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The Sound and The Fury

There is a lot of talk these days about angry, raging youth. The reason people are so fond of talking about them is that, from the aimless riots of Swedish adolescents to the proclamations of England’s would-be literary movement, the “Angry Young Men,” there is the same utter innocuousness, the same reassuring flimsiness. Products of a period in which the dominant ideas and lifestyles are decomposing, a period that has seen tremendous breakthroughs in the domination of nature without any corresponding increase in the real possibilities of everyday life; reacting, often crudely, against the world they find themselves stuck in, these youth outbursts are somewhat reminiscent of the surrealist state of mind. But they lack surrealism’s points of leverage in culture and its revolutionary hope. Hence the tone underlying the spontaneous negativity of American, Scandinavian and Japanese youth is one of resignation. During the first years after World War II, Saint-Germain-des-Prés had already served as a laboratory for this kind of behavior (misleadingly termed “existentialist” by the press); which is why the present intellectual representatives of that generation in France (Françoise Sagan, Robbe-Grillet, Vadim, the atrocious Buffet) are all such extreme caricatural images of resignation.

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