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Two Cheers for Democracy – Book Review

Two Cheers for Democracy – how does this title sound to you? What it clicks in the processor of your mind? Will you retweet one title like this? Well, I will review this personal classic by E. M. Forster today. Forster is someone I admire, not for his fiction, for his writing style and his presentation skills – he presents things to his readers lucidly. So, let’s dive very deep into this non-fiction, a collection of essays, articles and lectures by E. M. Forster, Two Cheers for Democracy.

Well, let me clarify if you are thinking, like many other readers who ‘actually judge a book only by the cover,’ the book is not very much about democracy; it’s a collection of the author’s writings on various issues. And therefore, my advice to all readers, please check the blurb as well! :) Cheers!

The writings collected in the book have been divided into two parts – Part 1 is a bit political along with being aesthetically wonderful and Part 2 is more concerned about Forster’s concern for arts, literature and ‘beauty’ in the world. (Don’t misread me; hence, don’t misquote me.) With essays like ‘What would Germany do to us?’ Forster exposed his hypocrisy once again, like many times in the past and many times in the future. While, in 1940, writing this essay and presenting it to his readers, he was telling to his fellow countrymen that Nazis would tear apart the English culture and tradition. However, he completely forgot to write something about how his own country, England, already destroyed the Indian tradition and enslaved Indians and suppressed the voices who spoke for freedom. Such are the qualities of English scholars for you, dear readers!

Extending his ‘confused thoughts,’ in his next essay, Tolerance, Forster makes another chess-like blunder to checkmate none but himself – he writes something against which he wrote in his previous essay. He opines:

“Respectfully but firmly, I disagree. Love is a great force in private life; it is indeed the greatest of all things: but love in public affairs does not work. It has been tried again and again: by the Christian civilisations of the middle ages, and also by the French revolution, a secular movement which reasserted the brotherhood of man. And it has always failed. The idea that nations should love one another, or that business concerns or marketing boards should love one another, or that a man in Portugal should love a man in Peru of whom he has never heard – it is absurd, unreal, dangerous.”

Ignore everything and mark his ‘dangerous’ lines which have ‘absurd’ concerns, readers. And when you read his previous essay, just before the Tolerance, ‘what would Germans do to us?’ you will find that he is worried about Germans hating and subjugating the English – Germans should love and respect him and his countrymen but Mr Forster will tell others not to love a man in Portugal or Peru! What a logic!

Other than the criticism, I do appreciate what Mr Forster has done in the second part of this collection. In the essays which he has written on arts and artists and some of the book reviews that have been included in the collection are absolutely wonderful and logical and displays the sense of artistic understanding that the scholar had commanded!

He writes in his essay titled Anonymity: An Inquiry:

“Books are composed of words, and words have two functions to perform: they give information or they create an atmosphere.”

Now this, my dear reader friends, is a remarkable observation by the man of words himself. Those who get the idea can easily understand what greater things have been said in these two, simple and subtle, lines. Forster tells us that words have two basic things to do – they inform the readers and they can also instigate the readers to some actions. Explore it further on your own and you will understand the depth.

His writings on the books and on the authors of his time and time before him are generally good. He has made some critical and very useful observations which are accurate to most of the readers who read those. Writing on Virginia Woolf, Forster has made some very serious observations and which may still be viewed as the general truth and the important line of difference between the writers of two kinds; he writes:

“She likes writing with an intensity which few writers have attained or even desire. Most of them write with half an eye on their royalties, half an eye on their critics, and a third half eye on improving the world, which leaves them with only half an eye for the task on which she concentrated her entire vision.”

Though I don’t agree with Forster’s theory about Woolf, I do agree with him in the first part when he bashes the writers who have nothing to do or the very least to do with the actual job of a writer – improving the world!

Likewise, you will find more and more thoughts by the author which might impress you every here and there and now and then… With agreements and disagreements, like and dislike, appreciation and criticism, Two Cheers for Democracy will keep you engaged with the ‘words’ that the author offers to you.

To cut short and conclude, this is a book which gave me the pleasure I was looking for. I could not predict what would be next to hit my conscience and that’s the win of the author, readers. I would suggest this book to every critical reader or even the casual readers who want to read something serious and impressive. You can get the book on Amazon. Link has been added below. Enjoy Forster’s work!

Two Cheers for Democracy – Amazon Link – Buy now

(the link will open in a new tab on Amazon website)
Thanks for your patient reading or my reading experience! Do let me know if you have read the book or desire to read the book.

Two Cheers for Democracy - review
  • Overall


It has ‘that thing’ which is often sought by ‘that kind of readers’ in ‘that kind of books’… you will love it if you know your kind!

Alok Mishra

First and foremost a poet, Alok Mishra is an author next. Apart from these credentials, he is founder & Editor-in-Chief of Ashvamegh, an international literary magazine and also the founder of BookBoys PR, a company which helps writers brand themselves and promote their books. On this blog, Alok mostly writes about literary topics which are helpful for literature students and their teachers. He also shares his poems; personal thoughts and book reviews.

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Its wonderfully written. A good insight to two cheers to democracy. i agree to each statement you’ve made except the part where you’ve written about the writers confused thoughts where at one place he asks to love Germans and at the other place he asks not to love a man in Peru or Portugal . actually in Tolerance he tells us you cant love them (Peru and portugal) because you dont know them personally but you can put up with them and with the Germans you have to do the same. this is the limit where love gives in and tolerance can carry on.

    1. Hello, Bushra.
      Thanks for sharing your opinion!
      However, it’s literature, after all! We are lucky to have our opinions. I interpreted it the way I looked at it. Moreover, prejudice walks side by side with Forster. Even in his novels, he is not free from his preoccupation of notions. Keep sharing insights! Thanks.

  2. Very intresting observation about that book .I’m writing my M.A dissertation on The notion of tolerance in Forster’s Two cheers for Democracy and i think this critics will help me a lot to improve and to pay more attention on details.

  3. A fine observation that will help us to go through the text. It looks like introduction to the text. And revealed some key points that help us to find a proper direction. One word for all, Thanks. Keep inspiring us.

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