Thinking of you, Norm

October 18, 2013 at 6:26 pm (anti-fascism, blogging, Euston Manifesto, good people, humanism, intellectuals, jazz, Jim D, Marxism, RIP, secularism, socialism)

RIP Norman Geras,
25 Aug 1942 – 18 Oct 2013

It shouldn’t have come as any surprise: after all, he’d warned us in so many words, that he was headin’ for the last round-up. But it was still a shock today, when the news came through – it felt like losing a a best friend or even a family member with an illness that you’d known all along could only have one ending. This despite the fact that we’d never properly met and only ever corresponded by email or via his occasional BTL comments here.

I will be writing more in days to come about this complex, inspiring human being. His pioneering blog, brim-full of gentle humour and searing honesty, remains as a permanent memorial. But for now, I’ll simply recommend Nick Cohen’s heartfelt tribute at the Spectator‘s website…

… and play some jazz (a shared enthusiasm, though Norm loved all sorts of music, including – to my horror – country ‘n’ western):

This version of ‘Ghost of A Chance’ recorded by tenorist Illinois Jacqet in 1968 was Norm’s gift to me, when I had the honour of being the subject of one of his many ‘profiles’ of fellow-bloggers. I’m playing it now, and thinking of him.

NB: – well worth a visit, and you can leave a message there as well.


  1. Thinking of you, Norm | OzHouse said,

    […] Oct 18 2013 by admin […]

  2. R F McCarthy (@RF_McCarthy) said,

    For me its his many thoughtful and insightful recommendations of books, films and music that really impressed me and in so far as we are what we read, listen to and watch has genuinely improved my life.

    I would never for instance have opened a book by Anne Tyler if Norm hadn’t not just recommended her but gave us a reading list.

    So its kind of touching that his last post was a llst of 100 favourite novels and that he may finally have persuaded me to actually read those Jane Austen’s and Cormac McCarthy’s that i’ve never got round to.

    Fuck cancer.

  3. inavukic said,

    RIP Norm!

  4. Mike Killingworth said,

    A great loss – indeed. I hardly ever agreed with him, but why should I when disagreement was so much more fulfilling?

    Oh – and by the bye – his spat with Karen Armstrong boils down to a supposition that the notion of reality is itself capable of only one meaning. I know of no philosopher who thinks that.

  5. finbar said,

    Our birth humanity exploited for greed!s usury.Hard lines to challenge even for a chancer…

  6. Jim Denham said,

    The generous Graun obit that appeared online yesterday…
    …doesn’t appear in today’s print edition. I’ll wait until Monday before I start speculating about the hand of Seumas…

  7. Rosie B said,

    I was very sad to hear the news. I know he was seventy and ill, but that wasn’t the impression he gave on his blog. I really thought he’d be around and writing for a few years more.

    I’ve written my own piece here.

    His widow, Adele Geras, has been touched by the tributes:-

  8. SHIRAZ SOCIALIST | normfest said,

    […] [first published on the Shiraz Socialist group blog] […]

  9. counsell said,

    Thanks for this, Jim. Now up at Normfest:

    (Your post will be going up next, Rosie!)

    • Rosie B said,

      Thanks for that. What a good idea, to organise this Normfest.

  10. Rosie B said,

    Nice piece by John Carter Wood:-

    “I was about to write something like ‘I didn’t know him personally’, but then it occurred to me that in some way I did. What I mean is that I only ever communicated with Norm electronically–via our blogs and sometimes through email and Facebook–since we ‘met’ some time after I started this blog in 2006. (I forget now how it happened: it might have been at about this moment, in August of that year.)

    This is worth mentioning, I think, because Norm frequently argued for the value of the internet as a new way of bringing people together. (And his commitment to this medium is remarkable: despite his illness, only a little more than a week ago he posted a list of book recommendations.)

    He was himself, certainly, (in the face of much counter-evidence) one of the best arguments for the internet being a good and worthwhile thing. With all the fluctuations in my internet habits over the past 7 years, stopping by normblog was among the most consistent parts of my daily online routine.”

    I was thinking, I would read something so thumping-your-keyboard stupid in the Guardian eg after the Westgate massacre Simon Jenkins saying we shouldn’t be too overly concerned about terrorism but in the meantime don’t go to shopping centres, football games or anything else where crowds congregate, and, think, what will Norm say about this? And what he’d say would hit the nail on the head elegantly and succinctly (though I’d rather someone else was hitting Simon Jenkins’s own head with all due clumsiness). Now he’s gone. A door has shut. It is a diminishment.

  11. JOHN CARTER WOOD: Missing Norm Already | normfest said,

    […] [first published on John's blog Obscene Desserts] […]

  12. Clive said,

    Norman taught me at university. When I was a postgrad I used to drop in on him in his office quite often for a chat. Over the last decade or so I had some communication with him by email and by phone.

    He was a brilliant teacher – extremely incisive, often very funny. He could be quite cutting – in department seminars, for instance – towards other academics, but never towards students, even if they said the most cretinous things.

    The Legacy of Rosa Luxemburg is brilliant. So too is ‘Marx and Human Nature’. In fact he was working on that when I was his student, and ran I think several seminars on the subject. He completely convinced me (Marx did have a concept of ‘human nature’, and he was quite right to do so – without it no socialist politics is possible or even meaningful) – and I’d say it’s an argument that’s had a really profound effect on me ever since.

    I knew he was ill, but was very shocked to learn he’d died. Like I imagine many others here I disagreed with him a lot, politically, but I always found his blog thought-provoking and interesting, and he will be very sorely missed.

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