Exile's Return: A Literary Odyssey of the 1920s

By Malcolm Cowley; Donald W. Faulkner | Go to book overview
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VII: The Age of Islands

1: Connecticut Valley

In the preceding chapters I have been describing a process that first impressed me as being geographical. A whole generation of American writers--and how many others, architects, painters, bond salesmen, professors and their wives, all the more studious and impressionable section of the middle-class youth--had been uprooted, schooled away, almost wrenched away, I said, from their attachment to any locality or local tradition. For years the process continued, through school and college and the war; always they were moving farther from home. At last hundreds and thousands of them became veritable exiles, living in Paris or the South of France and adhering to a theory of art which held that the creative artist is absolutely independent of all localities, nations or classes. But most of them didn't remain exiled forever. One by one they came lingering back to New York, even though they came there as aliens, many of them holding ideas that would cause them a difficult period of readjustment. . . . And what happened then? Once the process had reversed itself, did it carry them homeward at an accelerating speed, till they had returned in body and spirit to their own townships?


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