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Letters & Essays: 1950s

Letters & Essays of the Day

Postwar Paris: Chronicles of Literary Life

By Alice Adams

Two of the most distinguished American literary artists of their generation—their names as frequently invoked by critics and historians as they are seldom linked—appear here in a conversation that is mostly about being in Pans after the Second World War. The occasion giving rise to this conversation was a late September, 1996, University of Pennsylvania weekend observation of my retirement from the English faculty there. When friends Norman Malier and Richard Wilbur accepted invitations to attend, I suggested talking about this experience that both had often said was personally important, that neither had ever overtly visited in his works, and that happened to have a particular relevance to the Penn audience in that season.

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. 

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.