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Generation gap

Writers still form identifiable generations. For all their curmudgeonly individualism, the "angry young men" of the 1950s stood for something. By contrast, argues Allan Massie, the 1980s generation are disconnected and indifferent to life in Britain

By Allan Massie   February 1996

Orwell’s essay Inside the Whale is principally concerned with Henry Miller, but it also includes an analysis of the different tendencies displayed by writers in the two decades between the wars. The most admired writers of the 1920s- Eliot, Joyce, Lawrence, Huxley-might not “look much like a group,” but showed “a certain temperamental similarity. What it amounts to is a pessimism of outlook.”

Then “quite suddenly, in the years 1930-35, something happens. The literary climate changes. A new group of writers, Auden and Spender and the rest of them, has made its appearance, and although technically these writers owe something…

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