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Europe’s lost stories

The cliché that the British broke with European literature out of philistinism contains only a grain of truth. Continental fiction has been in decline, while our influences have come from elsewhere. It's not a problem of translation, it's a question of history—do we have new European stories to tell each other?

By Julian Evans   July 2004

In Douglas Coupland’s 1993 novel Shampoo Planet, his hero Tyler Johnson escapes his US west coast hometown to spend a summer in Europe. He writes home with disappointment: “Europe lacks the possibility of metamorphosis. Europe is like a beautiful baby with super-distinctive features who, while beautiful, is also kind of depressing because you know exactly what the child will look like at 20, at 40, at 99. No mystery.” This is an anti-old world judgement that fits Tyler’s punk self-image (a fawn at play in the hectic fields of US consumerism). Returning to America, Tyler himself eventually metamorphoses enough to…

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