zondag, april 05, 2009

Now THAT is what you might call a good show.

Especially if you took the bass player from Butcher, the front man/guitar from Howlin Lord and the drummer from The Hateful, mixed it all up.


Europe's Last Man

Is it true that Western Europeans, after half a century of peace and prosperity, suffer from the kind of moral malaise that Nietzsche warned about, and that Fukuyama and Kagan diagnosed? One way to answer this question is to listen, not to American pundits, but to Europeans themselves—in particular, to their novelists. In the nineteenth century, a reader of Dostoevsky and Flaubert could have gained insights into the state of Europe that a reader of newspapers would have missed. In the twenty-first, it is at least possible that the most significant European novelists can give us similar insights. Precisely because novels are not, and should not be, political documents, they offer a less guarded, more intuitive report on the inner life of a society. And when novelists from different European countries, writing in different languages and very different styles, all seem to corroborate one another’s intuitions, it is at least fair to wonder whether a real cultural shift is under way.

The three novels I wish to consider are not, of course, anything like a representative sample of the fiction being written in Europe over the last two decades. But W. G. Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn, Michel Houellebecq’s The Elementary Particles, and Ian McEwan’s Saturday are as distinguished and emblematic a selection as might be made. All of these writers were born in the 1940s and 1950s, and emerged as major novelists in the 1990s. In other words, they are members of the post–World War II generation, and did or are doing their most important work in the post–Cold War period. They belong to, and write about, a cosmopolitan, peaceful, unified Western Europe: McEwan (b. 1948) is English; Sebald (1944–2001), a German, spent most of his adult life in England; and Houellebecq (b. 1958), who is French, has lived in Ireland and Spain.


so this drunk man with one arm and three legs walks into a bar and says come to Slovakia. Really.


And in just a few words, Hanif Kureishi, in Something to Tell You has managed to summarise England:

"The typical figures on the streets were a young man in a green bomber jacket, jeans and polished boots, followed by an under-dressed teenager with her hair scraped back -the 'Croydon face-lift' - pushing a pram. Other girls in micro-minis, drift sullenly about, boys on bicycles circling them, drinking sweet vodka mashes from the bottle and tossing them into gardens. And among these binge-mingers, debtors and doggers hurried Muslim women with their heads covered, pulling their children."

Yes, it's only one thumbnail of England, but summarises so clearly the miserable hopelessness, the pointless push forward to the next day.

Wouldn't it be funny if people from America or Europe came to England in packs of one to two dozen for the sole intention of getting wasted, puking on England's streets, smashing England's shop windows, and shouting down the English public?

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