miss his presence on the internets. His blog and its archives will remain, for the time being at least, and he will have a place in my memories for so long as I have my faculties.

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