In the half century since his first book, Tolstoy or Dostoevsky, appeared, George Steiner’s output has been so prodigious and so wide-ranging that it is a surprise to discover that there are subjects he has found himself unable to tackle. Marking the publication of My Unwritten Books, he talks about seven taboo topics he has avoided writing about: because they brought too much pain; because they presented too great an emotional or intellectual challenge; or because the intimacies or indiscretions they involved proved too threatening. The themes range from the torment of the gifted when they live among the truly great, to the experience of sex in different languages; from a love for animals greater than for human beings, to a theology of emptiness. Underlying them all is the perception that the very best a writer can produce is the tip of the iceberg; that behind every good book lies the book which remained unwritten.

Recent speakers

After meetings Fellows, Members and their guests have the opportunity to chat over a glass of wine. Recent speakers have included Julian Barnes, William Boyd, Jung Chang, Nigella Lawson, Hermione Lee, Michael Morpurgo, Don Paterson, Philip Pullman, Zadie Smith and Colin Thubron.

In addition to the regular talks, the Society holds joint meetings each year with the Royal Society to explore cross-currents between literature and science. Speakers at these have included John Carey, Richard Dawkins, Michael Frayn, Richard Holmes, PD James, Doris Lessing, Ben Okri, Will Self, Timberlake Wertenbaker and Lewis Wolpert.

To view a webcast of the most recent RS/RSL joint event, click