John Simopoulos, RIP

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AgentPete

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May 19, 2014
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In the second piece of unpleasant news this week, I have to tell you that another friend of Litopia, John Simopoulos, has died.

John was an uncompromising intellectual, as befits a founder of an Oxford college. His bark, and indeed his bite, could on occasion be withering. Not born to suffer fools gladly, he had a knack of exposing the weakness in your logic, or knowledge, or both - with an economy of words that spoke volumes.

And yet, there was always a twinkle in his eye. Even when making you feel like a complete dunderhead – and for a few examples, simply listen to some of the shows we recorded together – his eyes twinkled, his wit sparkled, and his kindly heart was never far away.

I shared a bottle of Scotch with him just a couple of evenings ago. Have you read Austerlitz yet, he asked. No, not yet. What about The Kindly Ones? I’m afraid not, John.

He peered at me owlishly. No words were necessary. I will read both of them - soon, John. I promise.

John’s life was intertwined with several greats of C20th writing: including, of course, Iris Murdoch. Many of the writers he discusses in our shows were known to him personally, which gives his Litopia legacy a unique value.

Born in Vienna in 1923, John was the son of Greek diplomat Charalambos Simopoulos, ambassador to the Court of St James in London. An alumnus of Magdalen College, he was a Founding Fellow of St Catherine’s College from 1960, before becoming an Emeritus Fellow upon his retirement in 1988. As Fellow in Philosophy at St Catherine’s, he was interested primarily in logic and probability. As another Fellow put it, ‘he was never fooled by Philosophy; this sounds to be a little thing. But he was also able to teach others not to be fooled by it either; that is a big thing’.

Sadly, our conversations will be no more. But I am so pleased to think that a very small part of his vast learning and humanity will live on in our shows. I’ve gathered all of them together below: I hope you enjoy listening to them as much as I enjoyed recording them with him.

A Tiger Burning Bright

The First Modern Poem

Palace Walk, Palace of Desire, Sugar Street – Mahfouz

The First Trilogy – Joyce Cary

No Name – Wilkie Collins

Death Comes for the Archbishop

If This Is a Man – Primo Levi

The Voices of Marrakesh – Elias Canetti

Remnants of a Quiet Life

The Lessons of Haggis

Austerlitz

The Blue Flower

As Good As Tolstoy

A Time of Gifts – Patrick Leigh Fermor
 
A truly bad week for you, sorry to hear. At least he had a good long life, but it's starting to make me feel old. R.I.P.
 
So sorry; you must be so upset.

It's hard to see a light go out.

I'll start with Joyce Cary; I'm a fan of his. Reading him for the first time as a teen, I was much impressed as in, influenced by, A Prisoner of Grace, and A Fearful Joy.
 
Sad news indeed, but I think it's wonderful that you have those recordings. How many of us of a certain age have recordings of family or friends?
 
This is beyond tragic. My best to you and others sharing your grief.
 
Deepest sympathy to you, his other friends and his family
 
Sorry to hear this. I read a couple of his recommended books from the old podcasts. The books were wonderful, as indeed (I could hear) was he - an irreplaceable gift to the world.
 
I remember a couple of your interviews with him. What a character!
 
Both Mal (Peet) and John S were total characters. Chalk and cheese, but both highly literate and terrific company. I wonder if they’re chatting together now...
 
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