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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.

«This book is a literary work in its own right: rich, dense, personal, diverse, very learned, and engaged. Clive Bush tells an extraordinary narrative here, a many-sided story consisting of many stories not so much woven as uttered together, mirrors on each other and on the wider world in which they occur, both in the 1940s and now. […] The archival work is the foundation, that’s clear, but the work comes across as it should, not as an academic exercise but as personal experience of reading and thinking. It’s creative work in the best sense. To recall Lewis Mumford’s apt words: this is history written as art, scholarship as the medium of personal vision.» (Alan Trachtenberg, Neil Gray, Jr. Professor Emeritus, Yale University)