Arthur Miller - appreciation

Chris Burford cburford at
Sun Jun 11 19:14:42 MDT 1995

Arthur Miller, An appreciation.

Yesterday I attended the closing night of the revival in London
of "A View from the Bridge" 30 years after it was first staged in
New York.

Miller will be 80 on 17th October this year, and I want to seize the
moment to say how deeply I admire his work, and to thank indirectly
all American friends for this example of what has come out of your
country in most difficult circumstances.

Because of the extremely high price of main theatre tickets in New
York and because of the support of tourists for the London Theatre, we
have been especially fortunate in a most creative burst of Miller plays
in London. The work has especially been carried forward by a young
English director, David Thacker who was in close dialogue with Miller
about the final version of Broken Glass, which has just also completed
its first run in London.

I attended a seminar organised by the Institute of Psychoanalysis
addressed by David Thacker recently on this play, where he revealed that
one of Miller's motivations for this latest example of his continuted
flowering was the crisis in Yugoslavia.

For me Miller spans the psychological, the economic and the political,
with enormous subtlety.

In his own life, it would seem with little self-glory he often chose the
more honest path. I don't know whether his resistance to McCarthyism was
among the most important, but it seems admirable.

And for me he is as great a playwright as Ibsen. I would be interested in
more considered estimates from some of the literary subscribers to
this list.

Politically his concern for the working class is clear at many points in
his life, and demonstrated in action. I see a connection between his
opposition to the splits of the cold war, and his promotion of insight
into the psychological splits that occur repeatedly in personal and social

Even his statement to the House Committee on Un-American Activities in 1956
seems to me to have preserved the essence:

"I reflect what my heart tells me from the society around me.  ...
I look at life to see what is happeing , and I have no line, I have no
pre-conception. I am devoted to what is going on. The hardest thing to do
is to tell what is going on"

I cannot help seeing an unconscious parallel with the words of the
Manifesto: "The theoretical conclusions of the Communists are in no
way based on ideas or principles that have been invented, or discovered,
by this or that would-be universal reformer. They merely express, in
general terms, actual relations springing from an existing class struggle,
from a historical movement going on under our very eyes."

And in a recent interview on British television Miller said that
he can't imagine writing anything that he doesn't "secretly hope will
change the world."

Does this make him a marxist, if not a Marxist?

It doesn't matter. He is a very great playwright.

Chris Burford, London.

     --- from list marxism at ---


More information about the Marxism mailing list