It's a fictional streetscape we wander, here, a metropolis whose buildings, boulevards, and back alleys are in a constant state of flux. This is every place, and yet, no place at all - a city of dreams and a dream of a city.

Here, we explore the life and work of Ivan Illich and his circle of collaborators. There's no comprehensive index to the articles published, but we invite you to use the Search box, to the left, and to explore the Archive links that appear at the bottom of each page. Comments are welcomed.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Illich buys an island? In Scotland?

One of the more half-assed assessments of Illich that we've encountered is the obituary published by a newspaper called The Scotsman on Dec. 10, 2002, a week after his death in Bremen. Written by a certain Peter Clarke, it's full of absurdities like this: "He descended into crankiness in many of his publications and speeches. Energy and Equity was a clever book but little more than a manifesto for pro-bicycle policies. Tools for Conviviality was a testing inventory of how to live the rewarding and moral life, but it was often little more than vegetarianism with a hint of the mystic."

As far as we know - and we just looked - there is no mention at all in Tools of either vegetables or mysticism. And morality is hardly Illich's subject, either.

What's most intriguing in this mean-spirited obit is the following paragraph:

Illich loved Scotland, but he learned only late in his visits it was the
Summer Scotland he enjoyed. He tried to buy some Hebridean islands to
create a community of anarchist-libertarian scholars, but when he first
encountered a Scottish winter his sentiments changed. He returned to
Mexico, and never saw Mull again."

That Illich even eyed, much less actually "tried to buy" real-estate in Scotland or anywhere else is something we've not seen mentioned elsewhere, either before or after his death. Which is not to say that it never happened. But in light of this piece's generally nasty tone and wild misrepresentations of Illich - Clarke writes, for instance, that "Illich’s life [was] one long reaction to the Anchluss," the absorption of Austria by Nazi Germany - it's difficult to take his reporting seriously. Besides, why would Illich want to situate himself or a community of fellow scholars in Scotland, of all places? And why would he need more than one island? Illich frequently described himself a "wandering Jew" of few possessions and no fixed abode. And since when did he work closely with anarchists and libertarians? As we understand it, those are categories with which he declined to work, even if many anarchists and libertarians have adopted him as one of their own.

Still, if anyone knows more, do tell.

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Santa Rosa, California, United States
Writer, photographer, music fan; father and husband living in northern Calif.