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 09, 2012

David Levine Draws Illich

David Levine, the late, great caricaturist for The New York Review of Books, drew Ivan Illich twice, once in 1975, to illustrate a review of Medical Nemesis, and again in 1983, to accompany a review of Gender. The Review is now selling both illustrations - printed and framed to archival standards - for $150 per copy. The images, printed at 7-1/2" x 10-1/2", are these:

This second image is based on the photo of Illich used on Gender's dust jacket. 

Funnily enough, NYRB lists these images under the category "Fictional Characters - Novels, Plays, Poems," evidently confusing Illich the social critic and author with Tolstoy's famous character. Illich is joined in the category by Fanny Hill and King Lear. 

In fact, Keith Thomas, the reviewer of Gender, makes the Tolstoy connection explicitly. His opening paragraph:

Ivan Illich is the leading contemporary exponent of the romantic anarchist tradition. Like Rousseau, Godwin, or Tolstoy, he inveighs against the coarseness of modern materialism, deplores economic growth, and preaches a return to simplicity and authenticity. As a Catholic priest in the 1950s, he strongly opposed the papacy’s plan to export American-trained missionaries to Latin America. As vice-rector of the Catholic University of Puerto Rico from 1956 to 1960, he resisted the extension of compulsory schooling to the third world. At Cuernavaca in Mexico in 1962 he founded the Center for Intercultural Documentation, an institution designed to achieve the “de-Yankification” of Latin America. During the last twelve years or so he has issued a relentless series of little books designed to expose what he sees as the most insidious features of contemporary society. Currently, he is teaching medieval history in Germany, an activity more closely related to his political objectives than might at first be apparent.

As far as we know, Thomas' review was the most thorough of those that Illich's controversial and oft-dismissed book received upon being published, at least in English. As Lee Hoinacki later pointed out, part of the book's importance lies in its exploring the kind of complementarity - man and woman, different from but providing definition to each other - that Illich thought about a good deal in later years. If nothing else, Gender's rich set of footnotes are a feast of ideas, an almost breathless report from the frontlines of Illich's research and thinking, as David Cayley puts it in his introduction to The Rivers North of the Future.

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