George Steiner was a French-born polymath described by A.S. Byatt as a ‘late, late, late Renaissance man’. His father made him learn the Iliad in Greek at the age of six.
One of Steiner’s greatest interests was the Holocaust, which, as a Jew, he escaped when his father moved the family to New York shortly before the fall of Paris. As a literary critic and academic, he held prestigious posts in both the United States, Cambridge and at the University of Geneva, where he taught in four languages. He recalled John Berger’s political-activist reaction to winning the Booker Prize for G as ‘a very grim experience… I literally thought it was the end for me in this country. I thought I would have to pack my bags and go’.