risen and fallen


A generation can always be described as “rising” but may it, even in a presumably intentional echo of Waugh, be described as having “fallen”? Easier, perhaps, to say that it was “lost”: the preferred locution of every cultural critic since Gertrude Stein. Taylor reasonably objects to this, borrowing from an aperçu of Evelyn’s elder brother Alec, who actually served on the Western Front, that it’s flippant and insulting to conflate the notionally “lost” (ie, the self-indulgent and the aimless) with the actual and awful “losses” suffered by their immediate elders. And he finds a near-perfect coda in Terence Rattigan’s play After the Dance, which rang down the curtain on the bright and the young and the foolish when it opened in June 1939. “You see”, says Helen to David:

When you were eighteen, you didn’t have anybody of twenty-two or twenty-five or thirty or thirty-five to help you, because they’d been wiped out. And anyone over forty you wouldn’t listen to anyway. The spotlight was on you, and you weren’t even young men; you were children.

And, what, David inquires idly, had they done with this spotlight? “You danced in it”, replies Helen, in a withering summary that, in its time and context, puts out more flags.

more from the TLS here.