29 MAY 1964, Page 13

There are two answers to such suspicions. One is that

some systems, like Newtonian mechanics, have been enormously successful in regions of nature far removed from the ones which called them into being. We should not remember only the grandiose failures. But further we must admit that on the smaller scale of particular inquiries the most far-fetched analogy is often fruitful. In bisociation Koestler has, I think, observed an important phenomenon, and he cannot be re- proached for exploring the limits of its useful- ness. I only doubt his success in capturing and taming it, and systematising the results of his studies on it.

The Act of Creation, however, does not stand or fail upon the acceptance of its generalisations. Its pleaSures can be taken piecemeal in Koestler's comments on humour, on Darwin, on painting, on Pasteur, on msthetic snobbery, on the intelli- gence of those studying the intelligence of cats, on anything that he has seen as grist to his mill.

It would be inhuman to be able to wander through so large a tract of human knowledge without an occasional stumble, and Koestler is not faultless in detail. Not all his dates are accurate,, though little hangs upon them; some lines by Squire are attributed to Belloc, but he might well have been proud of them; if some of the biological slips are quaint, none seems likely to lead the reader seriously astray. Yet our latitude must clearly not cover matters that are But to write of humour academically is to have the best of. both worlds. It lets one tell jokes without claiming that they are very funny. They have been selected to make a general point about the structure of jokes, or their conse- quences, or their social functions. Anyone who has known the feeling of a joke going fiat as it is told-must envy, and perhaps resent, the felicity of having a built-in alibi for lack of response. I make this point, not because I think Koestler's jokes are bad—on the contrary 1 think them good—but because in this book he is only spor- adically concerned with ideas for which he claims originality. Much of his effort goes into the exposition of other people's facts and other people's ideas, and it is here, rather than in the presentation of his own, that he will find the practitioners (in this case artists, biologists, his- torians, psychologists) grudging in their praise.

lf, despite all misgivings, Koestler remains fas- cinating to those who are largely unimpressed by his most cherished insights, the reasons are several. There is, of course, the wealth of experi- ence, personally or vicariously enjoyed, which he can bring to sustain his arguments. This lends to his writing the excitement of surprises of the kind that follows when a point seeming to demand justification from the state of mathematics in seventeenth-century Holland in fact recalls an acquaintance in Berlin in the Thirties, or vice versa. It is a measure of his skill that these asso- ciative transitions only rarely seem contrived, and that the unexpected turns out to be apposite in nearly every case. More 'importantly the clarity of the exposition itself is always of the highest order. Kciestler sees the wood from the trees and khows just hoi, to relate the particular instance to the wider scene. Finance

Tins has been a mad mad May. For the second time in four months the latest trade figures have, revealed a nasty fall in exports while imports have re- mained steady, and all the old clichds have had to' be trundled out again. But on this occasion the exhorta- tions to sell more abroad have been drowned in a wave of protest in the popular press against foreign butchers for daring to come over here to buy our precious beef.

Exporting, it seems, is only right, let alone fun, when it is difficult. When foreigners actually want to buy something of ours without having to be persuaded to do so, it is immoral.

May, Meat and Madness


there is really nothing the Government can do to stop it, short of war-time type controls. Under these circumstances the situation will take a long time to right itself. But in the short run it will be substantially eased when beef reared in the UK and the rest of Northern Europe begins to reach the' auctioneers towards the end of next month. Then prices should be- gin to fall, and both the newspapers and the Opposition will have got as much mileage out of the problem as they are likely to get.

No Respite

By this time Government, Opposition and newspapers alike should have plenty to talk about with regard to the general cost of living, let alone just beef. Between mid-March and mid-April the index jumped from 105.2 to 106.1, its biggest rise for more than a year.