Query re: Adam Hochschild

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon May 26 13:50:03 MDT 2003

>Hi, Lou.
>Maybe someone on the list can tell us if this Adam Hochschild who writes 
>on the New Yorker on Stanley and Livingstone (BTW: date is June 6, 2003 
>--can´t you get the winners for tomorrow´s races as well as future issues 
>of a cultural magazine?) has anything to do with old times Hochschild, one 
>of the three who made up the Bolivian oligarchy of tin (together with 
>Patiño and Aramayo) until the mines were nationalized.

Indeed, he is from the same Hochschild family that not only fucked over the 
Bolivians but the South Africans as well.

The New York Times
June 21, 1986, Saturday, Late City Final Edition

Coming to Terms


HALF THE WAY HOME. A Memoir of Father and Son. By Adam Hochschild. 198 
pages. Viking. $15.95.

To the world, Harold Hochschild was not only an enormously successful 
businessman (the head of Amax Inc., one of the largest mining concerns in 
the world) but also the consummate gentleman - charming, generous and 
fluent in the worlds of business, politics and the arts.

To his son, Adam, however, Harold Hochschild seemed a fearsome presence - a 
judgmental patriarch, the threat of whose disapproval hung darkly over his 
entire childhood; and as he recounts in this memoir, he would spend his 
entire life trying to come to terms with him.

By turns nostalgic and regretful, lyrical and melancholy, ''Half the Way 
Home'' creates a deeply felt portrait of a man and a boy, and like Geoffrey 
Wolff's ''Duke of Deception'' and Frank Conroy's ''Stop-Time,'' it also 
provides an extraordinarily moving portrait of the complexities and 
confusions of familial love. While it pushes the reader into memories of 
his own experiences in that eternal, summertime world of childhood and 
adolescence, the book also remains firmly grounded in the specifics of a 
particular time and place, conjuring them up with Proustian detail and 

Certainly the world that Adam Hochschild grew up in was a rarefied and 
hermetic one: in Manhattan, family members saw the city through the windows 
of a penthouse and a limousine; at Eagle Nest, their country retreat in the 
Adirondacks, they defined their days through meticulously scheduled bouts 
of horse riding, water-skiing and dining. There were governesses, maids, 
cooks and chauffeurs at home; and abroad, in Europe, Africa and the Soviet 
Union, a host of company functionaries to attend to everyone's needs.

If Adam's father was skilled at making his way about the world, however, he 
was ill-equipped to deal with simple emotional matters at home. Decorous, 
self-conscious and almost willfully formal, he loathed displays of 
spontaneous affection, was embarrassed by birthday presents and 
celebrations and was almost incapable of articulating his private feelings. 
And clearly something of this uneasiness infected his relationship with his 
only child. ''There was always a stiffness in the air between us,'' Adam 
writes, ''as if we were both guests at a party and the host had gone off 
somewhere before introducing us.'' Efforts, on Adam's part, to appeal a 
paternal edict were met with chilly dismissals; a lengthy copy of his 
journals, sent as a letter to his parents, was returned to him by his 
father, edited in blue pencil for errors of grammar and style.

In fact, when it came to communicating with his son, Harold Hochschild 
seems to have tried to use the same methods he used with such success in 
his business dealings - that is, heavy applications of will and lots of 
methodical planning. He organized outings, set up boxing matches and 
scheduled father-and-son luncheons, hoping each time to win an 
acknowledgment of love, or at least a gesture of appreciation. Each time, 
however, Adam would withhold the desired response: in part, because he felt 
it was the only way to withstand his father's inexorable will; in part, 
because the dominant emotion he felt toward his father was fear - fear of 
his disapproval, fear of not meeting his expectations and fear of somehow 
being exiled from the circle of his family's love.

Sometimes this fear would become so intense that young Adam would 
experience a kind of nauseous dread; his greatest terror was that his 
mother - his protector, comforter and intermediary with the world -would 
die, and leave him alone with his father. In trying to explain the sources 
of this fear, Adam Hochschild tells how his father took him to the hospital 
for a painful ear operation when he was 5 years old, and how that 
experience falsely imbued his father's presence with danger. He tells how 
his father used to reprimand him for talking too much or not talking 
enough, and how these lectures - always delivered in the most reasonable 
tones - left him feeling guilty and inadequate. For all this theorizing, 
Mr. Hochschild never fully succeeds in accounting for the fierceness of his 
estrangement - but in the end, the very confusion he feels becomes part of 
this story of missed connections and unexpressed emotions.

As he is the first to point out, Adam Hochschild spends the better part of 
his early manhood trying to separate himself from his father and his 
father's way of life. After a visit to South Africa awakens him to the 
injustices of racism, he becomes increasingly active politically. He joins 
the civil-rights movement, he demonstrates against the Vietnam War, he gets 
a job as a reporter for Ramparts magazine and helps found Mother Jones. 
Gradually, he finds, his ''life's course felt less a denial - I will not be 
the crown prince of Eagle Nest - and more an affirmation.'' And as he does 
so, he begins to understand that his father's chastisements actually cloak 
an underlying desire to reach out, that his aloofness is less a choice than 
a product of a problematic and unresolved relationship with his own father.

And while Adam's father continues to chide him - sending him letters filled 
with suggestions about everything from work to marriage - he, too, begins 
to mellow as the years go by. He begins exchanging jokes with his son, 
visits him and his family in California, and even hands out gift 
subscriptions to Mother Jones, as an unspoken gesture that he approves, 
perhaps even takes pride, in his son's vocation.

There are no tearful reconciliation scenes between father and son - just as 
there were never any declarations of overt hostility - but by the time 
Harold Hochschild lies dying in a hospital bed, Adam has been able to move 
toward an acceptance of this difficult man, and even to acknowledge his own 

Louis Proyect, Marxism mailing list: http://www.marxmail.org

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