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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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Part 3: ‘My Dear Plutocratic but Lovely Friend’: Dorothy Norman and TWICE A YEAR 198


3 ‘My Dear Plutocratic but Lovely Friend’: Dorothy Norman and TWICE A YEAR1 Aristotle calls memory ‘the scribe of the mind.’ When all else is taken away the mists of memory still remain. None can take away the joy we have had in reading lovely books, or listening to great music and poetry. Nor can the love bestowed on us by those whom we love fade even when the loved ones are far away or have passed into the shadow of death […] Were it not so, human nature could hardly bear the weight of sorrow. — Ranjit S. Pandit2 I am convinced that there are many layers of history and that the final reading will be delayed until the gift of seeing past and future as one is restored to us. — Henry Miller3 I Faustian Visions: An ‘American’ Beginning In 1945, just after the news from Hiroshima and Nagasaki had come through, Alfred Stieglitz, the ailing founding father of American photography and friend and companion of Dorothy Norman, was reading a page of cartoons. The car- toonist had capitalized on the first use of the atomic bomb by drawing a cigarette ‘that’s atomized for your protection’, together with a sexy figure of the curvaceous ‘Beautiful Beatrice La Bump’, described as being ‘known to her press agent as “The Proton”’. Scrawled over the top of the page (now in a miscellaneous file in the Stieglitz Papers at Yale University), written in the shaky hand of a man near to death are...

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