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The Century’s Midnight

Dissenting European and American Writers in the Era of the Second World War


Clive Bush

The Century’s Midnight is an exploration of the literary and political relationships between a number of ideologically sophisticated American and European writers during a mid-twentieth century dominated by the Second World War. Clive Bush offers an account of an intelligent and diverse community of people of good will, transcending national, ideological and cultural barriers. Although structured around five central figures – the novelist Victor Serge, the editors Dwight Macdonald and Dorothy Norman, the cultural critic Lewis Mumford and the poet Muriel Rukeyser – the book examines a wealth of European and American writers including Hannah Arendt, Simone de Beauvoir, Walter Benjamin, John Dos Passos, André Gide, Henry Miller, Anaïs Nin, George Orwell, Boris Pilniak, Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre, Ignacio Silone and Richard Wright.
The book’s central theme relates politics and literature to time and narrative. The author argues that knowledge of the writers of this period is of inestimable value in attempting to understand our contemporary world.


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Acknowledgements x Introduction: Lighting the Circle 1 Opening the Field 1 Stories of Time 14 Part 1 ‘It is Dead and it is Not Dead’: Time and Testimony in Victor Serge 21 Section I Writing and Refuge 22 Writing the Heretical Self in History 36 Memoirs of a Revolutionary 47 Politics and Ideology 55 Religion and Ethics 59 Section II ‘I Began to Write a Story’: The Novels 69 Part 2 Posts of the Good: Dwight Macdonald’s politics 104 Section I Wartime: Bridges and Not-Bridges 104 War and International Ideological Chaos 112 Hannah Arendt: Navigating Time 134 Anton Ciliga: Russia and the Story of Time 142 viii Section II Simone Weil and the Time of the Soul 158 politics and the Existentialists 170 Hiroshima: Georges Bataille and John Hersey 186 Part 3 ‘My Dear Plutocratic but Lovely Friend’: Dorothy Norman and TWICE A YEAR 198 Section I Faustian Visions: An ‘American’ Beginning 198 Alfred Stieglitz and Ideology 213 Dorothy Norman and TWICE A YEAR 218 Politics and Civil Liberties 222 Dorothy Norman: A Woman Among Women 231 A World of Women: Dorothy Norman and India 244 Section II TWICE A YEAR and American Culture 250 Henry Miller in Time and Eternity 259 TWICE A YEAR and European Culture 274 Reintegration into Time: Silone and The Abruzzo Trilogy 279 Coda 291 Part 4 Lewis Mumford: Remaining Present in ‘the Ringing Grooves of Time’ 292 Section I Sacred and Profane: A Preface 292 Mumford and Politics 295 Ethics, Religion and Social Practices...

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