Persecution and the Art of Writing

Leo Strauss, Persecution and the Art of Writing

Recommended by Simi Peters

This book, by the German-American political philosopher Leo Strauss, was recommended to me for the essay on the literary character of Maimonides’ Guide for the Perplexed.  It is a fascinating assertion of the use of secret ideas and hidden agendas in the Guide.  He asserts that the real goal of the work is to reveal the beliefs and opinions of the Torah, something that the author can only do in a covert way.  This fits well with the rest of Strauss’ book, in which he considers the aims and ideas in Yehudah ha-Levy’s Kuzari and Spinoza’s Treatise.  The central idea, persuasively laid out in the title-essay, is that persecution produces a unique form of clandestine writing, which manages to convey its message between the lines of its own text, sometimes against its explicit meaning.  The ramifications of this notion reverberate through the rest of the book.  A tough read, but well worth it  and one I plan to read again.