This article was last modified on September 20, 2011.


Noam Chomsky: A Life of Dissent — Addendum

Robert Barsky’s “Noam Chomsky: A Life of Dissent” is the definitive biography of Professor Chomsky. While it could be slightly updated (it was published in 1997), I doubt any other biography could do justice to Chomsky’s life like this book has.

That being said, this page will have questions for Profesor Chomsky related to his life and not so much to world events…

GS: You once told me that you were a former film addict with your wife but had to give it up due to time constraints. Do you know roughly when this was?

NC: We were addicts up to the early 50s, interest tailed off after that, and in the past 20 years or so only went rarely. After my wife passed away I can’t even imagine going to a film.

GS: Do you recall any films from your childhood that have stayed with you throughout your life?

NC: The only film I sat through twice in a row was City Lights. Sentimental, I concede, but it captivated me.

GS: Barsky lists a series of authors and concludes that you had a “taste for realism in literature”. Is this his view, or would you agree?

NC: Depends on what you call “realism.” Thus one book I’ve re-read several times is Brothers Karamazov. Does that qualify? Or the last novel I read, Mohammed Hanif’s Exploding Mangoes. That aside, why does anyone care about my taste in literature? I try to keep private and public life separate.

GS: It is no secret that your early influences were Humboldt, Rocker, Orwell, etc. Are there any modern writers (say, post-1950s) that you see as inspiring for the next generation?

NC: It may be “no secret,” but it’s scarcely true. I read them well after my views had been pretty much formed, with the partial exception of Rocker’s Anarchosyndicalism.

GS: The names George Marlen and Ellis Rivkin have been lost to time… in your own words, who were they?

NC: Marlen was a pseudonym, I suppose a combination of Marx and Lenin. The Marlenites were a very small radical group in the ‘30s and early ‘40s, when they dissolved. I was introduced to them by Ellis Rivkin, a historian who taught then at the Gratz College of Hebraic studies, where I was a student. He kept his political views secret, and I’ll honor that secrecy.

Also try another article under Historical / Biographical
or another one of the writings of Gavin.

Leave a Reply