Paris Post War: Art and Existentialism 1945-55

Click to follow
We do not have a philosophy. We are less subject than you to impulses and passionate intellectual enthusiasms.

Classics, Romantics, Parnassians, Realists, Symbolists, Surrealists, Neo-Classicism, Existentialism - on the whole, all the essence of French literature can be grouped, classed by school, or by movement. This has never been the case in England. The world of Wordsworth and of Coleridge is a world of sense and lucidity. Fin de Siecle is an epoch of decadence acknowledged as much in England as it is in France; and it is now 10 years since we have had a period of litterature engagee. But there has not been a succession of schools, there have been no regular waves of trends, of constant ebbs and flows. This is both a weakness and a strength.

From 'Une Lettre de Londres' by Philip Toynbee in Les Temps Modernes, Paris. January 1946.

Paris Post War: Art and Existentialism 1945-55 at the Tate Gallery until 5 September.

See next Monday's Independent for reader offers.