Interbellum Literature

Writing in a Season of Nihilism


In Interbellum Literature historian Cor Hermans presents a panorama of modernist writing in the ominous period 1918-1940. The book offers, in full scope, an engaging synthesis of the most stimulating ideas and tendencies in the novels and plays of a wide circle of writers from France (Proust, Gide, Camus, Céline, Tzara, Aragon, Simone Weil), England and Ireland (Virginia Woolf, Orwell, Joyce, Beckett), the USA (Scott Fitzgerald, Arthur Miller, O’Neill, Hemingway), Austria-Hungary (Musil, Broch, Kafka, Zweig, Roth), and Germany (Hesse, Jünger, Böll, Thomas Mann). Caught between world wars, they nevertheless succeeded in creating some of the best literature ever. They created a philosophy as well, rejecting bourgeois ‘mechanical’ society, designing escape routes from the nihilism of the times.

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Cor Hermans received his Ph.D. from the University of Amsterdam in 2003. He specializes in the history of ideas. He is the author of well received books on Darwin and Social Darwinism (Nieuwezijds, 2003), and on John Stuart Mill in France (Boom, 2008).
Prologue: Imagine Sisyphus

Part 1: Lost Worlds

1 The Algerian
2 A Salesman Called Schoenzeit
3 Becoming Böll
4 Beckett Climbs the Mount of Joy
5 A Farewell to Vienna
6 A Thin Slice of Bois de Boulogne

Part 2: Models of Daring

7 Caligula and the Moon
8 On Meeting Joyce
9 Musil Traverses “Park Nietzsche”
10 Sartre in Berlin and Bouville
11 Norwegian Light

Part 3: Land, Stock, and Fringe

12 Bohemian and Bauer
13 The Grimace of Céline
14 Simone Weil and Franz Kafka: A Forceful Parallel
15 Ernst Jünger’s World of Fire
16 Thomas Mann and Some Afterthoughts

Students, scholars, librarians (in the fields of culture, history, philosophy) looking for an introduction and synthesis of modern literature between the world wars. Its narrative style will also appeal to the general public.

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