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Letters & Essays: 1950s

The Paris Theatre

By Thomas Quinn Curtiss

The Paris theatre has undergone almost a complete change since the beginning of the Second World War. The occupation years, though lean and terrible ones, witnessed the dawn. Henry de Montherlant’s La Reine Morte was created at the Comedie-Francaise in 1942 and in 1943 Gerard Philippe made his debut in Jean Giraudoux’s Sodome et Gomorrhe at the Hebertot. Jean Anouilh’s Antigone was produced the following year, as was Jean-Paul Sartre’s first play, Les Mouches, while the 1940-45 period saw the staging of Andre Roussin’s initial comedies.

The Nineteen-Twenties: An Interior

By Nathan Asch

On the corner made by the boulevards Montparnasse and Raspail and the rue Delambre, across the street from the large and garish Café de la Rotonde, during those earlier days, was the then smaller place called the Cafe du Dôme. The Rotonde had new soft benches and polished tables. On the walls it had paintings of nudes, and still-lives of fruit and flowers, and landscapes of Brittany and the south of France. It had a fancy, spacious washroom with a woman in charge. 

Method in Poetic Composition

By Donald Hall

Historically, poets have generally adopted one of two main “poses,” or manners of considering their own metier. One has been the prophet, or vates, the divine madman who scrawls out his gifts from the gods in a state of inspiration and frenzy. The vates corresponds to the popular conception of the poet as long-haired eccentric. Contemporary critical opinion, on the other hand, often seems to disbelieve in the vates, and to expect all poets to conform to the other traditional category, that of the craftsman, the careful “maker.”

A War of Religion?

By Simone Weil

Men have often dreamed of putting an end to the problem of religion. It was the dream of Lucretius: “How many crimes have been inspired by religion!” (1). The Encyclopedists thought they had done it, and in fact their influence made itself felt in every country and across every continent.

And yet there is scarcely a human being now in the world who does not experience every day in his own inner life the reverberations of a great single religious drama that has the whole planet at its theatre.

 

A Blurred Retrospective

By Jerome Mellquist

Certain sentries of respectability still cannot accept Cubism. The Musée de l’Art Moderne has scoured the continents for the 231 items in its vast Cubist retrospective (1907-1914); it has assembled documents, photographs and architectural motifs to prove the movement’s overflow into adjacent fields; Jean Cassou penned a eulogy holding it up as the most fundamental renewal since the Renaissance; and still the more reluctant wing of French criticism can only stiffen up and mutter that a split was generated by the movement.