London (AFP)

Franco-American essayist and literary critic George Steiner died on Monday at the age of 90 at his home in Cambridge, England, his son David Steiner announced to the New York Times.

Born in 1929 in Paris into a Jewish family of Viennese origin, George Steiner taught at the prestigious American universities of Princeton, Yale and New York, as well as in Cambridge and Geneva.

His favorite theme was the human ability to write and speak, from which he drew a key work published in 1967, entitled "Speak and be silent". His reflections embraced a spectrum ranging from religion to music, painting and history.

"The great, the subtle, the demanding George Steiner, leaves a vertiginous work, of an iconoclastic erudition, haunted by the monstrosity engendered by the great European culture", reacted on Twitter the writer Jacques Attali, paying homage to " a touching friend, nobly concealing great wounds ".

"With the disappearance of George Steiner, we lose a major thinker. His immense literary scholarship gave happiness to all those who read or listen to it," commented on the same social network the French Minister of Education, Jean- Michel Blanquer.

According to the New York Times, the writer was also a "divisive figure": "the admirers of Mr. Steiner found his erudition and his arguments brilliant. The detractors found him verbose, pretentious and often inaccurate".

George Steiner "is a master of the word and one of the rare figures of our time to have a universal knowledge of our time", had declared the former German foreign minister Joschka Fischer by giving him the German Ludwig prize Boerne of criticism and literary essays in 2003.

George Steiner is survived by his wife Zara Alice Shakow, an international relations historian, a son, a daughter and two grandchildren.

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