A grand intellectual critique

  John Ralston Saul has developed a theory to explain what ails the world: rationality run amuck. Language, in the hands of bureaucrats or modern poets and novelists, is designed to obscure, as in environmental impact statements, or is all style and no substance. The ultimate rationalizers - Robert S. McNamara and Henry Kissinger - destroy whatever they and their systems touch: Vietnam, the U.S. economy, Iran, Third World development efforts. Saul's attempt to capture all of our problems in his tour de force, Voltaire's Bastards, has its drawbacks. But it is also helpful and provocative, especially for those who deal with the strange fruits of rationality and systematization produced by the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Reclamation. And as if to prove his point about language, Books in Print lists Saul's book as Voltaire's Children. The custodians of propriety who publish the guide apparently see no distinction between "bastards" and "children."

MacMillan Inc., 866 Third Ave., New York, NY 10022. Cloth: $29.95. 656 pages.
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